BY KUNLE SOLAJA.
Today, 10 May 2022 marks the 60th anniversary of the first time that a board of the Nigerian football governing body was sacked
Government interference in the running of football in Nigeria has been a recurring decimal for close to three decades.
Yet, it was not so many years ago as the then Nigeria Football Association (NFA) was an independent body. But all that changed on this date, 10 May in 1962.
It was on that day that the Nigerian government intervened in the running of the football governing body of the country for the first time since the NFA was founded in 1933 (not 1945 as erroneously being believed).
Chief Joseph Modupe Johnson, better known as JMJ who was the Minister for Labour and Welfare and also in charge of sports announced the dissolution of the then NFA and constituted an eight-man caretaker committee.
That was the sack that changed the course of history, being the first governmental interference in the running of the NFA.
Oblivious of what was in the offing, the NFA members headed by its chairman, Francis Sodolamu Ogunmuyiwa, a magistrate judge, attended a hurriedly called meeting by the minister.
Other NFA members then were Fred Anisha, the vice chairman, Adetayo Awolesi, the secretary, Israel Adebajo, the treasurer and Alhaji Saliu. They were all elected at the poll conducted on 26 March 1961.
After levying allegations of fund misappropriation and lack of administrative skills, the minister, Modupe Johnson dropped the bomb as he announced the dissolution of the board and appointed a eight-man caretaker committee to run football in Nigeria.
The Acting Deputy Inspector General of Police, Louis Edet who later became the first Nigerian Inspector General, headed the committee. The Police Headquarters in Abuja is named after him.
Other members included M.E.K Roberts, a deputy commissioner of Police and Brig. Sam Ademulegun who was killed in the first coup in Nigeria. The committee also had Commodore Joseph Edet Akinwale Wey, a former footballer who later rose to the position of Vice admiral and Chief of Naval Staff.
He also served at various times as acting foreign minister and Chief of Staff of the Supreme Headquarters, making him the de facto Vice President during General Yakubu Gowon’s regime. He was also the best man when General Gowon married in 1969.
Also in the first appointed board of the NFA were Mustapha Adewale and Pius Anthony. The later, whose previous name was Pius Quist, was of Ghanaian descent and had been the first African to head the NFA in 1955.
The other members were Luke Emejulu, the secretary and Alhaji Koguma.
Francis Ogunmuyiwa, the chairman of the sacked NFA board initially queried the minister’s power to summon the meeting in which the sack was announced. He cited sections of the NFA constitution to back his claims.
The minister responded that the government considered public interest in taking the action. He pointed out that government was not going to take back seat in sports again.
The minister disclosed that the Ogunmuyiwa team took off with a balance of £8,500 but incurred a debt of £9,900. He emphasized that if the team were to go on, the gulf would continue to widen.
He also revealed that the Federal Government gave a loan of £9,900 to the NFA. No previous administration of the NFA had asked for Federal Government’s aid.