The countdown to the February 26, 2016, FIFA election has begun.
There are only two working days between Nigeria and the realization of my intention to represent the country and seek for the vacant seat of the presidency of FIFA. In those two days, two things have to happen to convert that intention into reality.
The first is that the Nigeria Football Federation must write a nomination letter addressed to FIFA, confirming the status of its nominee as a bona-fide and active member for, at least two of the last five years, of the football family in Nigeria.
The second is that the nominee must receive letters from the football federations of five countries from any part of the world, endorsing his candidacy to contest for the elections.
Neither of these two actions confers on the Nigerian support when the actual voting takes place in February 2016, if the Executive Committee of FIFA does not shift the date of the election as a result of the continuing drama that has decimated the ranks of prospective candidates.
These sets of documents (the letters) must then be deposited in FIFA by October 26.
The reality is that on Friday October 15, 2015, Nigerians still had not heard a word from their own football federation in response to the request by at least one, probably two Nigerians for nomination.
From their body language and their absolute silence since the requests were received, it appears that the matter is settled as far as the NFF are concerned. With the deadline for submission looming in the distance, the federation must know that its inaction means that the journey to Zurich terminates even before the train leaves the departure lounge, and that the country and those interested in participating can go take a running jump.
What is really sad is that nothing will happen, or change in the world. Nigeria will continue to exist, of course, and the executive committee members of the NFF will continue to ‘enjoy’ their reign and the earth will go on rotating and revolving. The humble requests for nomination will become an ‘irritating’ glitch in the life of Nigeria’s football administration, and the interested Nigerians, with their tails tucked between their legs, will return to their narrow world, struggling to be relevant in the chaotic football planet.
The NFF could easily have chosen the path of good human relations by letting the interested contestants know exactly what is their stand on the requests of said contestants.
In the public space, a controversy has been raging about who the NFF should back and nominate between my friend, Orji Uzor Kalu and I, both of us have indicated similar interests.
I believe that if we were both told that the NFF had difficulty selecting one of us, in the greater interest of the country (and indeed Africa) either of us would have voluntarily conceded his right to contest to the other, and supported him to embark on and possibly succeed on this great journey where there is absolutely nothing Nigeria stands to lose, but the possibility of a stupendously bountiful harvest (tangible and intangible) to gain any way the election goes.
In the spirit of the Olympic movement to which I have committed my sports allegiance since I went to the Olympic games to represent my country twice in my life, I see the greater glory of sports in the participation rather than in the winning!
For example, why do we continue to engage in the FIFA World Cup when we know even before the first ball is kicked, even at the qualifying level, that our country’s chances of winning the world’s most prestigious trophy is extremely slim and unlikely to happen now?
That’s why we lavishly celebrate even qualifying in Africa and get rewarded for winning even a single match at the event proper. Many countries limit their ambition to qualifying from their continent and regard their players as national heroes. Win or lose the World Cup, these players are celebrated all over the world.
Winning the World Cup is not everything, therefore. It may be the priciest reward, but every country that attends the event is a winner already. That is the spirit of the Olympic movement – every participant and every country takes away a ‘gift’ from the contest at the World Cup, rather than only a the overall winner. Without competing, a country’s chances of ever winning the championship is nil! Competing motivates every country in the world to prepare well and incentivizes them to dream to win, that is the nature of the game of football. That should be the nature of its administration.
We must change our mindset, change our psychology, start to believe in our capability and ability, work hard and be courageous, continue to work at improving the level and standard of our football to elevate our chances, and, then, compete. We must participate and compete. That is the only guarantee of a possibility to win either the small rewards along the course of the journey, or the ultimate trophy at the end.
It is in that faint hope that every four years Nigeria toils and joins 208 other countries in this global football contest that has only ever produced 8 winning countries in its history.
Just as football has had only 8 different winners of the World Cup (5 from Europe and 3 from South America), so also has FIFA elected only 8 presidents (7 from Europe and 1 from South America) in its history. The rest of the world must up their game and compete, therefore.
Once again, this is a unique opportunity that Nigeria should not allow to waste without making an effort to compete for the highest position in world football administration.
Rather than not nominate anyone, the NFF should go ahead and select either of the two Nigerians’ today. They do not even have to justify their choice. Nigeria’s interest comes first in this matter and the NFF must not be seen to be the country’s stumbling block to a potentially greatest achievement in administration at this auspicious time.
Incidentally, in the past two weeks I have travelled a bit and touched base with football administrators in a few countries. The responses everywhere have been more or less similar. Their endorsement means nothing until I secure my country FA’s nomination first. There are only 5 working days to fulfill this obligation. Time is running out. The NFF’s silence just does not help matters and does not make any sense.
Otherwise the entire experience since I announced my intention to contest has been a great and exciting adventure. I have learnt a great deal about human nature, about the deep politics inside football as well as about FIFA itself and the intrigues in its administration.
Football has been in ‘prison’ for too long. Those controlling the game at their different levels are too powerful and too entrenched that they asphyxiate any one or federation that attempts to infiltrate and break their stranglehold.
Finally, for this election, my motivation is based on an illogicality – faith!
I do not know how it will happen, when it will happen, or what will even happen. What I have is an unshaken belief that the saga of the FIFA presidential elections is a script from beyond, and that it will play out so dramatically in the end that all the wise and powerful people who think that power belongs to them will be confounded by the magnitude of their ‘failure’, by their helplessness and by the shock of the ultimate result.
I am but a small part actor in the unfolding drama. My responsibility is to play my part well and leave the rest. That I am doing to the best of my ability. Regardless, I am truly enjoying this journey without minding where it takes me. That, I surrender to the elements!