In truth there is little to report about Nigerian football these days. I said so last week. Since then, things have not changed.
Stephen Keshi’s contract has still not been renewed (that decision will have to be taken by the next NFA Executive Committee); the Nation’s Cup qualifiers are round the corner and Nigeria does not have a coach or a team in place to play the match; the various junior and female national teams are playing international competitions that most Nigerians are following only peripherally; the European football season has not started and the Nigerian players in it are just settling down; the domestic Nigerian leagues are going on predictably with the usual shenanigans of teams never losing home matches and referees almost always influencing who wins or loses.
So, there isn’t much to write about still. That’s why for the second time my thoughts are once again centred on what I described last week as a looming crisis in Nigerian football and drew the attention of the country to it. Apparently, I was wrong – things can be much worse than I posited if the government does not navigate CAREFULLY!
The first thing is that government must be involved in the resolution of the present situation without interfering in the process.
African football cannot survive without government, as time and experience have clearly taught us through the years. Africa is neither Europe nor America, so, irrespective of what FIFA may say to the contrary, the absolute reality (and FIFA know it too) is that the ‘independence’ of any African football federation can only be limited to the extent of government’s agenda and strategy to drive the football association without offending the rules of FIFA.
I also admitted last week that I knew very little about the state of affairs in Nigerian football only because I had not been directly involved at national level since 2010.
4 years ago, I had honestly wanted to contest for the Presidency of the NFA only to be stopped by the Order of a High Court of competent jurisdiction that suspended the process on the very day of the elections.
The NFA leadership at the time, eager to execute a scripted plot, disregarded the court order, held the elections, and have remained in power since then despite all the crisis that ensued as a product of that ignoble action.
I had followed the articles in the statutes and protested to the FIFA Appeals Committee and then to the International Court of Arbitration in search of justice and for clarification over which was superior, the laws of a country or that of a private international organization of which the country is a member.
After two long years of fighting the cause and the system, and thirty six thousand (36,000) US Dollars that I could have put to more productive use going down the drain, I quietly licked my wounds, swallowed my pride and retired to the cocoon of my personal interests, where I have remained till now.
With very few persons even remotely supporting me or even the cause, and my final realization that government was indeed the power behind the federation, and not my naïve misconception that government was actually on my side. If I knew this I would have accepted my fate and not wasted my resources the way I did without achieving anything but my isolation from the system by those that ‘won’.
On the perennial issue of the crisis in Nigerian football I have learnt my lesson the hard way. So, no one should begrudge me for saying that I know very little.
Of course, I am a major stakeholder in Nigerian football with serious interest in the NFA, the body responsible for running it. Aside from my constitutional empowerment as Sports Ambassador conferred on me some 20 years ago by the Federal government of Nigeria, I am also the Chairman of a football club, Chairman of my Local Government Football Council, and, thus, a bona fide member of the Nigerian Football Association through the affiliation of my State Football Association. So, I have the locus standi to know everything that’s going on.
Take the case of the present elections into the Executive Committee of the Nigeria Football Association. Two weeks of attempting to understand the situation have left me frustrated with the system.
Why is nothing clear-cut?
Why are the simple guidelines for the elections a secretive document? Why are they not in circulation amongst the constituents of the football federation – all the Local Government Football Councils as well as the State Football Associations? Who is really in charge of the elections – the 7-man committee set up by Alhaji Maigari, the impeached President of the NFF, or the committee reduced to 5 members by Chief Umeh, the acting President of the NFA? Why are election forms hidden and scarce?
The secretary of my State Football Association, a civil servant, also could not help me with any information. He admits he does not know whose directives to follow! He is still waiting for signals, or would have to interpret (like so many of his colleagues all over the country) the body language of government through the NSC, in order to establish a course of action and not go against government.
So, the elections into the next board of the NFA, ongoing in fits of uncertainty and breaches of several articles in the statutes so far, must synchronize with the larger agenda of government! That’s why I have a sad but candid advise for Aminu Maigari.
Removing a President
To start with, it is not easy to remove an incumbent President of any body, particularly a football association, federation or confederation. Where it not so, Joao Havelange would never have survived as long as he did as FIFA President, Sepp Blatter would have become history many years ago, Issa Hayatou, the CAF President, would have long been retired to his cattle farm in Yaounde instead of still holding tight to a position he secured in 1988 and is still holding tight to, and Nigeria’s football development would not have been stunted by the 4-yearly crisis that precedes and follows every election into the board since 1992.
So, it cannot be easy to remove Maigari if he chooses to fight back and ensure that the rules are followed to the letter. But it is also clear that for some reasons government does not want him to enjoy a second term. He must have stepped on sensitive and powerful toes. He must know this by now. Otherwise he would not be having the problems he is having now to get government support his ambition, even if he has not publicly indicated interest to re-contest.
He should remember that 4 years ago, he also rode on the back of government to ascend the throne. No body can fight government on the issue of football and win ultimately, so this too is an eventual losing battle no matter how much he stalls the process. He has done well so far, and history shall record his monumental achievements as far as football results are concerned. No one can take those away from him. It will even bulge his CV.
My advise to him is this: he should look beyond the fights at the greater good of the game for which he has made tremendous contributions, calmly accept his fate, succumb to government’s wishes and allow the present developments that seem to leave him in the cold to subsist.
Either way, except he finds a way to get government to ‘forgive’ him his ‘sins’ and halt the process that is already hurtling away at a fast pace, he is still likely to end up without achieving his ambition to serve a second term. Once again, I repeat: no one fights government and wins in this clime, and he, better than most, knows it!
Beyond that however, he can still leave a legacy for which posterity will bless him. He should ensure that the present elections are held by upholding the tenets embedded in the statutes of the NFA for the greater good of the game.
It is about time Nigeria started conducting the elections into the Executive Committee openly, transparently and fairly, with the right electorate in place to elect the best in the country without ethnic, tribal, political and any other partisan interests. Zoning should be discarded from the ‘unofficial’ statutes!
Maigari can sit with the Sports Minister, submit a letter of resignation to his board, and negotiate his place in history by providing a conducive atmosphere for the conduct of the elections, thus eliminating all the loopholes in the present situation that could have staled the elections and hurt Nigerian football should he choose to go ahead with the fight!
He should then immediately act out his final plot by properly convening a Congress of the Nigeria Football Association, where the basis for a new direction for the NFA will be laid.
Congress shall approve his resignation, dissolve the outgoing Executive Committee since their tenure actually ends this August and cannot be extended by any means, re-confirm the electoral committee or create a new committee to take charge of the elections, approve the guidelines and new dates for the elections taking cognisance of the provisions of the Statutes as related to time frame and so on. Meanwhile, Nigerian football will continue to be run by the Secretariat of the NFA until the new Executive Committee is elected in September 2014!
That way, Nigerian football will not forget him forever!