It is with my friend’s choice of words that I want to open this piece. Permit me therefore to say that after days of hullaballoo and ballyhoo over what was supposed to be the final inspection of facilities for the 2009 FIFA U-17 World Championship, Nigeria is said not to be ready to host the youth Championship. This was the verdict of the Vice-President of FIFA, Mr. Jack Warner who led the inspection team.
Despite its disappointment, the FIFA delegation went ahead to grudgingly approve six centres namely, Abuja, Lagos, Enugu, Ijebu-Ode, Kano and Calabar to host matches of the World Championship. Apart from Abuja, Lagos and Ijebu-Ode which were picked on merit, the rest made the list because it had become compulsory for the remaining three centres to be selected to make up the required number.
One thing we must not forget is that FIFA has given Nigeria additional thirty days to provide all the necessary facilities. Therefore, like Nigerian football commentators normally say, it is not over until it is all over. Now, the thrust of this piece is that what Nigerians have just witnessed is a little of what I want to call the consequences of needless procrastination and lip service. It is unfortunate that Nigeria has carved a niche for itself as master of fire brigade approach. In fact at the inauguration of the Abuja Sub-Seat for Nigeria 2009, the Minister of the FCT, Senator Adamu Aliero boasted that FIFA should not panic because as masters of fire brigade, Nigeria will meet its requirements even if it is a week to the Championship. Most discerning minds did not find this funny because it only went a long way in underscoring our leaders’ wilful indulgence in fire brigade approach without minding the consequences.
The blame for the show of shame witnessed in recent days as far as FIFA inspection of facilities for the cadet Championship is concerned must be shared between the federal and state governments. And if anything is left to be shared, such remnants must surely go to those who sat and composed the Local Organising Committee.
Let’s then apportion blame without fear or favour. The Presidency after initial foot dragging because of a bogus budget it had rejected, accepted to host the championship. As a practical demonstration of its commitment, the Vice-President Goodluck Jonathan was assigned the responsibility of supervising the activities of the LOC. Government therefore slashed down the budget from over N34b to a “paltry” N9b and pledged to assist the bidding states with funds for upgrading of the required facilities. It was in view of all these that the Vice-President himself promised Warner that anytime he returns to Nigeria, the required facilities would be available. It was another case of lip service as the verbal commitment did not translate into the needed assistance to states. It is not long ago that part of the money for the bidding states was approved and I think released. The money was like giving medicine to a dead man.
The states also have their own share of the blame in the sense that they committed themselves without first comprehending the magnitude of their commitment. As if they were waiting for another federal government subvention, when the promised funds failed to come their way in time, everything came to a standstill and in some cases progress made was at snail pace.
Even in the beginning, the composition of the LOC attracted wide spread condemnation. Eventually, the body also failed to monitor the states closely. Besides, the LOC which is starved of funds chose to die in silence. It could not speak out because the federal government reluctantly retained it and there was no need to wake a sleeping lion.
Well, events have clearly shown that Nigeria is going to host but like Gara-Gombe insisted, it is definitely on compassionate grounds. If with less than five months to a major tournament, the host country is not ready but the hosting right is not taken away, there is no better word than compassion to use in explaining why the hosting right was not taken away.