Thursday, July 10, 2014

Shocker At The Glass House

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.
– Soccertalk, November 27, 2013.

MAIGARI is only a beneficiary of the statutes designed by (Alhaji Ibrahim) Galadima and
finalized by (Alhaji Sani) Lulu which gives the NFF president so much leverage to become
immovable. Provided that Maigari doesn’t run foul of government, coupled with the good
results he has recorded so far, I would think his second term in office is secured.
– Soccertalk, December 4, 2013.

The above two quotes were written respectively before and after the 2013 Annual General Meeting (AGM) of the Nigeria Football Federation (NFF) in Warri, Delta State.

As I had recommended in the first part of the first quote (before the AGM), NFF president Alhaji Aminu Maigari duly received a vote of confidence from members of the NFF Congress for all the “good works” he had done for Nigerian football.

But as I had also warned in the second part of the first quote and in the entire second quote, Maigari’s second term in office could not be guaranteed despite his presumed  “good works.”

Last week, my warning came to pass. Within a matter of hours after returning from Brazil where he led the Super Eagles to a creditable outing at the FIFA World Cup, Maigari and his executive committee were sacked by the same NFF Congress that had passed a vote of confidence in him just months before. Even as I write this, I am yet to fully recover from the shocking turn of events and especially the speed with which they were executed. I had warned about the possibility last year, but the truth is that I didn’t see it coming when it happened.

My preliminary checks confirmed that even Maigari and his executive committee didn’t seethe Tsunami that has swept them out coming. They were about settling down to discuss the fate of Super Eagles coach Stephen Keshi (whether to extend or discontinue his contract) when their own fates were decided by superior powers.


I have done some investigation into what led to Maigari’s sudden removal and most fingers point to Senate President David Mark as the main protagonist. Mark was reportedly pissedoff that Maigari couldn’t properly manage the NFF’s relationship with Super Eagles players to prevent the embarrassing training boycott that occurred before Nigeria took on France in the Round of 16 at the World Cup.

Mark had been at the head of the Nigerian government delegation that visited the team in Campinas before the start of the World Cup. The players had reported to him their dissatisfaction with the manner their welfare was treated and Mark felt the NFF should have put things in order and  pre-empted the training boycott that later ensued.

The Senate president also reportedly recollected a similar episode last year when the players refused to travel to the Confederations Cup (also in Brazil) unless some monies were paid to them. Mark concluded that the NFF were incompetent and should be sacked. The Emergency Congress of the NFF was  called only to legalize the procedure so that FIFA would not raise an eye-brow.

At the time of writing this, minister of sports Dr. Tammy Danagogo and former this, former that, Dr. Amos Adamu, had reportedly travelled to respond to FIFA’s query about happenings in Nigerian football bordering on civil court injunctions and government interference, two tendencies that FIFA frown upon. Danagogo and Adamu are expected to succeed in their
mission of averting a FIFA ban. But even if they don’t succeed and Maigari is forcibly reinstated (which is highly unlikely), it will only be temporary until government had perfected the sacking procedure to meet FIFA requirement.

In the meantime, Maigari is already being quizzed by the Department of State Security (DSS) over NFF finances and, for his own safety, he is unlikely to resist government’s decision to summarily remove him. All is set then for the election and enthronement of a new president and executive committee members when the already scheduled elective congress of the NFF holds next month.

For Maigari it is the end of the road. On a personal level, I did not have any special relationship with the president.
Before he came into office four years ago, I didn’t give him a dog’s chance. He performed woefully during the campaign debate and I remember rating him last behind Chief Segun Odegbami, Shehu Dikko and his other opponents. Somehow he won the election, thanks to Alhaji Sani Lulu and Chief Taiwo Ogunjobi’s campaign machinery. Thereafter he wanted me to work with him but I declined.

In spite of that, I will like to salute him for his achievements during the past four years because the records are there for all to see. He may have fallen short in some areas but fairness dictates that we recognize his good works. What a thankless way to say goodbye to a man who, in my opinion, has worked very hard and also had results to show for his hard work.

Winners And Losers

THE sacking of Maigari and company has predictably thrown up a number of potential winners and losers amongst our football administrators. Let’s look at a few of them…

Winner – Dr. Amos Adamu: I was surprised to see Adamu suddenly appearing on the scene as a member of Nigeria’s delegation to “explain” things to FIFA. As a former (and aspiring-to-return) CAF/FIFA executive committee member, you would expect Adamu to advise government against any action that is contrary to the statutes. But Adamu is a very “adaptable” adviser to say the least.

Maigari incurred Adamu’s wrath when he ill-advisedly tried and failed to take Adamu’s seat on the CAF and FIFA executive committee while Adamu was suspended. Now, it’s pay-back time and Adamu, a thorougbreed in these political football games, is a sure winner.

Besides, he is also well-connected in high places. Not too long ago, Adamu worshipped atthe Aso Rock Chapel with President Goodluck Jonathan. When I saw the photograph in the newspapers, my comment was “Adamu is Back! Bad news for Maigari.”

Winner – Alhaji Sani Lulu: Lulu was Maigari’s predecessor as NFF president as it was his political machinery that Maigari rode into office. They soon fell out, however, and Lulu felt betrayed. During the World Cup in Brazil, Lulu wrote an open
letter to President

Jonathan to sack Maigari for sundry reasons. Many observers felt the letter was poorly timed as the Super Eagles were still competing well at the time. Looking back now, it’s obvious that Lulu saw Maigari’s sacking coming and his letter may have been part of the plot.

Winner – Chief Taiwo Ogunjobi: I have known Ogunjobi on a personal level for more than two decades but he never ceases to amaze me with his dexterity. Following his controversial10-year suspension by Maigari’s NFF for alleged player exploitation last year (later reduced to two years), I wrote in this column that Maigari had “floored” Ogunjobi and “cornered” him from contesting the NFF chairmanship in 2014. Ogunjobi only responded with a “wait and see” gesture and continued to prepare. Now, he is reported to have collected his nomination form, his two-year suspension has been quashed and it is Maigari who is out of the prsidential race before it has even started.

Winner – Stephen Keshi: The Eagles coach was supposed to be facing an uncertain future after the World Cup as he couldn’t reconcile his desire to continue on the job with the “stress” he was facing from his employers. Now, the NFF executive committee and management staff have been fired and Keshi is the last man standing!

The Big Boss reportedly paid a visit to President Jonathan and any doubts about his contract extension must have been cleared now. A clear winner.

Winner – Super Eagles: The players of the national team have become even stronger and more influential with Maigari’s sacking. All they need do again in future to put a new NFF president in trouble is to boycott training, demand for upfront payment (rightly or wrongly) or just create a scene to cause Nigeria some international embarrassment. An observer warned as far back as USA ‘94 World Cup that Nigeria was creating a dragon by the manner the government was pandering to all the wishes of the team at the time. Twenty years on, the Super Eagles dragon has grown more ferocious and has now consumed a whole administration of the NFF. Who will be the next victim?

Loser – Aminu Maigari: The NFF president is the biggest loser of last week’s earthquake at the Glass House. His dream of a second term in office has been shartered while his legacy is at risk of being rubbished by a government investigation into his administration’s finances. Some observers describe Maigari as a “good man” who allowed himself to be misled by some of his lieutenants. That is the way the cookie crumbles.

Loser – Barrister Chris Green: As chairman of the influential NFF technical committee, Green wielded great influence which has been wiped off by the sudden sacking. He was alleged to have unwittingly contributed to the current state of affairs by under-estimating and disrespecting the new minister of sports, Tammy Danagogo, allegely because he knew him from Rivers State. Words reportedly got back to the minister who seized the chance to show Green that he was nobody’s “small boy.”

Loser – Nigeria:  A habit of breaking into crises after every major tournament is bad for the image of Nigerian football. All our five appearances at the World Cup Finals have been followed immediately by one controversy or the other which portray us as disorganised and unappreciative. Most teams that went to the World Cup in Brazil were received back home as heroes irrespective of the stage of their elimination. Even Algeria, an African team that lost on the same day and at the same second round stage as Nigeria, were received by their country’s president and congratulated for a good performance. But in Nigeria,  here we are trying again to avoid another post-World Cup FIFA ban due to a self-inflicted crisis.

This situation could have been avoided if government, as the major financier of Nigerian football and the NFF, quietly but firmly instructed Maigari and his executive committee members to step down, or not to run for a second term in office because they were no longer wanted. Those who resisted could then be isolated for sanction, using the machinery available to government.

The practice of hounding public officials out of service or discrediting them because they fell out of favour will not encourage good people to offer their services because they would not want to be rubbished in the end.

On the part of the administrators, the usual practice of trying to block or discredit formidable opposition from participating in elections should stop also. I have always argued against some provisions in the FIFA Statutes which confer dictatorial powers on sitting presidents, including the power to influence the appointment of the electoral committee and/or the appeals committee. This patently unfair arrangement allows the sitting presidents to manipulate the election process in their own favour, thus forcing their opponents to seek extra-judicial (or government) intervention to truncate the process.
It took government intervention to stop Alhaji Ibrahim Galadima, Lulu and now Maigari from perpetuating themselves in office as NFF president either rightly or wrongly. Unless future NFF presidents learn to leave the democratic space open for a free and fair election, their opponents will continue to seek government  interference to quash their dictatorial aspirations. He who pays the piper, calls the tune.

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