The crises in Nigeria Football Federation, NFF, Glasshouse, has been responsible for the serial setback the country’s football sector has been facing in recent times. IKENNA OKONKWO examines the situation.
Today’s Nigeria Football Federation, NFF, formerly known as Nigeria Football Association, NFA, since its inception officially in 1945 has been one football body full of intrigues from one administration to another. There exist claims in some quarters that the country’s football association had existed but its leadership record dated back as from 1945 when foreigners began to take charge during the times Nigeria was yet to gain independence.
As from 1960 when the most populous African nation was eventually liberated from their colonial masters and the country’s football organisation formally joined FIFA, Godfrey Amachree took the saddle, meaning he was the first indigenous NFA chairman of the then NFA same year.
Right from then, interest and indeed followership, as well as intense curiosity in the round leather game grew up until the re-introduction of the current democratic era in 1999 when greater passion and zeal to lead eventually topped up.
The endless battles
Between the times of Kodjo Williams in 1999 and Aminu Maigari in2014, Nigerian football has known no smooth administrative system. The peak of the crisis nearly consumed Maigari at the instance when his own board indicted and impeached him. The then Sports Minister, Tammy Danagogo intervened and he was reinstated.
The crisis as at then earned Nigeria a suspension from world governing football body, FIFA. The country was immediately recalled for the 2014 FIFA U-20 Women’s World Cup. In September of 2014, another dispute was thrown up which led to Nigeria missing qualifying for 2015 Africa Cup of Nations, but problems were later resolved, and Nigeria went on to the 2014 African Women’s Championship.
In all of these, Nigerian Pilot observed that things have not become better after all even after Amaju Pinnick emerged as new chairman barely two years ago. The nemesis that descended on the present NFF board actually began when the out gone Maigari-led leadership preferred to damn all consequences and went ahead with September 30, 2014 election in Warri, Delta State. That was the election which produced Pinnick who is currently at dagger-drawn with Amb. Chris Giwa’s group whose election took place on August 26, same year in Abuja.
Claims in some quarters that the election that produced Giwa and his board members were faulty prompted Maigari who was disqualified by Amoni Biambo-led electoral body alongside Segun ‘Mathematical’ Odegbami and others with only Giwa surviving the screening hurdle led to why angry stakeholders that insisted that August 26 election should be postponed.
Being the earlier date scheduled for the crucial poll to happen, Biambo carried on and conducted the election though aggrieved congressmen i.e state FA representatives and other stakeholders eligible to vote staged a walkout at the same election venue. By then, the ongoing supremacy battle began.
Coasting with the confidence that their own emergence was authentic, Giwa-led executive committee approached Jos High Court and obtained injunction stopping any other election but that was not obeyed later on.
Moving on, both Giwa and Pinnick groups laid claim to Glasshouse, headquarters of NFF until former President Goodluck Jonathan audaciously intervened to calm the frail nerves. At this time, Giwa and his members mellowed down.
The resurgence of their insistence to regain control of Nigerian football few weeks ago, Giwa said it was due to December 2015 resolution by Pinnick-led NFF congress that seems to sideline some stakeholders from contesting vital positions at the NFF.
In a bid to remain in control of soccer affairs in Nigeria, Giwa group preferred to approach the country’s regular court in line with stipulations in FIFA laws on daily football administration while Pinnick-board has always referred to FIFA statutes which prefer football matters to be treated internally and not in conventional court.
Like it was reported in some sessions of the media, FIFA has raised alarm over off-the field war in Nigeria and in other parts of Africa, including Egypt and Kenya. Back home, Giwa seems to be gradually slipping off even as his own club, Giwa FC have been receiving their first share of the blunt while directing his team to shun matches in days past.
Dalung, gladiators vs soccer fans
On assumption into office last November, Youth and Sports Development Minister, Solomon Selcap Dalung who has labelled himself a ‘Guerilla’ summoned both NFF warring factions to a fence mending meeting but that didn’t yield any fruitful result. In fact, Giwa and his men returned to court thereafter.
The outcome of the meeting raised many concerns among key stakeholders that doubted the genuine intention behind Dalung’s motive. Their doubt was re-awaken following series of crisis which heightened with the advent of the Plateau-born Sports Minister who was severally accused of aiding more crises in other sport federations including taekwondo, shooting and more recently Basketball.
At the heat of ongoing NFF crisis, Dalung stormed an emergency Annual General Assembly put together by Pinnick-led board and laid into virtually all stakeholders with mind bugling accusation particularly on Nigeria media that Pinnick offer journalists money to write against him. Gutted by his claims, both Nigerian sporting media and former NFF presidential candidate Abba Yola fired back and warned that the Minister would have been consumed by the crisis.
The Glasshouse attraction
As the crises at NFF rage on, concerned Nigerians have continued to wonder why the quest to lead the country’s football body has soared high in recent times. While some are of the view that administrators enter the race to become a board member of NFF due to huge financial benefits and popularity pursuit, others believe that only passion and repeated awareness on football are the common drives.
On why the number of interested individuals jostling to take over glasshouse has increased over the years, vice chairman FCT Football Association, Patrick Ngwaogu explained; “You see one thing People don’t know is that football is one thing that individuals venture into and excel. Look at Isa Hayatou. Football is one thing everyone follows with passion. Even at the village. If you at the sports sector, money budgeted for the year is not up to what one department collect.
“What Nigeria takes as loan for a sector such as agriculture does not make much impact than sports. Awareness is what is driving People. You can’t open a media organization that’s People oriented without mapping out time or space for sport programs or write ups.
“Again, there is this general believe that everyone knows everything about football, no one cares to have basic knowledge about the sport before venturing to become an administrator. And anyone who believes he has money goes ahead to buy or form a club.”
PRESIDENTIAL OR MINISTERIAL INTERVENTION?
With ending crisis brewing digging much deeper, Abba Yola, former Kano Pilllars chairman has advocated “I’ve always said that what is beyond you is beyond you. The solution to this crisis is now beyond you Mr Minister. It is absolutely wrong for you to assume that you are the beginning and the end on sports matters or that a committee of some people will help you get easy way out.
“My advise to you is therefore to refer this crisis to Mr President through a well sort out memo detailing the genesis of the issues on ground and seek another Presidential intervention. If President GEJ could broker peace which at least has lasted for more than one and a half years until your coming, I cannot see why PMB if properly briefed could not establish a lasting and enduring peace in the football family.
“Minister Dalung, come down from the fence. Do the needful and save this country from possible international ridicule. Sports politics is not a Guerrilla war. It is about diplomacy, honesty, transparency and tact because of its International colouration. And remember that the success of Mr President is built around the above qualities. It is either you adopt them or you get lost in the wilderness. No double standards.”