BY KUNLE SOLAJA.
Baring any hitch, it is eight days to the elective congress of the Nigeria Football Federation, NFF, in Katsina. According to information gathered by www.sportsvillagesquare.com, 24 candidates have been cleared to contest the various seats for the next administrative cycle of the football federation.
Depending on when the cycle begins, it runs for four years. If it is taken to be this year, another tug of ‘war’ should be expected shortly after the 2022 Qatar World Cup.
But if queue is taken from what obtains with the Olympic Games where a cycle of Olympiad begins the year after an Olympic Games edition, the tenure of the 44th board of the NFA/NFF will begin in 2019 and ends in 2023 thus eliminating the recurring World Cup year tussle and its distracting tendencies that had engulfed Nigerian football administration since 2002.
Usually, one of the most difficult public service in Nigeria has been the running of the football governing body.
The high turnover of the federation’s leadership clearly proves the point. In 85 years, there had been 43 regimes. This is absurd if compared with the figures from other countries, especially where standard of football is high. Brazil had only 19 helmsmen from 1915 to 2015 – a period of 100 years.
The Football Association of England had 15 chairmen from 1890 till 2015 – a period of 125 years.
The German Federation, DFB, gave stability in administration as the key to its football success. In 115 years, (from 1900 to 2015) the DFB had just 12 presiding officers.
Prior to the partial democratisation of the entry procedure into the football in 1999, membership was by appointment since 1962. At the time, dissolution of boards was common.
There are reasons for the spate of dissolution. More often than not, board members constituted with fanfare do not attend meetings. Sometimes pressure group, as exemplified by the fate of Yusuf Ali’s board in August 1991 and that of the succeeding Effiom Okon the following year, prompts a board’s sack.
Occasionally, a board is sacked just to satisfy ego or for sheer mob action, especially after the national team lost an important match. Edwin Kentebe lost his seat in that circumstance in 1973 after Nigeria lost an Africa Cup of Nations qualifying match to Zambia.
In a similar vein, the failure to qualify for the 2006 World Cup was the root of the ouster of Ibrahim Galadima from office. His successor, Sani Lulu-Abdulahi suffered the same fate following the dismal performance of Nigeria at the 2010 World Cup.
Unimpressive Brazil 2014 outing was a contributory factor to the ousting of Aminu Maigari.
In fact, reminiscence of what happened in 1973 when the then Green Eagles failed to qualify for the 1974 Africa Cup of Nations following their elimination by Zambia and the subsequent announcement of a two-year withdrawal from international competitions, the Federal Government initially withdrew the country’s teams from all international ties as a result of poor Super Eagles’ performance at the 2010 World Cup.
The prompt reaction from FIFA which threatened sanctions caused a retraction, but not before the other board members had been guided to impeach the three major actors of the board.
Incidentally, days after the initial withdrawal of the teams, the Nigerian Under-20 women team were runners-up in their category of the World Cup.
In some cases, personality clashes between the football body’s boss and the head of the supervising National Sports Commission (NSC) precipitated the sacking of the former. Colonel C.K. Lawson lost his seat in 1971 when he tried to assert the autonomy of the NFA.
Another military man, Edwin Kentebe who succeeded him, complained of the suffocating supervision by the NSC.
In June 1992, FIFA had to use Nigeria as an example to curb the incessant board dissolutions that was common in Africa.
As the NSC announced the dissolution of the Effiom Okon-led board, FIFA reacted promptly via a fax on June 21, 1992 and addressed to Dr. Amos Adamu who had just been appointed as Sole Administrator.
“RE: THE PROVISIONAL SUSPENSION OF THE NIGERIAN FOOTBALL ASSOC.
“We refer to our telex of 10th June 1992 and reconfirm hereby that the Nigerian Football Association has been provisionally suspended on the grounds that FIFA cannot accept political intervention within sporting bodies affiliated to it. CAF has been asked to conduct an enquiry and to inform FIFA of its outcome as soon as possible.
“Please pay careful attention to the fact that the suspension can only be lifted when the Nigerian association holds a general assembly, thereby electing a new board, in accordance with its statutes.
“FIFA hereby gives special permission, in view of the circumstances, to participate in the sub-regional interclub competition return match on 26 June 1992. However, your international friendly match in Abidjan may not be played because of the aforementioned suspension…”
At its 48th Ordinary Congress on July 3,1992, FIFA inserted a new clause proposed by the Executive Committee (now called Council) into the then Art. 6. It reads: “The executive bodies of any association shall be appointed only by means of election within the Association”.
FIFA’s telex message to the then Nigeria Football Association on June 21, 1992.
Chief Alex Akinyele who was the NSC Chairman responded on June 24, 1992, via a letter to Michel Zen-Ruffinen, an assistant to FIFA General Secretary. The Nigerian head of sports commission noted that the FIFA telex came 24 hours too late as Dr. Adamu and the rest of the Nigerian delegation was already in Zurich headquarters of FIFA. “I tried frantically to contact you while I was in Manila, but unfortunately, neither you nor the Secretary General nor the President was around”.
He went on to query the rationale behind FIFA action. “I have gone through the constitution of FIFA vis-avis the decree under which the NFA was constituted. Looking critically into your own constitution of affiliation, the National Sports Commission has not offended against any of the sections of the constitution nor has the NSC offended any section of the Decree that gave birth to the NFA.
“It is on record that when the NFA Decree was promulgated in 1990, a copy of it was made available to you and you did acknowledge receipt. It is on record too that you did not raise objection to any section of the Decree. Coming now to judge the NSC without giving us the option of a trial, to me, is extremely embarrassing…”
Truly, on June 25, 1990, the NFA in a letter with reference number 284/vo.III/101 notified FIFA of Decrees No. 10 and 11 concerning the professional football the country and the law formally establishing the football association. FIFA in its reply on July 19, 1990 acknowledged the letter and made minimal observation concerning the two decrees. On Decree 10, Sepp Blatter, the then secretary general remarked: “Decree No. 10, 9. (b): administrative fees for transfers are illegal. Only transfer fees between clubs are allowed. Decree No. 11, 1. (1): following should be added: “The Nigerian Football League is affiliated to the Nigerian Football Association.”
Chief Alex Akinyele’s response to FIFA’s decision in 1992.
FIFA later let Nigeria off the hook and an era of electing officers into the NFA was to begin after the tenure of the sole administrator
The reason given was to check the interference of political bodies in sporting matters. How far has the democratisation of the NFF been? We will find out later, the intrigues of the previous NFA/NFF elective congresses.