Nigerian football is set to enact the much anticipated reforms that will revamp the fortunes of the game that brings Nigerians of different ethnic backgrounds and religious beliefs together. Football is one game that binds the nation. This comes as a relief after the constitution of a new board of the Nigeria Football Association (NFA) and the attendant controversies that had trailed the dismal performance of Nigeria’s national team in South Africa, in addition to the consequent disbanding of the national team and sacking of the board of the Nigeria Football Federation led by Sani Lulu.
Aminu Maigari, the new President of the NFA, elected overwhelmingly on Thursday, August 26th 2010 did not pretend that the job ahead of his board was an easy one, as he was quoted to have said that “Nigerians don’t take NFA serious because they see us as estacode chasing people. That is why the whole world wants to be in the NFA”. The suggestion here is that the FA is motivated by greed. [protected]
The Federal Government of Nigeria had, after the South Africa 2010 blunder by the nation’s football team, took some drastic steps against the team that did not go down well with FIFA. However it made an about turn and rescinded its decisions, the major one that placed a two year ban on the senior national team, the Super Eagles. President Jonathan was said to have bowed to pleas by some past leaders of the country and other well meaning Nigerians who called for a change of mind over the issue. It was, however, clear that this was a face saving measure to escape FIFA’s hammer.
President Goodluck Jonathan had, placed a two year ban on all international competitions by Nigeria’s senior team. FIFA had reacted to this development, which it called meddlesomeness in football matters by a government and went on to issue an ultimatum to the government to withdraw that decision or face sanctions.
Had FIFA gone ahead to impose sanctions, Nigerian football would have been the worse for it. Not only would Nigeria be denied the opportunity of football contact with the international community, especially in competitions organized by FIFA, CAF and WAFU, but the other Nigerian teams in the youth and female categories would also have been prevented from participating in any international tournament.
The problem with Nigerian football, like any national endeavor, is endemic corruption, which obviously resulted in that fiasco in South Africa. Right from the onset, it was clear that Nigeria was not prepared for a tournament of this magnitude, as the Super Eagles wobbled and fumbled into qualifying for South Africa. Next was the confusion and machinations that trailed the appointment of a foreign Technical Adviser, with one of the candidates invited for the interview, former footballer Glenn Hoddle openly accused NFA officials of demanding a bribe from him. He alleged that some of the officials requested him to part with USD500, 000 out of the USD.5million proposed salary, if he was to have the job. He also accused the same persons of suggesting to him to quote USD1.5million as against the USD900, 000 he requested for as salary
Nigerian football had suffered over the years despite abundance of talent and the injection of so much money by government. The Glass House, as the headquarters of the NFA is fondly called, still exists as a drain pipe, as the various cartels that ran the nation’s football continues to hold sway, viciously kicking out honest officials whom they openly castigate as pretenders.
The dissolution of the Football Federation was led by the former president, Sani Lulu. Lulu, his vice president, Amemze Uchegbulam and the general secretary Taiwo Ogunbobi – were impeached after the World Cup. They were subsequently arraigned in the Abuja High Court on Tuesday 7th September. Their charges include the misappropriation of FIFA World Cup grants, the missing US$200,000 and the misuse of an aircraft meant for the Super Eagles. The Lagos High Court has meanwhile dissolved the newly constituted NFA because the elections were held while an injunction was in place not to do so.
And yet, it was Lulu who rechristened the NFA to Federation as if the issue of nomenclature was all it takes to turn the fortunes of Nigerian football round. Just after the tournament in South Africa, Lulu’s mother was abducted by a criminal gang which demanded for a ransom of N200million, about USD334,000 from the loot Lulu allegedly racked out during his brief tenure at the Glass House. Nigerians were not to know how much Lulu would have parted with as ransom because the police were able to rescue his aging mother before any monetary transaction took place.
The new president of the football body had equally exposed the ego battles, machinations and counter machinations that yet remain a hallmark. Similarly he was quick to tip former Nigerian International, Samson Siasia as the next Technical Adviser for the Eagles, and now that a new board had already taken off it will only be a matter of time before the tactician signs a contract with the FA.
Nigeria will continue to get it wrong in football matters for as long as drastic measures are not taken to redress this open assault and brazen looting by some unscrupulous officials of the NFA. [/protected]
By Shu’aibu Usman Leman
The writer is the National Secretary General of the Nigerian Union of Journalists