A very good friend of mine (names withheld) sent me a DM (Direct message) via twitter asking why we (Nigeria) love to make a ridicule of ourselves among the comity of nations in the football family.
Of course, my friend, a Non-Nigerian, who works for one of the largest football publications in the World, merely teased me with that comment to get my reaction to the latest drama of the absurd, as it concerns the Nigeria Football Federation (NFF) Elections Appeals Committee with the attendant ‘Majority Vs Minority’ decisions.
I replied my friend that the drama is just a reflection of the state of our nation, promising him that I would put my opinion together on the matter once I was able to get the details of the two (majority & minority) verdicts.
Thankfully over the weekend, I was able to lay my hands on both verdicts and I must confess it was not easy reading through the bulk of both materials but I made sure I sniffed through the most important parts of both documents.
I will not pretend that I do not personally know some of the persons involved either directly or indirectly in this matter or that I will not rely on some of the privileged information I got from them to arrive at some of the opinion I will express here.
Okey Ajunwa’s Verdict
The major summary of Barrister Okey Ajunwa’s verdict are here listed…
1. Dismissing Dotun Coker from the NFF Elections Appeals Committee because of his membership of a NFF standing committee.
2. Annulling the elections of Felix Anyansi Agwu and Sheriff Rabiu Inuwa,NFF Executive Committee members from the South East and North West,disqualifying them from future elections because of the membership of Emeka Inyama (NNL chairman) and Mohammed Kawu (NNWL chairman) on the same NFF Executive Committee.
3. Persons cleared and who contested August 26 and September 30 elections for position of President and Board member for South East and North West Zones be allowed to participate and contest bye elections.
4. Any person seeking to participate and contest the bye election and who had filed any matter concerning the NFF before any court or tribunal in Nigeria (or any other country) or the Court of Arbitration for Sport shall withdraw such case forthwith in order to be cleared to contest the bye election.
5. Electoral committee should harmonize list of persons cleared and that contested for various positions now declared vacant in August 26 and September 30 elections and such persons shall not be disqualified for reasons that they contested the August 26 election.
6. Seyi Akinnumi’s election as NFF 1st Vice President is annulled as he is from the same zone as the NFF President Amaju Pinnick.
7. Shehu Dikko was wrongly disqualified from the NFF Elections.
Let’s take a good look at the issues
1. Dotun Coker’s Dismissal
The questions to be asked are:
A. Does Okey Ajunwa have the powers to dismiss a member of the NFF Elections Appeals Committee, duly nominated to such a position by the Extraordinary Congress of the Nigeria Football Federation?
ANSWER:Based on the statutes of FIFA, CAF and the NFF as well as the FIFA, NFF electoral code, the answer is NO. Only the congress has such powers.
B. Does membership of a standing committee of the Nigeria Football Federation disqualify any one from being a member of the NFF Election Appeals committee if nominated to such a position by the NFF congress?
ANSWER: Based on the statutes of FIFA,CAF and the NFF as well as the FIFA, NFF Electoral code, the answer is NO.
Article 3 (4) on Basic principles of Electoral Committee as stated in the FIFA Standard Electoral code clearly outlines the ground for any person to be withdrawn from the electoral committees.
Barrister Okey Ajunwa needs to know the limits of his powers. The other members of the committee elected him as their chairman. He was not named chairman of that committee by the congress as he claims. His views cannot be superior to those of the other members.
2. Annulment of Felix Anyansi Agwu & Sheriff Rabiu Inuwa’s mandate and ordering of bye elections.
Without any doubt,this is easily the trickiest part of the 2014 NFF Elections Appeals palaver.
Article 7(b) of the 2014 NFF Electoral Guidelines provides that :
NO STATE SHALL PRODUCE MORE THAN ONE EXECUTIVE COMMITTEE MEMBER.
However, the major part of the argument for me is which Executive Committee member got elected first in the cases under review. Remember, the NFF Executive Committee was dissolved on the floor of the elective congress of September 30 in Warri just before the elections that produced the Ordinary Members of the Committee and got constituted immediately after the elections. It is important for the NFF congress to differentiate between the elections of the ordinary members of the Executive Committee and those coming into the Committee as representatives of the leagues.
Interestingly, when this issue of two NFF Executive Committee members from the same state first reared its head in 2011, I initiated the process that challenged the emergence of High Chief Emeka Inyama as the chairman of the Nigeria National League (NNL) Board.I argued that since Ordinary member Felix Anyansi Agwu from the same state as Inyama was already on the Executive Committee,it would be a breach of the NFF Electoral guidelines to have him there and so felt his election as the NNL representative on the NFF Executive Committee should not stand but guess what….it was Barrister Iyke Igbokwe (yes, this same Iyke Igbokwe) that stood to Inyama’s defence, stating that his mandate could not be taken away from him after he was duly cleared to contest the NNL Chairmanship position.
(I do not hold anything against Iyke Igbokwe for his change of opinion now.He is entitled to it.We all change our opinion on issues from time to time,sometimes when we get superior information).
If you could remember,the NFF Elections Appeals Committee at that time with Barrister John Ola Mafo as its chairman annulled Inyama’s election but the matter had to be resolved eventually by an Arbitration Panel led by a former Akwa Ibom State Attorney General, Chief Victor Iyanam.Iyanam’s Panel upheld Inyama’s election and advised the NFF to amend their electoral guideline to accommodate the independence of the leagues.I think that Iyanam Arbitration ruling of 2011/2012 should still be very relevant today.
However, it is also important to note the major discrepancies that have emerged from Okey Ajunwa’s verdict in this respect.
While annulling the elections of Felix Anyansi Agwu and Sheriff Rabiu Inuwa, he ordered for bye elections into the positions he declared vacant like that of the NFF President, the Executive Committee members from South East and North West.
Ajunwa then blew off the roof by ordering that persons that were cleared and that contested positions in the August 26 and September 30 elections should be allowed to contest in the new polls.
I gasped for breath as I read that…did I hear August 26?
The same August 26 elections that FIFA declared a sham? An event that even the laws of the land, as represented by the National Assembly, proclaimed a fraud?
I looked through all the prayers of the appellants to see if any of them had included this in their Appeals…none!
I asked the other members as well as the substitute members of the Appeals Committee separately if such was ever discussed at any of their sittings..the response I got was that they NEVER whispered it not to talk of deliberating on it.
I put a few thoughts together and tried to imagine where it could have come from.
This is it…
Reading through Ajunwa’s verdict(numbered 3,4,5 earlier in this write up) one name pops up at me…. Chris Giwa!
Barrister Okey Ajunwa goofed big time in ruling that those who were cleared and contested the August 26 election for the post of NFF President should be free to participate in his bye election if they withdrew their case from CAS.Who else could he be referring to?
Ajunwa should have been more thorough.He should also have known and also declared that Chris Giwa cannot contest that NFF presidency anymore since Plateau State already has Suleiman Yahaya Kwande on the Executive committee.
With Suleiman Kwande,Yusuf Ahmed ‘Fresh’ and Dilichukwu Onyedinma(3 slots)all representing the North Central zone on the Executive Committee,there was no way there would be room for one more.
That guy had dug the grave for his own ‘learned’ report.
6. Seyi Akinwunmi’s Election annulled.
This is another spurious verdict.
If Seyi Akinwumi’s election as the NFF 1st Vice President was annulled because he is from the same zone (South) as the NFF President Amaju Pinnick, how else would any other candidate from the South like Emeka Inyama and (in case the August 26 elections) Obinna Ogba be eligible for the bye election that Okey Ajunwa is advocating without causing some confusion.
So if all Southern candidates are not eligible to contest for the NFF 1st Vice President position what happens?
7. Shehu Dikko’s Disqualification was wrong.
On a personal note, I felt bad that Shehu Dikko could not contest the elections after working so hard and I could not really understand why.
There were some whispers that a State Security report nailed him.Some others said that report was fabricated. Well which ever way,it is very regrettable that he could not exercise his right.
Shehu Dikko is well within his right to seek redress and appeal against his disqualification.The confusion now has to do with whether he withdrew that Appeal or not.
My correspondent at the Appeals Committee hearing told me that during one of the earlier meetings,the chairman Okey Ajunwa confirmed Shehu Dikko’s withdrawal of his Appeal.Some members of the committee corroborated this but suddenly the Appeal resurfaced on the last day.
This is really baffling.
If Shehu Dikko had withdrawn his Appeal, who revived it on the day that the verdict was meant to be given? Well, maybe only Okey Ajunwa and Shehu Dikko can answer that.
My VERDICT: Majority vs Minority
I have read the FIFA statutes,NFF statutes,FIFA Standard Electoral Code,NFF Electoral Code and Guidelines several times and I can safely say this in the larger interest of Nigerian Football.
In every judicial committee( for football),FIFA deliberately allows for odd number of members so that there will always be a majority decision if there is a tie, the committee chairman’s vote is usually the tie breaker.
This principle of majority decision is also contained in the FIFA Standard Electoral Code in relation to the Electoral Committee (Article 8 on Decisions).
I believe that if FIFA Standard Electoral Code agrees to majority decision for the Electoral Committee, the same principle will apply to the Election Appeals Committee.
For Barrister Okey Ajunwa,only a national apology for his very disappointing exercise would do.I am ready to provide him that opportunity for his own sake.
I have put this piece together in the larger interest of Nigerian football.Enough of this embarrassment.
*Toyin Ibitoye is multiple award winning sports broadcaster based in Lagos,Nigeria.