The State Football Associations are one member in the Nigeria Football Federation, NFF, structure, not 37 different members.
It is surely a bitter pill for these major actors currently dominating football administration in Nigeria to swallow, but they must do so in order for Nigerian football to lift off above the present plateau and make giant strides in development.
I plead with them to go through this carefully and without bias.
A little excursion into history will lubricate the issue, once to help to find the knot that must be untied for Nigerian football to resume its domestic development.
The domestic game of football in Nigeria is the primary reason for which the Nigeria Football Association was formed and registered by interested persons and stakeholders.
The Association was formed and registered as a corporate body to carry out the business of football in the country. It also affiliated with CAF, WAFU, and FIFA to enable its club and national team representatives to participate in their competitions and programmes. Its primary responsibility, however, is domestic, to regulate and organize football amongst its registered members in Nigeria.
At inception, the members were clubs, referees, coaches, schools, the military/para-military, and so on, each a different organized body represented by one person on the board.
These representatives constituted the NFA board and from amongst themselves they elected the Chairman.
The NFA headquarters was in Lagos.
As the political/geographical regions increased, with formation of their own clubs, the regions became the sub-groups of each of the original members. They did not translate into an increase in the membership of the NFA but an increase in number of participants and expansion of the NFA’s responsibility. The clubs still came under one umbrella, the referees under one umbrella, and so on. The members in the structure remained the same.
The number on the board only increased with completely new groups getting affiliated by fulfilling specific criteria as stakeholders. They must be registered members (in the CAC or of their own national regulatory body) of a body with stakes in Nigerian football.
That’s how the Nigeria School Sports Federation, The Players Union, the Sports Writers Association, the Military found their way and became members of the NFA at one time or the other. With each additional member there is an increase in the membership of the board. To date the total number would not have been up to 14 advancing on that trajectory.
The Federal Government, through the Federal Ministry of Sports, from inception, enjoyed a special status as member because it not only provided funds and facilities, it also was responsible for critical personnel for the running of football in the country. It was and remains a major stakeholder.
Each member organisation, no matter their geographical spread or population, was represented by one person on the board of the NFA. Once again, note that, the total number on the board of the NFA is the number of the registered affiliates/members with an equal representation of one member each!
The NFA elected its leadership from amongst the board members which constituted its Elective Congress.
Elections were straightforward, held in the headquarters of the NFA, inexpensive, uncomplicated, not prone to corruption, and did not require public campaigns, use of funds, bribery, and all the shenanigans of partisan political party elections that the country has now inherited.
Even when geographical regions and more States were being created, the basic system continued to work and was almost flawless.
The only challenge was that the person presented as the sports ministry’s representative was always covertly presented to the board members as the Government’s choice for Chairmanship. Members always, therefore, gravitated towards the person and installed him Chairman.
There was no problem until this simple process was abused. A new Chairman, purportedly ‘anointed’ by government was installed. The puppeteers (the Sports Minister and Director-General at the time) soon found out they made a ‘wrong’ choice and orchestrated plans and removed him.
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The process of doing so revealed the unrestricted powers of individuals in government (politicians and civil servants limited in the history, original vision of Nigerian football) pretending to be doing government’s bidding whereas they were pursuing their own personal interests and agenda.
It was the attempt to halt this overbearing influence of some people in government masquerading as the President’s-Voice in ‘selecting’ the Chairman of the NFA that birthed the ‘re-structuring’ that birthed illegal new constituencies, long and convoluted processes, radical moves, civil court cases, and the destruction of the fine fiber of Nigerian football administration at inception. This new virus birthed the present monster we have been unable to ‘kill’ for almost 30 years.
In mischievous manipulation, the General Assembly of The NFA was converted to the Elective Congress. State Football Associations members of the General Assembly which was under one umbrella body were converted into individual members of the NFA and members of the Elective Congress.
They mischievously used FIFA’s module and relationship with countries to make State Associations also individual members, when they are not.
It is like taking clubs as individual members of the NFA and making the thousands of them around the country vote as Elective Congress members for who would be the Chairman of the NFA. Whereas, it is the body of clubs that is a single member. Just as the body of coaches, referees, and players are all single members.
This ‘error’ occurred following the removal of Kojo Williams, the election of Ibrahim Galadima, and the manipulations that had to happen in order to achieve narrow objectives by some ministry officials.
The State Football Associations became ‘illegal’ individual members of the NFA. They were and still are simply the coordinating bodies of the NFA in every State, and their role is limited to the States. They were always a part of the General Assembly of the NFA that meets every year end to conduct the business of policy direction for the NFA, but they never voted at elections, until the government, with Amos Adamu in control, erroneously introduced them into the constitution, as the ‘Joker’ to get rid of Galadima and regain control of the NFA.
Suddenly, the State Football Associations, from the blues, became the most powerful group in Nigerian football. Their diabolical introduction changed the face and fortune of Nigerian football. Things have not returned to normalcy since then.
That ‘error’ of expanding the place and power of State Football Associations and inserting it (in ignorance of the long-term consequences) into the NFA constitution, is the biggest hindrance to the growth of Nigerian football administration today. To move forward the faulty decision must be reversed. Those aspects that gives it ‘oxygen’ must be expunged for progress to be made.
To amend it, according to the constitution created by the same new power brokers, needs their approval now. They constitute 37 of the 44 members of the General Assembly that can do the amendment.
Yet, no one surrenders power once they have it. The State Association Chairmen will not give it up unless they are compelled to do so.
Amos Adamu and Damishi Sango should have dealt with the crisis in the NFA differently and avoided the ‘Monster’ the country has now inherited. It was simple then. Now it no longer is.
The 1st Vice Chairmanship position should have been made automatic and exclusive for the Sports Ministry’s nominee with clear and specific roles that would protect the ministry’s interests and ensure implementation of government’s policies, in the board. The person should not contest for the Chairmanship position. The Chairman would be elected from amongst the other members nominated by their parent bodies into the board, the process being transparent and democratic and must be observed by the NFA.
That way the democratic tradition of FIFA is maintained.
That’s what Tijani Babangida, president of the Players’ Union, was talking about last week. That’s what Dr. Kweku Tandoh, a first-class sports consultant, spoke about recently on The Sports Parliament on TV. That’s what I have been writing about for decades and no one seems to understand. That’s what even the Committee set up by the Honourable Minister of Sports to plan a 10-year masterplan for Nigerian football is finding difficult to unknot – The State Football Associations are not individual members of the NFA. They are like every other member of the NFA, one body, and should have one representation in the Elective Congress of the NFA!
There are only two ways out of this.
The Federal Government to take a hard stance and correct its mistake made almost 30 years ago, using subtle but clever diplomacy, or any of the members of the NFF going to court (the Players Union is already in court but not pursuing it in a convincing manner) and amend the error in the NFF Constitution that is warped in favour of a particular member of the NFF.
Without changing the aspects of the NFF constitution that gives the States illegal power in numbers, no meaningful progress in Nigerian football will be made. Nigerian football administration will also continue to be in crisis, and will remain the game for politicians from our polluted political environment.
Simply put, those that shall elect the next President of the NFF should be from an Elective Congress of registered stakeholders represented by an equal number of its member – One each. The elections should be done by the board members of no more than the 15, or so, registered members of the NFF. The person representing the Ministry of Sports should be made automatic 1st Vice-President. The LMC should not be a member of the Elective Congress. It is only a company running an aspect of the NFF’s business.
The elections must always hold in the HQ of the NFF and not be moved from State to State to serve as political lubricant for any particular candidates. The Sports Ministry must provide supervision over the elections without interfering in the process.
This whole postulation by me, surely requires a deeper study and understanding. If it kick-starts some re-thinking about the desired re-restructuring of football administration in the country, then it would have served a good purpose.
The following should be the legitimate members of the NFF and its board, genuine registered stakeholders, each having one member in the Elective Congress that will vote to elect their Chairman from amongst themselves, with the exception of the Sports Ministry’s Nominee who will be automatic 1st.Vice-Chairman.
1. Federal Ministry of Sports
2. Umbrella body of the States Football Associations
3. Umbrella body the States Referees Association
4. Umbrella body of the States Coaches Association
5. Umbrella body of the States Players’ Union
6. Umbrella body of the States School Sports Federation
7. Umbrella body of the Military
8. Umbrella body of the Paramilitary
9. Umbrella body of the Premier League
10. Umbrella Body of the Women’s Leagues
11. Umbrella Body for Health and Physical Education practitioners
12. Umbrella body of association of Club Owners (if and when registered)
13. Umbrella body of association of Sports Academies (if and when registered)
14. Umbrella body of association of Sports Writers
15. Representative of Youth Sports Federation of Nigeria (if they fulfil the requirements and conditions for membership)