Thursday, November 28, 2013

Agenda For NFF AGM

CHAIRMAN of the National Sports Commission (NSC) and minister of sports, Mallam Bolaji Abdullahi, has performed creditably since his appointment in July 2011. The relative peace and quiet that we have enjoyed in the sports sector (especially football) which have resulted in several glorious achievements in recent times are down to his dexterity and sagacity. Therefore, I am usually reluctant to criticize the minister on the few occasions when I feel he has not been spot on. After-all, no man is perfect.

It was in consideration of this that I pulled my punches when breaking the “rumour from a credible source” in my column last week that our “sport authorities” were planning to appoint a foreign technical adviser to “assist” Super Eagles coach Stephen Keshi ahead of the 2014 World Cup.

“Sports authorities” is a nebulous term referring to nobody in particular and I used it deliberately to send a message indirectly to the minister to “bury the thought” of hiring an expatriate assistant. I doubt if the minister got the hint because, roughly 24 hours after my admonition, he actually addressed the media in Abuja where he declared that his ministry would consider engaging a foreign assistant for Keshi if Keshi requested for one.

With that announcement, Abdullahi unwittingly unmasked himself as the “sport authorities” behind the foreign assistant idea. And the picture became even clearer when Nigeria Football Federation (NFF) vice-president Chief Mike Umeh declared unequivocally that the NFF had no hand in any plan to hire a foreign technical adviser.

Considering the predictably widespread rejection that the idea has received from all stakeholders since Abdullahi’s announcement, the minister can easily backtrack by claiming that he was only expressing an opinion and not a directive, as indeed he made clear that a foreign assistant would be employed only if Keshi asked for one. But Keshi’s opinion about “white dudes” during his spat with former Malawi coach Tom Saintfiet is well documented so the minister should have realized that his kite simply wasn’t going to fly.

And just in case there were any doubts about where he stood on the matter, Keshi has now declared categorically that he wouldn’t be needing any foreign assistants.

To avoid over-flogging this issue, let’s hope Keshi’s statement closes the matter finally and we can then focus on preparing properly for Brazil 2014 with Keshi and his Nigerian assistants in full charge.

Rather than a foreign (or local) technical adviser, what I think Nigeria should give Keshi now is an extension to his contract, and this is where the Annual General Meeting of the NFF holding this week in Asaba, Delta State comes in.

First, I expect the AGM to pass a vote of confidence in the NFF executive committee led by Alhaji Aminu Maigari for what has been a tremendously successful year for Nigerian football.
Second, I expect the AGM to pass a second vote of confidence in coach Stephen Keshi to continue as Super Eagles coach even beyond his current contract.

Third, I expect the AGM to pass a third vote of confidence in the League Management Company (LMC) for a job well done in the management of the GLOBACOM Premier League.

Fourth, I expect the AGM to review the cases of former Premier League chairman Chief Victor Ramson Baribote and former NFF secretary general Chief Taiwo Ogunjobi who were banned by the NFF for 15 years and 10 years respectively for allegedly bringing the game into disrepute.
Without prejudice to the procedures for including items in the agenda stated in the statutes, I expect delegates at the AGM to raise these issues for discussion. Following are my justification...

1. Aminu Maigari
I DO NOT consider myself to be a  campaigner for Maigari. During the NFF elections that brought him into office in 2010, I rated Chief Segun Odegbami and Shehu Dikko as better candidates. Maigari actually finished last in my grading of all the candidates, but look at him today.

After summounting the several court cases that stood in his path with the help of the sports minister, Maigari has led Nigerian football back into the glory days in 2013. It is therefore no surprise that he has been picking up nearly every award as sports administrator of the year.
Maigari’s NFF still has lots of work to do, though, especially in raising adequate funding for the game. He also has to improve on proper application of his limited resources as money is still expended on  frivolities allegedly budgetted for even when important overheads like coaches’ salaries have not been paid.

But I do speak with Maigari occasionally and I understand the pressure under which he operates. Some parasites have to be fed with regular cash and other favours so that they do not resort to blackmail.

Otherwise, Maigari has scored a pass mark in his management of Nigerian football so far, and I feel he deserves a vote of confidence from his constituents at the AGM. Whether that will translate into another four-year term next year remains to be seen because of the politics involved.

2. Stephen Keshi
THE post of the Super Eagles head coach is not decided by politics so I propose that Stephen Keshi should be given a two-year extension to his current contract AHEAD of the 2014 World Cup.

Normally, that decision is for the NFF executive committee to make. But I hope the AGM, after passing a second vote of confidence on Keshi and his crew, will also make the recommendation to the executive committee to extend Keshi’s contract.

The best way to appreciate the performance of a coach and encourage him is to extend his contract even before expiration. Spain, Germany and several other countries have already extended the contracts of their coaches beyond the 2014 World Cup not because they are guaranteed to win the trophy, but to acknowledge the upward direction the coaches are taking those teams.

Ethiopia also extended the contract of Sewnet Bishaw even before they faced Nigeria in the World Cup play-off because the Ethiopia FA knew he had done well to come this far. South Africa also retained Bafana Bafana coach Gordon Igesund even though he failed to qualify for Brazil 2014. (Note:  Igesund’s boys beat world champions Spain 1-0 in a friendly game last week to suggest that the faith of the South Africa FA for a better future under the coach is not misplaced).

Keshi doesn’t have to win the World Cup before we recognize the progress the Super Eagles have made under his care. If he could build a new team that we are now proud of in just two years, he can only do better if given more time.

3. League Management Company
THE credit for setting up the League Management Committee-turned-Company goes to NFF president Aminu Maigari. The LMC under the chairmanship of Nduka Irabor has had a number of disagreements with the Club Managers Association some of whose members are delegates at the AGM. But I hope the delegates will consider the giant strides the league has made under the LMC to endorse its continued existence as the management team of the league, rather than truncate it.

4.  Historic Bans on Ogunjobi and Baribote
“DID THEY kill somebody?” That was the rhetorical question that struck me  last month when the NFF announced the lengthy bans of 10 and 15 years for Taiwo Ogunjobi and Victor Baribote respectively. But I opted not to pass any comment at the time because I didn’t have the details of the “judgements.” Besides, I wanted Soccertalk to focus on our 2014 World Cup ticket which I felt was more important.

With the ticket now safely in the bag, I called the chairman of the NFF administrative panel, Mr  Chris Green, last week. Green narrated the process that led to Ogunjobi’s 10 years ban over junior international Olanrewaju Kayode’s transfer saga.

I honestly cannot pass any verdict on the case because the facts are in serious contention by both parties. Ogunjobi insists that he only played the role of “guardian” to the player and has not benefitted financially from any transfer deals. But Green’s panel concluded that Ogunjobi took advantage of his position as former secretary general of the NFF to intimidate and exploit the player.

In fact, the panel recommended that Ogunjobi should be expelled entirely from all football activities. But the NFF executive committee decided to “reduce” the punishment to a 10-year ban!

Although Ogunjobi has alleged that the length of his  ban is politically motivated to exclude him from next year’s NFF elections, I would think he also made the job easy for Green’s panel by refusing to defend himself when called upon to do so. Ogunjobi explained to me later that he had legal advice not to give evidence unless his accuser (Olanrewaju Kayode) was present.

My take on the matter is that irrespective of whether he gave evidence or not, the NFF should have availed Ogunjobi a platform to appeal or seek redress against the ban anyway. An appeal process is provided for even  in FIFA cases. Since that was not done in this instance, it behoves on delegates at the AGM to ensure that the proper thing is done.

According to the NFF statutes of 2010, bans imposed by the executive committee are provisional until they are approved by the General Assembly (article 34, paragraph ‘m’).  The ban must be a topic of discussion at the next AGM (article 28, paragraph 2p), and the members being banned have a right to address the Annual General Assembly (article 37, paragraph 3).

The AGM should ensure that the rules are followed exhaustively before considering whether to approve or disapprove the actions of the executive committee in both Ogunjobi and Baribote’s cases. And, this time around, the two respondents must cooperate in full when called upon to defend themselves.

PS: Just as I was rounding off this article, the NFF slammed another 10-year ban on one of its executive committee members, Mr  Olaleye Adepoju, for alleged bribery in a case involving relegated 3SC football club.

Apart from Adepoju, the former Commissioner for youth and sports in 3SC’s Oyo State, Mr. Dapo Lam-Adesina, also bagged a 10-year ban.

It appears that we are firmly in a season of lengthy bans at the moment. Who will the NFF hammer fall on next?

1 comment:

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