ON BEHALF of all soccer-loving Nigerians, I hereby call on Mr. Chris Giwa, factional President of the Nigeria Football Federation (NFF), to step down from office TODAY in order to avoid a worldwide ban on Nigerian football by the world governing body, FIFA.
I have been following the NFF crisis with keen interest since it broke out soon after the 2014 World Cup in Brazil. Even though I have not been commenting in the public, I have made efforts in private to help break the logjam but they have come to nought.
Obviously, the contending parties led by Mr. Giwa, Alhaji Aminu Maigari and Chief Mike Umeh each believe they are right in their claims and have been communicating (or trying to communicate) with FIFA as they sought either intervention or validation from Zurich.
Last Wednesday, 3 September, 2014 and after several disputed letters of directives from FIFA secretariat staff suspected in some quarters to have been compromised themselves, the FIFA Executive Committee, the body’s highest-governing body, finally took a decision to automatically ban Nigeria if by 8am on Monday, 8 September, Giwa does not stop parading himself as NFF president.
I want to call on Mr. Giwa and his supporters to obey that instruction without further ado.
The immediate and long-term implications of a FIFA ban are serious for Nigeria. We will not be able to participate in all club and national team events organized by FIFA and CAF at all levels.
Nigerian referees will be blacklisted and our administrators will be boycotted. Already, the Confederation of African Football (CAF) have said Nigeria will be automatically eliminated from the qualifying tournament of the 2015 Africa Cup of Nations in Morocco, irrespective of the result of our first match against Congo this weekend in Calabar. That would mean the Super Eagles cannot defend the trophy that they worked so hard to win in 2013 in South Africa.
I recall that a similar ban by CAF after Nigeria withdrew from the 1996 Nations Cup in South Africa on political grounds, robbed the Eagles of the chance to defend their 1994 title. It wasn’t until year 2000 (SIX YEARS LATER!) that Nigeria were able to participate again in the Cup of Nations.
Our ill-advised withdrawal in 1996 which resulted in such a lengthy absence was done under the dictatorial military regime of General Sani Abacha which didn’t care about the feeling of the Nigerian public. This is 2014 and we are in a political/democratic dispensation. We expect that the decision of government should reflect the will of the generality of the people.
On that note, I wish to call on the minister of sports, Dr. Tammy Danagogo, to do whatever is required to avert the FIFA ban. Average soccer-loving Nigerians really do not care about who is NFF president amongst Giwa, Maigari, Umeh or any other candidate interested in the office. But Nigerians do care that their Super Eagles should not be banned from world football simply because of the power tussle amongst these individual and their supporters. Nigerian football should not be made to pay the price for a few people’s personal aspirations.
The futility of Giwa’s refusal to step down is quite obvious. Not only would he be “President” of a banned federation that cannot participate in continental and global football affairs, FIFA and CAF will not readmit Nigeria until their demands are met, to wit: the restoration of Aminu Maigari’s NFF executive committee. Therefore, if it takes Nigeria 10 years to obey FIFA, we will remain banned for 10 years. And after the 10 years, we will be back to exactly where we started from. Is there any sense in that?
I have taken note of the argument by some “stakeholders” that FIFA should actually ban Nigeria so that we could “reorganize our football.” This campaign lacks merit because we don’t need a FIFA ban before we can reorganize our football. All we need do, if we wish, is to suspend our participation in some or all CAF and/or FIFA competitions. After our internal “reorganization,” we can rejoin the world football family on our own terms whenever we feel we are ready.
But under a FIFA ban, a federation cannot return to the football family when it pleases. It still has to meet the conditions precedent to the ban, so why allow itself to be banned in the first place?
To conclude, I am fully aware of government’s interest in who runs the affairs of Nigerian football. That is a valid and sensible interest because government is the biggest financier of Nigerian football and it should be interested (and influential!) in how its funds are spent, especially with the legendary corruption in government’s own ministries, departments and agencies.
The Aminu Maigari NFF executive committee that is recognized by FIFA has been accused of “maladministration, misapplication and misappropriation of funds.” An additional suspicion in government circles is arson, following the fire that gutted the NFF secretariat recently. These are weighty allegations indeed and what government needs to do is to investigate these allegations speedily and conclusively. Not even FIFA can protect a rogue president if the evidence of criminal behavior is provided.
Furthermore, even when fraud and arson have not been alleged, it’s on record that many times in the past, government, represented statutorily by the supervising ministry of sports, has been influential in the appointment, selection, election and even removal of NFF presidents without attracting threats of sanction, suspension or ban from FIFA. My view is that the present ministry of sports, using the powerful instruments of government at its disposal, should equally be able to follow the proper procedure to achieve its objective of sanitizing the current NFF without incurring a FIFA ban.
History will never forgive the Abacha regime for robbing Nigeria of the chance of taking part in the 1996 and 1998 Africa Cup of Nations and probably winning at least one of them considering the strength of the Super Eagles at that period.
If the Goodluck Jonathan regime allows FIFA to ban Nigeria in 2014 at a potentially high cost for reasons that are clearly avoidable as enunciated above, history will never forgive them, too.