The newly appointed Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of the Nigeria National League, Mr. Emmanuel Attah, has said God is going to use him and his colleagues on the board to breathe new life into the second division of the Nigeria Professional football league. In this interview with Trust Sports, the former Chairman of the FCT FA and Coordinator of the Super Eagles between 2007-2015 spoke on his latest appointment and how he would team up with his colleagues to transform the NNL.
How did your journey in football start?
My name is Emmanuel Danjuma Attah. I retired as a Director at the National Youth Service Corps in August 2022. I retired as the Director of General Services in the scheme. And only recently, I was appointed the CEO of the Nigeria National League (NNL). Before this latest appointment, I have held positions in sports such as Coordinator of the Super Eagles between 2007-1015. I also served variously as the Welfare Officer and Camp Commandant of the National U-17 (Golden Eaglets), national U-20 (Flying Eagles) and the national U-23 (Olympic Eagles). I was also on different committees of the then Nigeria Football Association (NFA) which later became the Nigeria Football Federation (NFF). In 2009, I served as the chairman of the Volunteers sub-committee of the FIFA U-17 World Cup which Nigeria hosted. I was also the Chairman of the FCT Football Association between 2005-2011. It is, therefore, pertinent to say that I have been involved in football administration for the past four decades.
How happy are you with your appointment as the NNL CEO?
I received the news of my appointment with utmost gratitude to almighty God for his mercy upon me. My sincere appreciation and gratitude also go to the president of the NFF, Alhaji Ibrahim Gusau and members of board for the confidence they have reposed in me. It shows they believe in my ability to contribute to the development of football through the Nigeria National League board.
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Did it come to you as a surprise?
The appointment came to me as a surprise. It was late Friday evening that a friend called me from Asaba to say congratulations. And I asked over what? And he said you are now the CEO of the NNL. I didn’t expect it but as it is said, it is God who determines what a man becomes today and tomorrow. So, I feel it is God who has asked me to go there and contribute my quota to Nigerian football. Football has been my life, my passion and I will forever be grateful to Gusau and his board for once again giving me joy and an opportunity to bring my experience to bear on the beautiful game.
What were your thoughts immediately when you discovered that the news of your appointment wasn’t a hoax?
I started to think about things that I will do to justify the confidence reposed in me by the NFF and other football stakeholders. I know they didn’t just wake up to say Attah go and be the CEO of the NNL. They must have done some background checks. So, I sincerely believe that God will use me to breathe a new life into the NNL.
How much did you know about the NNL before your appointment?
With all sense of humility, let me say I know much about the league. I have been in football all my life. Don’t forget that we have NNL clubs in the FCT so I always find time to watch their matches. It may also interest you to know that it was during my tenure as FCT FA Chairman that we got the first NPFL team in Abuja. We promoted EFCC FC from the NNL to the NPFL. We worked hand in hand with the then Chairman of the club, Alhaji AbdulRahman AbdulRasaq who is now the Executive Governor of Kwara State. I know a lot about the NNL and some of the activities of the league. So, I am going into familiar terrain.
Do you think your knowledge of the NNL is enough to inspire confidence in your ability to lead the league?
I urge everyone to have faith in the new board. It is a new dawn but it is not for me to judge or assess myself. My records and achievements in sports, particularly football are no secret. They are there for any concerned person to verify. Like I said earlier, I have forty years experience in football administration. It may also interest you to know that while I was still in secondary school, I served as the secretary of the Zaria Football Association. And in 1983, I formed the first female football club Kaduna called Zaria Queens. I can go on and on but my curriculum vitae and experience and what I have achieved in Nigerian football, the federal civil service and life generally are there for all to see.
A tree does not make a forest. What is your take on other members of the NNL board?
They are all credible Nigerians. I have known the chairman for so many years. He is a seasoned journalist and a perfect gentleman of impeccable character. He has been around for a long time too. And apart from the chairman, I know quite a number of the board members. They are also men of integrity who have excelled in their fields of endeavours. I believe that if given all the necessary support, we would satisfactorily deliver on our mandate.
What are your immediate plans for a quick turnaround of the NNL?
On this, I want to appeal to everyone to keep their fingers crossed. After our inauguration, we would hold our inaugural meeting and then come out with a mission and vision statement for the new NNL. Our short and long term plans and what we hope to achieve within our given mandate would be made public. But what I can tell you is that we are not going to disappoint the NFF and Nigerians in general.
How are you going to confront the problem of sponsorship?
It is an open secret that sponsorship is a big problem in Nigerian football but we would do our best to secure sponsorship for the NNL. But before then, we have to get the confidence of the clubs and other stakeholders to be able to market the league. How we would go about it will be revealed at the appropriate time. However, I can assure you that the NNL is not going to operate without corporate sponsors.
The IMC of the NPFL has impressed many Nigerians. Is there anything NNL can learn from them?
Without a doubt, the IMC has done wonderfully well and it has changed the narrative of Nigerian football at that level. Of course, we are going to build a symbiotic relationship with the IMC for the good of the NNL.
What legacies would you like to leave for the NNL?
With the support of my colleagues, I want us to give Nigerians a league they will be proud of; a league that will earn the confidence of clubs and other stakeholders; a league that will support the clubs financially; a league that will be transparent on and off the field and be transmitted live to the whole world. These are my personal aspirations and I believe with the support of all including the NFF, it would come to pass.