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NFF Elections – heading for disaster

The air is supercharged with the forthcoming elections into the Executive Committee of the NFF, so one cannot get away from commenting on the goings-on.…

The air is supercharged with the forthcoming elections into the Executive Committee of the NFF, so one cannot get away from commenting on the goings-on.

Truly bizarre things are happening and until a few days ago when Aisha Falode elevated the conversation to a national discourse very little reaction was coming from any of the parties involved in the elections. It was like there was a grand national conspiracy that everyone should be dumb and deaf and to accept whatever is offered by the arbiters as well as survivors of the cataclysms in the NFF in the past few weeks. Aisha’s voice rose loudly and stoutly against the silence and reactions have since been pouring in in torrents clearly pointing out what is clearly a cocktail of faulty legislation designed and constructed to achieve anything but a fair and impartial election.  

Several months ago I started to point out the anomalies in the documents being put together by the then NFF Executive Committee. I wrote 4 different articles titled ‘wuru guru to the answer’, an arrangement specifically designed to enslave Nigerian football to a group and to perpetuate themselves in office. It was a ‘script’ copied straight from a renowned Nigerian sports administrator’s book of electoral tricks.  The Executive Committee, since it came to power 4 years ago, has tampered with the Statutes of the NFF five times! Altering any constitution anywhere in the world five times in four years is a world record. These rules and regulations governing the activities of associations and even countries, as the case may be, are not intended to be altered and manipulated anyhow, therefore, strict measures, in terms of some very laborious processes, are usually put in place to guard against flimsy and ill-intended alterations. To have spent so much time to tamper with the Statutes, five times in 4 years, reeks of suspicious motives many of which are now coming to light following the unfortunate impeachment of a few members of the NFF leadership and as the election process unfolds. It is clear that football stakeholders (particularly members of the General Assembly, or Congress at it is also called) were not scrutinising enough what was going on, were very lazy, or were simply a part of the conspiracy. Any way which way things are getting clearer and the situation is like that of a ship in rough seas heading directly for the rocks!

Several things are just not right. A few examples will illuminate the situation.

The Drama in Osun State

Chief Festus Adegboyega Onigbinde is a very well respected sports administrator and football technocrat. He is well-grounded in administration and technical matters concerning football. He has been serving football at the highest levels in CAF and FIFA for decades and it is for persons like him that a proviso was made in the on-going elections to participate even as a non-registered member of any of the 7 or so equal constituencies of the NFF.  For the first time in his career, peeved by the decline in the quality of administration in the country’s football, he decides to participate in the NFF elections for a place on the Executive Committee.  Under normal circumstances, Nigerians would celebrate such a personality showing interest in the politics of the NFF.  According to the election guidelines he is eminently qualified to contest on the platform of a national football icon having contributed for at least four years to the development of the game in Nigeria!  The same guidelines, however, say he will need the nomination of the FA of his State of origin in order for him to participate. Plus, of course, the usual shambolic requirement of an endorsement from two other State FA’s from 2 zones outside his own. He is from Osun State. So, from his Ibadan base he goes to his State to seek nomination that should almost be automatic and routine. The Chairman of the State FA reportedly, unilaterally, refuses to sign his form and nominate him despite even the entreaty of the State Governor. Why? Because, Chief Onigbinde was a critic of the out-going NFF Executive Committee of which the State FA Chairman was an active member.  Add to that other pent up personal grouses and interests.  Chief Onigbinde’s fate is now to be decided by the whims of a State FA Chairman who himself would have an interest to install someone of his choice from his constituency of State FA to represent the State. So, Onigbinde stands no chance in hell to get his nomination and is left out in the cold, the result of, perhaps, an unforeseen circumstance by those that crafted the rules which now make a mockery of football’s simple principle of democracy and fair-play!  To compound matters, the Electoral Committee goes outside the written script of the guidelines distributed to all participants, and now publicly invokes that only one person from each state can be nominated. The Statutes say that only one person can become a member of the Executive Committee from any one State, not that only one can be nominated.

The drama on the Plateau

There is also the case of Lumumba Adeh. His antecedents in football are well known and well documented. Football administration will do well with his vision, his intellectual depth, knowledge and wide experiences in government and football at the grassroots. The guidelines provide for him a platform outside of the registered members of the NFF to participate in the elections.  He pays through the nose and picks up a form to contest the same elections from a nationalistic platform. Initially he gets the endorsement of his State FA Chairman. Then a member of the State FA gets interested in contesting the same elections.  Some other members of the State FA board rise up, and challenge the State Chairman’s power to unilaterally nominate a candidate from outside their constituency; they remove the chairman from office and go ahead to give a second nomination to their own member!  The result is that there are now two nominated contestants from the same State. So what happens? Remember that the Electoral Committee Chairman had announced to the public 48 hours to the deadline of submission of completed forms that in accordance to the principle of Federal Character in the Nigerian law (not the NFF Statutes, or Election Code, or Election guidelines, or FIFA Statutes or any of the several statutes from which the Nigerian version was extracted) only one nominee can come from each State. So, once again there is a conflict and Nigerian football is the one to suffer the loss. Lumumba stands no chance against the wish of the State FA which is just another member of the NFF. Why should the State FA decide the fate of participants in an election where there are 7 other affiliate members and each with equal powers? Adeh Lumumba may be out in the cold as well! As I write this on Wednesday evening, I hear that there is pressure for the Electoral Committee to reverse its decision and allow all interested contestants to participate.

Drama on Olumo Rock

I have read and heard so many different stories about my own situation under the Olumo Rocks in Ogun State. I have remained absolutely silent on the matter refusing to pass any comment, only allowing the elements to determine my fate. Perhaps I should say a word or two for now.  

I am a registered member of an affiliate body of the NFF. I am interested in contesting in the NFF elections. For months I had been working quietly to determine how best to go about it and had consulted widely inside and outside my State. Until a few days ago when a group of youths bought me the forms and insisted I attempt to run I was still observing from a distance and contemplating the best line of action to take. A short while ago even before I got the form to indicate my interest I was told that the Commissioner of Sports of my State has decided to pick up what I had assumed was my nomination to run for the headship of the NFF Executive Committee. The State FA board, not supposed to be but is, subordinate to the State Ministry of Sports headed by the Commissioner, had no option but to rubber-stamp the commissioner’s wish to use the only slot available to the State for his purpose! That automatically shuts me out. My space, having been taken up by members of my immediate constituency and handed by ‘fiat’ to our collective ‘boss’ I  had no choice but to contest on another accepted platform and there are a few such platforms available to me including that of several decades of dedicated service to football both nationally and internationally.  But even then I could be stranded out there in the cold as my fate would still have been dependent  on the nomination by a State FA that had to contend with the ‘wish’ of government to allocate the sole slot to the State’s highest ranking and still-serving government sports official. There is something not quite right with that set up. This, of course, forcefully brings up the debate of the place of serving government officials in football administration and government’s place in football administration matters.

Read this from FIFA’s letter of November 2009 to the NFF on its proposed Statutes:

‘We would like to remind you that the NFF should act without any external influence, in particular without any governmental influence (cf.art.13 par.1 (g) of the FIFA Statutes and our comment regarding art.1 of the NFF Statute). In fact, art 10 par 6(g) of the NFF Statutes correctly foresees that any applicant for membership must declare that its legal composition guarantee that it can make decisions independently of any external entity. Furthermore, all of the members of the NFF should have the same rights and obligations (cf. art.12-13 of the FIFA Statutes). All of the members of the NFF should be independent organisations dedicating its activity to association football.

Last words

I listened to Aisha Falode on her grievances with the Electoral Committee and the electoral process. I am amazed that up till now, until she raised the issue the electoral committee had not even mentioned State elections that must hold before Federation elections. It is simple logic that we cannot have the Federation elections without legitimate delegates. The tenures of State FAs have expired, some by over one year. There is no way elections will hold with delegates with expired tenures. The results will be challenged in the tribunals and in the courts no matter their outcome.  The best thing to do now is to avoid this almost certain catastrophe. Pure and simple.

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