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Former Nigeria winger, Chief Adokiye Amiesimaka, tells SAB OSUJI in this interview that Vincent Enyeama can win the 2014 CAF African Player of the Year Award. But he adds that the Super Eagles captain will have strong opposition in Yaya Toure. The ex-Rivers State Attorney General and Commissioner for Justice reveals why Nigeria players have not won the coveted award in the past 15 years.He says NFF must register with Corporate Affairs Commission Excerpts…
Complete Sports: CAF African Footballer of the Year 2014 award ceremony holds Thursday in Lagos, Nigeria. Super Eagles captain and goalkeeper, Vincent Enyeama will be up against Ivory Coast’s Yaya Toure and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang of Gabon. Do you think Enyeama could be crowned Africa’s best ahead of Toure and Aubameyang?
Adokiye Amiesimaka: Yes, he can, having come this far. He has done so well for the Super Eagles and his club, Lille of France. I’ve even heard he has been named as the best goalkeeper in France for 2014. This underlines his quality as a top goalkeeper. But unfortunately, his major draw back could be the fact that the Super Eagles did not qualify for the 2015 Africa Cup of Nations.
Don’t you think that will give Yaya Toure a better chance considering also the fact he’s the current holder of the award?
Honestly yes, Yaya Toure seems to have done more for his club and country to deserve it. And I’m very sure that when they look at the score-cards of the respective contestants, the performances of their respective national teams will come into focus. No doubt Enyeama has done so wonderfully well for the Super Eagles but since the Super Eagles did not qualify for the 2015 AFCON, this will give Yaya Toure a big chance.
 Another draw-back for Enyeama is the fact his club did not do well internationally like Yaya Toure’s club. So everything put together, Yaya Toure has an advantage. Don’t also forget the fact that Enyeama is a goalkeeper.
Goalkeepers rarely win it. It takes goalkeepers with exceptional qualities to win it. Midfield players and strikers have always standd a better chance of winning such awards. So it’s going to be more of an uphill task for Enyeama (to win it). But having come thus far, (as a goalkeeper), he has done well and deserves it. But everything put together, Yaya Toure is the one most likely to win it.
The last time a Nigerian player won the award was in 1999 when Nwankwo Kanu mounted the podium to be so decorated, thus becoming the fourth Nigerian after Rashidi Yekini (now late) (1993), Emmanuel Amuneke (1994), Kanu Nwankwo (1996) and Victor Ikpeba (1997). Why hasn’t any Nigerian won it again15 years down the line?
The reason is simple. We’ve not been producing players any more.We’ve rather been producing ‘athlete players’ who can take the ball and run around. We stopped producing players some 20 years ago. That was after the 1998 World Cup.After the France 1998 World Cup finals, we’ve been struggling with even the weakest teams in Africa. You can no longer be sure if we can beat any team as we used to do in the distant past.
We’re so captivated, so focused on winning the age grade competitions, the U-17, U-20 cups. We appear not interested in what the championship is all about (talent discovery and development). Instead of developing the young players, taking them through a process, like a factory, developing them from their formative years, we take players who are in their mid 20’s for competitions meant for the U-17s and we think we’re smart. This is reason we’re not producing quality players who can stand out in the continent or in the world. This is reason we’ve not been winning such awards like the CAF African Player of the Year. The so-called players who we use to prosecute the U-17 championship, peak at the tournament and it ends there.
When you expect them to move up to the senior team, and even when they do find a place in the Super Eagles, they must have reached their career peak. How many of them in Europe play in the top teams? Even at that, most of them find comfort on their clubs’ bench. Our players have become more of bench warmers and it comes to me not much as a surprise. Gone are the days when you have the Nwankwo Kanu’s, Jay Jay Okocha’s, Taribo West’s, Sunday Oliseh’s, Uche Okechukwu’s and the rest of them, when teams fret over the prospect of meeting the Super Eagles. Now, that fear factor is gone and teams, even the weakest of them all file out against Nigeria in their best confidence.
We’ve been on the decline, on a slippery slope, and we don’t seem to be ready to address the fundamental issues which is youth development, discovering the young, talented players in their formative years and taking them through the process of development so that by the time they get to their mid 20’s, they would have grasped the basic ingredients of what makes a player matured and ready to face the challenges of representing ones’ country at the senior level. This is what advanced countries like Brazil, Germany, Argentina, Spain, Netherlands, France, Italy do and which makes them very competitive at the senior level. We’ve won the AFCON thrice but that’s just it. We must go beyond Africa. Unless we address all these, we’ll continue to sit by the side while other teams, players take the center stage in situations like the GLO/CAF African Player of the Year Awards.
By way of reviewing the 2014 year that just rolled by, where would you place Nigeria’s performance in football?
Absolutely failure, total failure. I’ll score our football zero in the past year, 2014. This may come as a surprise to you. I’ll score our football zero for one basic reason. We don’t have a football governing body. NFF does not exist. There is no President of NFF, no board members, it does not exist, we just deceive FIFA that we have a football governing body when it does not exist.
Why do you so?
These are my reasons: No 1, FIFA itself to which other national football associations or federations as they call themselves are affiliated is registered in the Commercial Register of the Switzerland Civil Code, Section 60 FF, an equivalent of the Companies and Allied Act or Corporate Affairs Commission, CAC.  What that means is that FIFA is not created by Swiss government but recognized by the Swiss law. This FIFA recognition enables it perform the functions it is performing which is running football globally. That is what its registration has enabled or empowered it to do legally. FIFA expects its affiliates, including our so-called NFF to be similarly registered.
FIFA expects our so-called NFF to be registered as an NGO (non governmental organization) under part 2 of the Companies and Allied Matters Act. No.2: We used to have a Nigeria Football Association, NFA, under the Nigeria Football Association Act. As you know, that Act has been repealed. You don’t need a legislation of the National Assembly to govern our football.
Here, we used to have an NFA under the NFA Act which later metamorphosed into Decree 101. When we had the NFA under the NFA Act, you could say yes there was a legal body known as Nigeria Football Association by virtue of NFA Act. Yes that was a logical reasoning because there was NFA under NFA Act even though FIFA don’t want any of its affiliates to be governed by any of such laws. But since they have repealed the NFA Act, there’s no Nigeria Football Association Act, no Nigeria Football Association, and there is a body claiming to be Nigeria Football Federation, NFF, that body that says it is Nigeria Football Federation is not registered under the Companies and Allied Act. There is no Nigeria Football Federation Act.
Even as we’re talking now, we hear that the National Assembly has passed the NFF Bill, which has not been signed into law by Mr President (of the Federal Republic of Nigeria). It means we’ve no Nigeria Football Federation, NFF. We do not have a football governing body that is registered with the Corporate Affairs Commission as FIFA expects, in which case it is recognized by law and not created by law. So we do not have a football federation recognized by law because there’s no Nigeria Football Federation Act yet. So you can see the limbo of our football administration.All these chunk of money it (NFF) is being allocated to monthly is not proper. FIFA is recognized by Swiss law but not created by the Swiss law. Which means NFF should be recognized by Nigeria law and not created by Nigeria law. To do that it needs to be registered under the Companies and Allied Acts otherwise the Corporate Affairs Commission. It’s when this is legally done that the NFF will legitimately carry out the function it is purportedly carrying out in Nigeria which is the administration of football. If they do that then they will register the approved FIFA Statutes as Memorandum or Articles of Association of the NFF. As far I’m concerned that NFF Bill on Mr President’s table waiting for his signature should be thrown to the dust-bin. We don’t need an act of the National Assembly to govern our football, no, we don’t.
Is this not an indictment on the government who even in the face of the issues and explanations you have given they still appropriate and release funds to the football governing body?
Yes, I agree with you. It is. If it’s just for one year this has happened, I can understand but you see it has been happening for years. I have been personally advising the new sports minister on this. I’ve been sending mails to successive ministers and writing papers. It’s not only an indictment on the present government per say but indictment on all the successive governments since the present democratic dispensation. All of them have the opportunity and power to do the needful, knowing we have been operating outside of the law. During the regime of Bolaji Abdullahi as Minister of Sports I raised this issue with him. So these guys they know what they are doing there. And why do you think we have legislation only for football? Why don’t we have for basketball, swimming, tennis, handball, athletics and all that? These are the fundamental things we should talk about and not coach or no coach.
But one would argue that as a former Commissioner for Justice, you ought to have initiated move for the legal correction of this anormaly or is it an exclusive responsibility of the federal government?
Its the responsibility of the National body. It’s a federal thing and not that of the state. No matter how small your country is, FIFA recognizes the National Association. State associations are only under the national body so reforms start from the national body before going down the component bodies which is the state and local government associations. It is the national association of each country that is affiliated to FIFA. Here in Nigeria, the national association is controlled by the federal government. That’s why it (FG) came up with Decree 101 of 1991 or there-about. That why they are talking about NFF Act now.
You were a member of the Green Eagles squad that won the Africa Cup of Nations for the first time for Nigeria in 1980. 35 years down the line, what memory do you still relieve of that moment?
It was a very wonderful moment, every Nigerian felt the excitement, no matter the tribe, religion or whatever. It was a wonderful atmosphere. I never experienced such electrifying moment before. The joy was all over the nation, Nigerians celebrated happily, dancing across the streets, roads, every where. We traveled all over the country on invitation by prominent Nigerians and corporate bodies and various state governments who showed appreciation. It was an unprecedented moment of joy and I still remember it as if it was just yesterday. Nobody gave us any chance against Algeria in that final. In the media it was hyped that Algeria will beat us bla,bla, bla. But we beat them soundly, 3-0! When we scored the first goal, boy o boy, we were so glad. Then the second goal came, and the third. It was wonderful.
And you were rewarded by the Federal Government then headed by President Shehu Shagari with a car each and house. What about the house?
I sold it and used the proceeds to build two other houses in Port Harcourt. And they are giving me fantastic rewards now.
The present NFF board appears to be shifting from the old order, sending some of our coaches and referees abroad on capacity enhancement programme. What’s your take on this?
The present NFF President, Amaju Pinnick, is doing well in one area, commercialization. He is a marketer. With Pinnick, NFF may not entirely depend on government for funds if and when it is duly registered and incorporated. He has that ability, he has the knowledge too. He did it in Delta State both as Chairman of Delta Sports Commission and FA Chairman. There is nothing wrong in capacity building. There is nothing wrong with seeking and acquiring knowledge. That is not a problem. The fundamental problem of our referees is not that they don’t know the rules or laws of the game. Nigeria referees know the rules of the game better than their counterparts in Africa, probably. The problem is not the quality of their knowledge. The international body has no problems with the quality of our referees but where they have problem is their credibility. And this has to do with the environment where they work which does not give them room to fully express their competence. The win-at-home syndrome in our domestic league means they are intimidated by home team supporters. They are exposed to bribery and corruption by team officials. These are the issues. Have you ever heard of the football governing body having arrested and prosecuted anybody, be it club officialor fan?. Have you heard of any club official being sanctioned severely or prosecuted in any court of law for assaulting match official because we know these things happen? Has anybody been charged with malicious damage of club property? Yet these things happen every time. So the environment under which these referees work does not allow them to fully express their professional proficiency and until these things are sorted out by the football governing body, sending referees and coaches to Europe for capacity building will not produce the desired results. Reason is that even after the training abroad you still come back home to face the same hostile environment where home teams must always win or fans will descend on the referee. So I’ll expect Pinnick and co to address the issues of security at match venues, referees match indemnity, making sure they are not under the control of home teams.
Nigeria coaches have won the FIFA U-17 World Cup over and over again. Nigeria coaches have won the CAF Champions League, talking about Kadiri Ikhana and Okey Emordi. Nigeria coach have qualified Togo for the World Cup in 2006. You remember what we did to Shaibu Amodu, we did it to Christian Chukwu, remember what we did to Samson Siasia. So it’s still down to work environment. It’s all about our attitude to our own coaches. Before Coach Lars Lagerback led the Super Eagles to the South Africa 2010 World Cup finals, his salary was paid upfront, millions of naira. But Stephen Keshi who’s our own, was owed seven months salary, no official car, no official accommodation. These are issues our football governing body should address. After sending them to Europe, when they come back would you stop treating them like slaves?. I think those overseas courses are just to curry public support or sympathy.
Thank you, Chief Amisiemaka for sharing your time with us.
You’re welcome.
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