BY KUNLE SOLAJA.
The clock is fast ticking down to 12 noon of Monday, August 20; the deadline given to Nigeria to give the full authority to the FIFA recognized board of the Nigeria Football Federation (NFF), led by Amaju Pinnick.
The question agitating the minds of many followers of football in Nigeria is “FIFA ban: To be or not to be?”
Only the Acting President, Professor Yemi Osinbajo can save the country within the first four hours of the working time on Monday.
Nothing appears to have changed since the unfolding drama that began early July. Rather, the situation becomes more confusing with each passing day.
At one point under Police protection – an arm of the Federal Government, Chris Giwa’s men, occupied the offices of the NFF.
At another time, the Directorate of State Security (DSS), another arm of the Federal Government, flushed out Giwa’s men and escorted Mohammed Sanusi and the staff presumed loyal to Amaju Pinnick board to the same offices.
The DSS was believed to have acted on the instruction of the Federal Government, even though the Nigerian Sports Minister, Solomon Dalung, disagreed.
When later, men of the DSS barricaded the Nigerian National Assembly complex without due authorization from the Presidency and the subsequent backlash, it was feared that the organization may not have also had the necessary authorization for the role it was playing at the NFF offices.
It made temporary withdrawal and NFF staff loyal to Giwa’s board made a dramatic return before the DSS repelled them again.
With the militarization of the NFF offices, it is clear that the occupants, either that of Giwa or Pinnick’s can effectively function.
That may have informed the action of FIFA to give a deadline for the breaking of the deadlock.
FIFA was affirmative. Nothing other than the restoration of Amaju Pinnick’s board is acceptable. The board has roughly five more weeks to complete its tenure.
If Giwa’s board is validated, it has just six days from FIFA’s deadline to Nigeria for the mandate obtained on August 26, 2014 to expire as no electoral mandate is in perpetuity.
While Ghana which also had the same deadline like Nigeria for governmental interference in the running of the football governing bodies has chosen a more diplomatic approach to unlock the logjam, the situation in Nigeria gets more confusing.
This is the fifth time Nigeria will be at the brink of another suspension since the 1989 FIFA two-year ban on the country from age-graded competitions.
The suspensions had always been hinged on governmental interference on the running of the football governing bodies.
On June 21, 1992, FIFA provisionally suspended Nigeria when the then NSC dissolved the Effiom Okon-led NFA board and installed Dr. Amos Adamu as Sole Administrator.
Nigeria became the first of FIFA’s affiliates to be so punished, as there was an impending statutory amendment to stop governmental interference in the composition of FAs and to also instil stability.
The next suspension of Nigeria was on October 4, 2010, following the government-induced ouster of Sani Lulu Abdulahi as the NFF boss. Just as it is now, it came up just few days to an October 10 Africa Cup of Nations qualifying match with Guinea. Even though the ban was lifted two days to the fixture in Conakry, the disorganization of the NFF meant bad preparation of the Super Eagles, which for the first time in decades, failed to make it to Africa’s premier football competition.
The same scenario unfolded four years ago after a provisional suspension of Nigeria on July 9, 2014. The confusion in the NFF ensured that the country had another poor preparation and beginning of the 2015 Africa Cup of Nations qualifier.
When Nigeria hosted Congo in Calabar, on September 6, 2014, there was no discernable NFF board to put up a perfect organization.
The result? Nigeria lost 2-3 at home and it was the first time in 33 years that Nigeria lost a competitive game at home. In the aftermath of the disorganization, Nigeria failed to qualify for the Africa Nations Cup just at it happened in the quest for the 2012 edition.
It is in similar circumstance that Nigeria is dangerously approaching the 2019 Africa Cup of Nations. The Super Eagles are due to face Seychelles early in September.
The atmosphere has been so polluted that the impeding fixture has escaped the consciousness of all. Failure to qualify, as it is very apparent, means missing out in three consecutive editions.
As the zero hour approaches, it appears only the Acting President, Prof. Yemi Osinbajo, can save the country from the brink of possible suspension which will see Nigerian teams and officials out of international engagements.
Football, more than any other human endeavour, has been the glue that binds the vast majority of Nigerians. The Acting President is expected to act decisively as he has done in other spheres of Nigerian lives in past few days.