Posted: Jun 16, 2011
THERE IS HOPE for a better future for Nigerian sports after all. I came to this happy conclusion following the inauguration of the Adokiye Amiesimaka - led committee set up by the President of the Nigeria Olympic Committee, Engr. Sani Ndanusa, to determine the modalities for the establishment of the Nigeria Court of Arbitration for Sport (NCAS).
In his acceptance speech at the inauguration held at the National Institute for Sports (NIS) in Lagos last week, Amiesimaka (or “Adokiye” as we all fondly call him) must have shocked quite a number of people when he declared that he would not be collecting any “personal allowances” throughout the duration of the assignment. He would give his time and professional competences for free in the service of his fatherland and would not accept any “honorarium.”
In a country where the average Nigerian sees any sort of public appointment as an opportunity to grab their own share of the “national cake,” the likes of Adokiye are few and deserve to be commended when we see them. These are the truly “honourable people” who give Nigeria hope for the future. Not greedy politicians who call themselves honourable members but who are not honourable enough to turn their backs on immoral and reckless “jumbo pay packets” in the face of galloping poverty and unemployment in their constituents.
Talking about politicians, new Imo State governor, Owelle Rochas Okorocha, has quickly distanced himself from the thieving crowd by cutting down his own “security vote” (which is never accounted for) and donating his entire monthly salary for the duration of his tenure to the state coffers to fund education and generate employment. With that double-act, Okorocha has set himself apart as an honourable politician ready to make sacrifices for his people. If we had more Nigerians offering such selfless public service, corruption and aggrandizement will soon become an exception rather the rule in our wasteful polity.
Back to sports, I am proud to also point to two journalists, Bode Oguntuyi of SportVision and Toyin Ibitoye of Channels Television as two Nigerians who also demonstrated great values of honourable people in recent times. Scandalized by the decision of the Nigeria Premier League Congress to terminate a potentially more lucrative sponsorship deal in favour of a fractious contract for which they (the Congress) also surprisingly wrote off a substantial part of a court-granted compensation, Bode and Toyin resigned from the League’s Media Committee to save their conscience.
I was particularly touched by Bode’s spiritual pay-off to the e-mail that he circulated amongst his colleagues while announcing the news of their resignation. He wrote: “Time WILL pass----- with EVERYTHING in it. Eternity WILL come, because God is constant. I CHOOSE to live in preparation for eternity. Shalom!” The message resonated well with me because it tallies with one of my key philosophies of life. Nothing in this world, I believe, is worth dying for, if it will compromise one’s place with one’s creator in the hereafter.
With the likes of Bode and Toyin around, a credible future lies ahead for sports journalism in Nigeria, despite the bazaar currently going on in some sections within our ranks.
Back to Adokiye and the NCAS assignment, I am relieved by last week’s inauguration because that is exactly what I requested Ndanusa to do in this column three weeks ago when the Nigeria Football Federation (NFF) versus Nigeria Football Association (NFA) imbroglio broke out. My contention was that had the NCAS been in place, it would have been the right body to resolve the dispute because of its legal implications.
I have been following comments by various stakeholders in the NFF – NFA brouhaha and my simple take on the matter is that the NFF should do what is honourable by fulfilling the agreements they signed with Harrison Jalla’s National Association of Nigerian Footballers (NANF) before the latter withdrew its case from the court last year. I spoke with a member of Maigari’s executive committee who says NFF’s signing of the agreement in the first place was a mistake, and that he (the member) doesn’t want to sit on the same table to have any sort of discussion with Jalla. That is the position that the entire Maigari committee has now adopted which is quite unfortunate indeed. Honourable people must always be seen to keep their word.
Let me state clearly that I do not support Jalla’s break-away Nigeria Football Association (NFA) because I don’t think it is right for a group of people to just gang up and appoint themselves into any position. But other than that, we must face the facts of this matter and be fair to Jalla rather than calling him names.
As a Nigerian who felt aggrieved by last year’s NFF elections, Jalla was within his democratic right to go court if that was where he felt he could get justice. When the NSC intervened and brokered a deal between him and the NFF so that Nigeria could avoid a FIFA ban, Jalla kept his part of the agreement by withdrawing the court case which had prevented Maigari’s NFF from functioning. It is because the NFF failed to keep their own side of the bargain that led Jalla to take his present course of action.
Why Maigari doesn’t now want to discuss with Jalla baffles me. Even in political and military wars, sworn ememies eventually lay down their arms and agree on the terms for peace. A few years ago, late President Umar Musa Yar’Adua granted amnesty to Niger Delta militants and personally met them at Aso Rock despite the kilometres of oil pipes the militants had previous destroyed. Stooping to conquer is not necessarily a sign of weakness, but strength on the part of a leader.
A copy of the resolutions of the “Reconciliation Meeting” between NANF and NFF dated October 23, 2010 shows that it was signed by NSC director general Dr. Patrick Ekeji, Maigari, NFF executive committee members Chris Green and Ibrahim Musa Gusau, NFF acting secretary general Musa Amadu and Jalla himself. Other signatories include sports columnist Tayo Balogun, former FA secretary Kadiri Momodu, football aficionado Godwin Dudu-Orumen, sports journalist Olukayode Thomas, Dr. Kweku Tandoh and the president general of the supporters club, Dr. Rafiu Oladipo, amongst others. The honourable thing for all these “respected witnesses” to do is to prevail on Maigari to honour the simple agreements that he reached with Jalla last year. That, I repeat, is the honourable thing to do.
“Tenebe Means Trouble”
lWHEN I wrote the above quote three weeks ago about the interim chairman of the rebel “Nigeria Football Association,” Jarret Tenebe, even I didn’t realize the enormity of what I had written. It was when those who knew him well started calling to tell me more about the man that I realized that he was, indeed, a packet of trouble.
It was Tenebe’s entry into Harrison Jalla’s battle that has raised the ante for all concerned. I recall that Chief Taiwo Ogunjobi called on the Nigeria Police and the SSS to arrest Tenebe, Jalla and Shuaib Gara-Gombe for parading themselves as a parallel football body. But it was Aminu Maigari that the Inspector General of Police invited instead to explain why he (Maigari) was parading himself as President of the NFF in defiance of a court order. Rumours have it that it was Tenebe who used his contacts at Aso Rock to issue the IG a marching order to enforce the court verdict.
Over the weekend, I heard Tenebe on Brila FM boasting that he would soon run Maigari out of town. “Having stepped legally into the vacuum created by the absence of NFA, we have also gone to register the NFF at the Corporate Affairs Commission because it was never registered before. The registered NFF will probably serve as the marketing arm of our NFA,” Tenebe declared to my amusement.
Meanwhile, Maigari says there’s nothing to be worried about. When journalists accosted him over the weekend at the Nwankwo Kanu Testimonial, Maigari said he wasn’t aware of any crisis in Nigerian football. Indeed, Maigari is sitting pretty as head of the only “functional” football-governing body in Nigeria, recognized by FIFA despite the unresolved legal questions surrounding their existence.
Since Tenebe announced his “coup,” Maigari has attended a FIFA Congress and supervised several national football assignments which confirm his NFF’s legitimacy, if not complete legality. By contrast, Tenebe’s “NFA” have no office, they are not recognised even by the State FAs and they have been existing only in the media who are apparently enjoying the sensation that they create.
Other than the legal and moral questions hanging on their neck, Maigari’s NFF are well positioned to win this battle. We will have to wait and see how much trouble Tenebe is truly capable of making beyond the pages of newspapers.
Patrick Ekeji’s Dilemma
lOVER THE WEEKEND, I read a lengthy interview granted to Saturday Sun newspaper by Dr. Patrick Ekeji where he narrated the role he and the National Sports Commission have played in the NFF-NFA wahala. I came away satisfied with his explanations for why he is reluctant to take sides in the matter.
If Ekeji had let the police enforce a court ruling sealing off Maigari’s NFF without intervening, FIFA would have banned Nigeria for allowing the local courts interfere with the administration of football. Yet, he couldn’t condemn Harrison Jalla outright because he (Ekeji) was a signatory to the agreement on which the NFF has reneged so far.
No wonder he told his interviewers that he was “torn between the devil and the deep, blue sea.” Tough task.
... Maigari Fights Back!
lAS I WAS concluding this article, news broke that Ekeji had summoned a Congress meeting of the NFF to find ways of resolving the impasse with the rebel “NFA.” But the NFF executive committee immediately responded that no such meeting would hold because Ekeji had no locus standi to summon it. For the first time since he came on board, Maigari finally summoned the courage to confront his “boss” at the NSC!
It is a calculated move. With no minister of sports currently in place, the NFF see Ekeji as vulnerable. Reports say Maigari has enlisted a Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) powerhouse and former sports minister, Dr. Ismail Sambawa, to cut Ekeji down to size . Sambawa is also expected to help neutralize Jarret Tenebe’s influence at the Presidency, so that the earlier instruction given to the Inspector General of Police to enforce the court order on the NFF will be withdrawn. The NFF are seeking a political intervention to circumvent their legal logjam.
That is a big gamble by Maigari and I hope he is talking to the right people at Aso Rock who can swing the unfolding political battle in his favour. If he succeeds, Tenebe, Jalla and company will be forced to surrender and that will be the end of the crisis which Maigari insists doesn’t exist anyway. The court verdict will be ignored and left to die naturally.
Should the NFF’s political Godfathers fail, however, Maigari stands the risk of arrest by the IG for flouting the court order. He could be picked up and the NFF secretariat sealed off. If that happens, FIFA will ban Nigeria which, to my understanding, is what Ekeji is trying to prevent.
Had Maigari honoured his agreements with Jalla, matters would not have degenerated to this level. Therefore if he fails in his political adventure and FIFA suspends Nigeria as a result of any subsequent court action, Maigari should be held responsible.
The battle line is drawn.
The Kanu Testimonial
lI WAS at the Teslim Balogun Stadium last Saturday for the much-publicised Nwankwo Kanu Testimonial. Despite the heavy rains in Lagos, football fans trooped out to honour a true legend of our time.
The match brought me a lot of nostalgia as Uche Okechukwu, Peter Rufai, Daniel Amokachi, Finidi George, Mutiu Adepoju and Austin Okocha, all heroes of the famous 1994 Super Eagles, filed out alongside the current stars of the national team. The 1994 stars reminded me of my days as a reporter covering the Super Eagles between 1990 and 1996. Their touches on the ball made my head swell up. I wished we could make those days happen all over again, right now!
Confronting the Eagles were the Friends of Kanu and, again, some of the players made my stomach buzz with butterflies. Samuel Eto ‘O Fils and Rigobert Song from Cameroun; Tony Baffoe and Osei Kuffour from Ghana; these were players who had bitterly fought Nigeria to a stand-still in the past, now happily in our country to honour our own Papillo. Oh, isn’t football such a unifying game?
The moments that I enjoyed most were when the Lagos fans started chanting Eto‘o’s name and he walked over to wave to them; when a fan broke through security to take a photo with Eto‘o and he obliged; when another fan risked the wrath of security to shake Kanu’s hand then ran off to celebrate as if he had won a jackpot; when Rufai made a fantastic save to remind us of the good old times; when Ike Shorunmu did the same; when Jay-Jay Okocha was introduced and he joined Kanu and Emmanuel Adebayor on the Friends of Kanu team to mesmerize the Super Eagles stars; when Kanu missed an open goal to remind us about why he never scored for Nigeria at the Nations Cup; when Kanu finally scored the opening goal to remind us of his Atlanta ‘96 winner against Brazil; when Ghana’s Michael Essien arrived even though he wouldn’t play; when Lagos State Governor Babatunde Raji Fashola who captained the Eagles was replaced and “ordered” to sit on the substitutes bench rather than go straight to the VIP box; when Emmanuel Adebayour scored for Kanu’s Friends and they all got together to dance some African steps; when Kanu went on a lap of honour to thank the Lagos fans; when ... truth is there were just too many moments to remember.
It was my most enjoyable football outing in a long, long time. Happy international retirement, Papillo.
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