Opinion: NFF crisis deliberate, unfortunate but redeemable, by Godwin Bamigboye

I feel very sad that the four yearly ritual that has become a trademark of the Nigeria Football Federation (NFF) elections has resonated again at a time that we were saying all is well and thinking that the boat was experiencing a smooth sail.

The sudden development occasioned by unresolved controversy is indeed deliberate and very unfortunate. I am however confident that the situation is redeemable and so shall it be.

I am indeed overwhelmed with surprise that a situation I see as very easy for managers of people and resources to tackle with alacrity and efficiently have been allowed to linger to the extent that it is now blossoming into a crisis that may unleash catastrophic consequences on Football stakeholders in particular and Nigeria/Nigerians in general.

Why is it difficult to apply the right leadership strategies to handle challenges that may be inevitable in the process of leadership? When elections are held and the new Board of the Nigeria Football Federation emerges, the entire Nigerian Football stakeholders and the Federal Government of Nigeria through the Federal Ministry of Youth and Sports Development practically hands over the management of Football in Trust to them. This does not mean they have absolute powers because they have the Congress and the Federal Ministry of Youth and Sports Development having their oversight functions over the NFF. Unfortunately, the Congress of the Nigeria Football Federation is a “lame duck” that fails to realize their strength as the “King Makers” of the NFF leadership in addition to approving or ratifying major decisions taken by the NFF Executive Committee. The relationship between the NFF leadership and the Congress has become a Master – Servant situation where the Congress becomes a mere rubber stamp. This is deliberate and unfortunate. The Congress who hold the mandate of the Football stakeholders in Nigeria in some cases are not the true representatives of the various components of the Football Family. I don’t want to bother about how some of the Congress Members emerged from their various groups but one thing I can say is that they are the REAL BETRAYERS of the Football stakeholders in Nigeria. This is the real foundation of the problems confronting football administration in Nigeria. Go and interrogate this statement further.

When the Congress and the Federal Government hands over in trust the management of Football to the NFF Board and within the period of Eight (8) years, they are unable to manage agitation from a component of the NFF Congress, I see it as deliberate and very unfortunate. Rather than attend to the agitations of the Tijani Babangida led National Association of Nigeria Professional Footballers (NANPF), a parallel body christened All Nigerian Players Football Union (ANPFU) was hurriedly put together and given recognition by the Nigeria Football Federation. This miscalculated and erroneous decision aggravated the already fragile relationship. Why has our Trust being mismanaged by those we submitted to?

Please, don’t misunderstand me. The NANPF must be subordinate to the NFF to the extent that they are not being controlled like robots. In the same vein, I will not endorse the UNDUE INTERFERENCE of the Federal Ministry of Youth and Sports Development in the administration of Football in Nigeria. This reminds me on my frequent comments on the need for us to distinguish between INTERFERENCE and INTERVENTION. If the NFF could not resolve the an issue within its domain, they are indeed inviting a third party into an issue that is their prerogative to resolve. If the NFF did the needful, Chief Barrister Rumson Baribote and Harrison Jalla would have at this point have no need for any further agitation. 

Is this situation redeemable? Yes!. I say YES! 

The actors have the solution. The NFF Executive Committee, the NFF Congress, NANPF and the Federal Ministry of Youth and Sports Development can redeem the worsening crisis. Yes, they can do the redemption. Amaju Melvin Pinnick must ensure he is in history for good. I want to remind him that his elevation from the grassroots to NFF, CAF and FIFA Executive Member was indeed unprecedented and having two terms (8 years) in the leadership of NFF was a rare opportunity. He witnessed accelerated growth in his football career to the highest level which he couldn’t utilize for the growth of Football in Nigeria. If at the twilight of his exit from office, Nigeria’s Football is facing a renewed crisis and being threatened with a possible FIFA ban, he may be ending his tenure with injury inflicted on Nigerians especially the Football stakeholders. In the event of FIFA intervention, and they set up a Normalization Committee, the injury persists and remain indelible. A stitch in time, saves many.

Redeem the time while there is hope. We don’t need FIFA to solve our domestic Football problems. Rather we need more goal projects from them. We need more funds for grassroots football development. We don’t need their intervention in the administration of our Football. Their involvement I consider an interference.

If this internal crisis are not resolved and our talented football players who will be adversely affected become victims of the crisis, the actors would have disappointed the Nigerian youth and the ugly development could make the youths tools in the hands of merchants of insecurity in Nigeria. Let me remind us that the Flamingos are preparing for the FIFA Under 17 Women World Cup. They stand the danger of being disqualified. I was a bit terrified when I heard some young male footballers discussing recently in pidgin English that “if na boys qualify for World Cup and FIFA ban us, we go mobilize go drive everybody for NFF office, lock everywhere make dem come kill us”. Take nothing for granted, please.

I may have stepped on toes, I believe it is necessary, I pour out my heart like any other football loving Nigerian. This development will be an indictment on our Football Administrators.

I conclude that the situation of Football in Nigeria is deliberate, pathetic, unfortunate but redeemable.

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