That was my friend Sam’s reaction last week, when a High Court judge sitting in Jos ordered the nullification of last September’s elections into the Executive Committee of the Nigeria Football Federation that brought up Pinnick Amaju, the Chairman of the Delta State Football Association, as new President.
My immediate reaction was that the drama of Nigerian football had not ended, and that there is still more to come, unless, of course, all the ‘combatants’ in the crisis sheathed their swords in time to avoid what appeared to have become an almost inevitable ban by FIFA!
If by the time you are reading this on Saturday morning (I am writing this on Thursday morning) Nigeria is not already serving a ban from all international football events by FIFA, one of two things must have happened.
The first probability is that a letter must have gone to FIFA written and signed by Musa Amadu, the Secretary-General of the NFA (the man in whose pen lies the fate of Nigeria) that Pinnick Amaju, somehow, has been restored to the role of President of the NFF.
Another thing that could also have happened is that the earlier order of the Jos High Court, at the resumed hearing of the matter, had been vacated. How that would come to be is another matter – by coercion, by concession, by negotiation or by fiat! One way or the other, one of the warring factions must give in and give up!
Otherwise, I see no other way out of this quagmire, for as long as one of the two contending factions sticks to its guns and insists on the sanctity of it’s mandate.
In this saga that has enveloped Nigerian football since the end of the World Cup in July 2014, there is a silver lining.
The whole matter now presents the NFA with an excellent opportunity to see the folly of previous ways, and to start now to do things correctly.
The generality of Nigerians are tired of this whole matter of elections into the NFF and, particularly, of the constant threat by FIFA to ban Nigeria during the period of elections!
So, what should the country do to avoid future conflicts, threats and suspensions?
Into The Future With Hope!
There are two issues that usually create problems for Nigeria in football. The first is the issue of age-falsification or careless documentation by the secretariat of the NFA during age-group competitions.
The second is the Statutes of the NFA that ignites controversy and conflict every four years, when the matter of elections comes up and an incumbent wants to manipulate his way to remain in power.
The NFF Executive Committee that emerges from the present crisis must make righting the wrongs that often ignite the flames of conflict in the present system, a priority.Nigeria has suffered the indignity of international suspensions twice in the past. So, the new NFF must do everything in it’s power to avoid a future occurrence.
The starting point is for it to team up with the National Sports Commission to revive and empower the National Academicals Sports Committee (NASCOM) to deliver it’s mandate of promoting the development of football at the grassroots level through the schools system. That move would provide football development with an existing structure and enhance its credibility.
The NFF must shun every attempt to win age-group competitions by ‘cheating’, when it can also win without using over-aged players and avoid the unnecessary risk of scandals, shame and stunted growth of ‘young’ players that never grow beyond the age-group levels.
The new NFF must, therefore, restrict participation in all under-17 competitions to students in schools only. This will not only help promote the combination of football and education in the society, but will also limit the levels of cheating through falsification of documents.
On the matter of elections into the board of the NFA, the solution is simple.
The new Executive Committee that emerges from the present crisis should make it a priority to set up an ad-hoc committee with membership drawn from within and outside the board to look at the present statutes of the NFF and fix it! New statutes must reflect equity, fair play, a level playing field for all and equal representation by all the affiliates of the NFF, to guide future elections into the board.
The draft document of the ad-hoc committee will be submitted to the new General Assembly of the NFF that must be constituted soonest. As it is presently, the General Assembly of the Nigeria Football Association no longer exists.
By November 2014, the tenures of all the boards of State Football Associations in Nigeria, except Lagos State that will expire in January of 2015, have officially ended. The outgone Chairmen of the State FAs cannot sit as members of the new General Assembly until they secure fresh mandates from their State FAs. Even now, Nigerian football is treading on slippery ground as any decisions or actions taken by any of the present State FA’s, if challenged, would easily and correctly be voided.
The new Executive Committee must therefore now instruct all State FAs to immediately activate the process of conducting fresh elections into their boards.This means that Local Government Football Council elections would have been conducted from where the electorate for the State FAs would emerge!
The Assembly of the leadership of State FAs, plus elected leaders of all the other affiliate members, as listed in the present statutes of the NFF, would then form a new General Assembly to shape the future of Nigerian football.One of the first assignments of the General Assembly must be to study the draft document of the statutes prepared by the ad-hoc committee set up by the board, and, if all the issues that have plagued the election process these past 12 years are dealt with in the document to reflect a truly democratic and just electoral process, it should be approved for use during the next 4 years up to the next elections when the tenure of the present board would end.
The main issues to be fixed in the statutes are the sequence of the elections from top to bottom rather than from bottom to top as it is in the present statutes! That is, all elections into the boards of the various members affiliated to the NFF must precede the national Executive Committee elections!
The issue of the electorate must also be addressed. Membership of the congress that elects the Executive Committee has been lopsided in favour of State FA chairmen. That is the product of a manipulation and alteration of the statutes that took place some eight years ago.
As directed by FIFA’s statutes, and neglected by the previous NFF, the General Assembly must have equal representation of all affiliate members.
Finally, when these two major issues are fixed, the road to peace, progress and prosperity for Nigerian football would have been firmly laid.
Genuine football stakeholders are likely to emerge to oversee Nigerian football and end the four-yearly squabbles to accompany the election for a new leadership.
The Secretary-General For The NFF
The contract of the present Secretary-General of the NFF has long expired. It ended with the tenure of the board that appointed him.
It is important that the new NFF board works closely with the Minister of Sports to seek out and appoint a new Secretary-General for the NFF. He or she must have deep knowledge and understanding of Nigerian football, a clear vision to run the secretariat and rid it of all the corruption issues and tendencies that have retarded growth of the football leagues and infected all affiliate members of the NFF.
The issue of zoning the position to a particular part of the country must be discarded. The north has enjoyed a distorted monopoly of leadership positions several times in the past without the other regions complaining. Any conversation about zoning should be disregarded.
What is needed now is a good, competent, mature and experienced administrator to navigate the secretariat of the NFF successfully through the challenges of the next four years!