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NFF kingmakers must wake up from slumber

August 18, 2022 will go down in history as the day the game of football in Nigeria football was forcefully retrieved from the firm grip…

August 18, 2022 will go down in history as the day the game of football in Nigeria football was forcefully retrieved from the firm grip of unrepentant enemies. On that day, the 77th Annual General Assembly of the Nigeria Football Federation (NFF) was held in Lagos where the relevant football stakeholders unanimously agreed that the 2022 NFF election should be held on September 30 in Benin City.

That decision was critical because it prevented a major crisis that could have finished what is left of Nigerian football. It would be recalled that it took real pressure from the government and majority of the stakeholders for the AGA to be held last Thursday. And considering the charged atmosphere before and during the meeting, anything less than the decision to hold the election would have been catastrophic.

It is heartwarming to know that in order to pave the way for the election to be held within the shortest possible time, the congress accepted to put aside the provisions of the NFF Statutes 2010 and the NFF Electoral Code 2009 which provides for a certain duration between the time of constitution of the Electoral Committee and the conduct of elections. The patriotic decision enabled the Congress to set up both the Electoral Committee and the Appeals Committee with the mandate to conduct the 2022 election as earlier stated.

Every football stakeholder who desires genuine change in the leadership of Nigerian football has heaved a sigh of relief, most especially in view of the fact that the incumbent president, Amaju Pinnick, for the umpteenth time, renounced his third term ambition.

The pressure induced action of the NFF president is laudable because he has finally allowed common sense to prevail over his primordial and parochial interest. However, some of us are still skeptical because the Pinnick we know can easily renege on his words. After all, the most influential Nigerians that he once claimed were urging him to run for a third term are still alive. They may easily convince him to revive his inordinate ambition. Well, for now, let’s just believe that he will finally bow out on September 30.

As we begin to hope for a breath of fresh air in the leadership of the NFF, it is also important to state that if the congressmen refuse to wake up from slumber, the problems of Nigerian football will remain even if Pinnick eventually exits the NFF.

This is because these powerful men and women of the game have formed a bad habit. They sleep and snore while Nigerian football is being put on auto-reverse by its enemies who pose as administrators of the game.

Accepted, Pinnick’s eight years at the helm of affairs has caused Nigerian football more harm than good but truth must be told, he didn’t wreak havoc alone. The congress, dominated by state FA chairmen, served as a willing collaborator.

Maybe for lack of knowledge, the congressmen failed to use their powers to check the excesses of the NFF president. Most of them still believe their role is only to vote at elections and travel for international competitions. They seem not to know that they are supposed to be at the centre of any major discussion or decision that is to be taken by the NFF. With such a laid back and nonchalant attitude, the present congress has remained NFF’s rubber stamp.

It is, therefore, necessary to remind or to re-awaken these men for them to understand that they are bigger and more important than what they have been reduced to by the present leadership of the NFF. In fact, those who need to wake up immediately among the congressmen are the State FA chairmen. A lot depends on them because they are the custodians of football at the state and local levels.

The congress of the NFF presently comprises 44 members. That is 36 State FA chairmen including the FCT and the chairmen of the league bodies (Nigeria Professional Football League (NPFL), Nigeria Women Football League (NWFL), the Nigerian National League (NNL), the Nationwide League (NLO), Nigerian coaches Association, Nigerian Referees Association (NRA) and the Players’ Union. 

This group of 44 are the kingmakers because they are the ones who determine the leadership of the NFF. It is their votes that produce the president and other members of the Executive Committee. So, if a mediocre is elected to steer the affairs of Nigerian football, the congressmen are to be held responsible. As far as elections into the NFF board is concerned, they hold the yam and the knife.

Even after they have decided the fate of the candidates, they are not supposed to become spent forces. Sadly, the congressmen hardly put to use the powers conferred on them by the statutes of the NFF. They have the powers to overturn decisions and if necessary impeach but they hardly exercise their powers even when it becomes obvious for them to act.  

In addition, whenever some of us lament about the decay in Nigerian football, we forget the sad fact that some of the congressmen who led the battle against Pinnick’s third term ambition have spent over three decades as state FA Chairmen with absolutely nothing to show for the number of years they have been in office.

While some of the FA chairmen deserve commendation, it is an open secret that football is nearly dead in some states. Most of the state chairmen including some who are now bracing up to replace Pinnick have allowed football in their domains to die. They find it hard to organise their state leagues or other grassroots football competitions. It is owners of football academies who struggle to engage the youths in local football competitions without the support of the associations. For developmental football to occur at the state level, the chairmen must come out of their deep slumber.

In less than 42 days, the congressmen will be voting to elect a new leadership for Nigerian football. Already those who want to take over from the maverick Pinnick are seriously jostling for the votes of the electorate. Our collective prayer is that even if they do not care about the growth of football in their respective territories, they should help save the poor masses’ opium by voting in credible candidates with the required capacities to arrest the unfortunate decline in Nigerian football.

The hour for the kingmakers to wake up has come. They are not to wake up, ‘collect the money’, vote wrongly and disappear into thin air. They must vote right and stay awake to ensure that those who emerge to lead the NFF in the next four years do the right things that would lead to resurgence in Nigerian football..

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