Wednesday, April 19, 2017

Politics of Sports Federations Elections

THE FOUR-YEARLY ritual of elections into the governing boards of Nigeria’s sports federations is here again. And with it has come the usual controversy.

Minister of Sports, Solomon Dalung, set the ball rolling last week when he announced the “approved guidelines” for the elections scheduled for June 2017 at a “stakeholders” meeting in Abuja. The most contentious aspects of the guidelines are sections 3.2(i) and 3.2(ii).
Section 3.2(i) bars presidents and vice presidents of international sports bodies from seeking election to the office of the president or vice president of any national federation. Section 3.2(ii) states that persons who have served as presidents of federations for two consecutive terms are not eligible to seek re-election for a third term.

If these two provisions are upheld, sports federation giants such as International Olympic Committee (IOC) member and Nigeria Olympic Committee (NOC) president Engineer Habu Gumel who is president of the Nigeria Volleyball Federation will be the biggest casualty. He will be joined on the sidelines by a former sports minister Sanusi Ndanusa (Tennis), Tijani Umar (Basketball), Solomon Ogba (Athletics), Enitan Oshodi (Table Tennis) and Yusuf Dauda (Hand ball), among others.

Predictably, the disqualification of these heavyweights has sharply divided the Nigerian sports fraternity. While a section hails Dalung for taking a “bold step” to throw out those the minister himself described as “emperors” because they’ve been in charge of their federations for so long, others lambaste the minister for alleged interference in the affairs of the federations.

My take on the matter is multi-dimensional. On section 3.2(i), I do not support the idea of disqualifying candidates who hold continental and/or international positions. Those offices can actually be complimentary for a Nigerian rather than be a hindrance and should therefore be encouraged. On section 3.2 (ii), my view is that while tenure limit is desirable, it should only become effective in 2021 when all stakeholders in the federations would have been given adequate notice. Imposing the tenure limit now, just months away from the 2017 elections indicates clearly that the minister is on a mission to eliminate some individuals from contesting the elections.

My advice to Dalung is to allow all interested candidates participate in these elections so that the stakeholders can choose freely whom they want to lead them. Meritocracy will be the determinant factor as each federation can decide which of the sitting presidents deserves another term in office. Some of the so-called “emperors” have done well for their sport and it would be unfair to bar them alongside those who have nothing to show for their years in office. The blanket ban proposed by the minister may result in throwing the baby away with the bath water.

However, the leaderships of the federations must also learn a lesson from this episode. Many of them are intolerant of opposing views in their federations and they use all manners of tactics to persecute their opponents. In such situation, the opponents are forced to seek succor where ever they can find it and, this year, Dalung is their hero. That is why they’re hailing the sports minister while the “emperors” are shouting about interference. Had the “emperors” made everybody (supporters and opponents alike) feel welcome within their federations, nobody will be lining up behind Dalung today.

That said, I don’t expect the “emperors” to surrender their offices without a fight. It’s not for nothing that Gumel in particular has been boss of volleyball for so long. He’s well connected and he will pull strings in high places to retain his coveted seat. Ditto for several of the sitting chairmen Dalung has disqualified. They will fight back. This matter is not over by a mile. Watch out!

Can Monaco Hold Off PSG?
THE BIG question in the French Ligue 1 as the 2016/2017 season enters the home stretch is whether table toppers AS Monaco can hold off defending champions Paris Saint Germain (PSG) to win their first title since year 2000.
PSG have won the last four titles and are looking for the fifth on the trot. They became dominant overnight in France when Arab oil money was pumped into their coffers, but Monaco have grown more organically and I will love to see them rewarded for their patience.

Actually, I have followed Monaco with more than a passing interest since Victor Ikpeba won the League 1 title with them in 1997 en route to being crowned as African Footballer of the Year. I was editor of Complete Football International at the time and I had to go to Monaco to interview Ikpeba for the magazine’s cover story. The opulence that I saw all over the Municipality and in which Ikpeba lived made me give him the nickname, Prince of Monaco which has stuck with him ever since.

This season, I have been following Monaco’s performances as usual. A look at all the tables of the five major leagues in Europe shows that they are only behind Barcelona on the goal-scoring charts with 90 goals after 32 games. That fire-power has been the major secret of their current season. Therefore, it is not by coincidence that they have reached the quarter-finals of the European Champions League with the likelihood of reaching the semi-finals, at least.

Last weekend, Monaco had to come from behind to beat relegation battlers Dijon 2-1 as the pressure of the title race began to tell. The match winner was, of course, Radamel Falcao whose 18 goals overall places him third on the French scoring charts behind PSG’s Edison Cavani and Lyon’s Alexandre Lacazette.

If you thought all the action and drama are restricted to the EPL, you’re mistaken. A closer look at the French Ligue 1 this weekend will certainly excite you.  I’m cheering for Monaco to win their eighth title in history. The question is can they hold off the aristocrats of PSG till the end of the season?


  1. Suggestions on the reform of the sports federation is very sensible. Lasting reform is always better step phased in reasonable societies. Perhaps Dalung wants to use the surprise element to weed out position blockers and not allow them to regroup and changed future rules - The Nigerian factor.

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