Before now, too many areas required attention. The two major areas of the local league- the amateur and the professional leagues- needed physical ‘surgery’. Compared with their counterparts elsewhere, our professional league can aptly be described as a glorified amateur league. Professional league clubs flouted regulations set by the League Management Company (LMC) with impunity. Contracts entered into with players were not kept by clubs and were not even properly made. Rather than the LMC, the clubs were the ones dictating the tunes in the overall decision-making in the league. Given the scenario, the general progress of the professional league in the country was not in any way, at sight.
Today, nothing has changed. Nigerian players scavenge other African countries, particularly, North Africa, in search of contracts. As you read this piece, not less than 39 talented Nigerian players are scattered in Egypt, Tunisia, Algeria, Morocco and even Libya sweating it out in various trials in these North African countries. Despite the civil war in Sudan, Nigeria players are in that country engaged in trials for football contracts.
If you think you have heard enough, then, think of Ethiopia! The East African country has 12 Nigerian professional football players playing their game in that nation.
Our administrators have no shame! For whatever one thinks of this, they are the reason our football development has nose-dived to this shameful level. Our football administrators have not piloted our football in the right direction. They are interested in their own personal gains. Selfishness of the highest order!
At the NFF, election into the board is seen as an opportunity to amass wealth. Once one gets elected or even appointed into any committee of this federation, an opportunity has been presented by those who brought him to enhance his financial status.
Gone are now the days when election into the NFF board meant an opportunity to uplift Nigerian football. Those were the days of late Orok Oyo Orok. They were the days of late P.O.C. Achebe. Those days remind one of late Patrick Okpomo and Air Commodore Emeka Omeruah. If these men were to be alive, the NFF will not be experiencing crisis today.
In their separate efforts, each of these football administrators contributed immensely towards the development of football in this country. None thought about power. And none sought power the way our present administrators are seeking it. Every one of these football administrators tolerated the other.
P.O.C. Achebe assisted Oyo Orok Oyo when the later was secretary general of the Nigerian Football Association. It was the same body that was last two years, re-named the Nigeria Football Federation. They worked together like twins. And when it was time to retire, Oyo willingly nominated P.O.C. Achebe to the board of the association to step into his shoes. The transition was peaceful. There was no power tussle.
While they worked as secretary- general and deputy, there was no sabotage, stabbing in the back and witch- hunting. That was why the transition was smooth and peaceful.
Because there was no sabotage, factions did not exist in the association at that time. Anybody who had divergent views as to any issue concerning the running of our football usually brought up such matters at the appropriate time, and that, whole- heartedly.
Such matters were promptly discussed and sincere decisions taken. Nobody was witch- hunted for ideas generated by him or for his opposition to any idea discussed. That way, our football administrators worked like one whole number. The target was sincerely the same. Everybody chased the same purpose. They slept thinking of ways to advance our football.
For instance, when in 1989, it became imperative that professional football should be introduced in the country, everyone of our football administrators worked towards it.
Many went out of their ways to generate documents from countries who were already playing professional leagues. Free of charge, and in no time, documents were acquired from Egypt, Tunisia, Algeria and Morocco on the organization of professional soccer. “If these Africa countries are playing football at professional level, why not Nigeria,” they intoned in unison.
Their focus added professional football to our menu. God bless these men. They focused on developing Nigerian football. They did not delve into power- acquisition. For them, power tussle was not the reason for being trusted with the responsibility to pilot our football.
Today’s generation of leaders at the NFF is entirely different. They are the exact opposite of their predecessors of the 1990s and beyond. Their major focus is power. Anyone who meddles into the authority entrusted to them must be fought to a standstill. Unfortunately, the very first consequence of their posture is total distraction.
Since the major focus is now on retaining their positions, the present football administrators are distracted from their main assignment- developing Nigeria football.
What do we find? Gossips, back- biting, black mail and sabotage take the center stage. Factions immediately develop and ideas are treated depending on the camp from which they originated. Good ideas are rejected if they do not originate from friendly camps and vice versa.
One of the effects of such scenario was the 2-3 loss of the Super Eagles to Congo Brazzaville in Calabar in an African Nations Cup qualifier. Who organised the match when the NFF was busy engaged in a power tussle? Who dotted the lines and crossed the ts when the fractional president of the federation Chief Chris Giwa was rejected by FIFA and refused entry into the U. J. Esuene stadium in Calabar to participate in the match? Or did you not hear that the Directorate of State Security (DSS) prevented Giwa from entering the Calabar Stadium to participate in the organization of the African cup qualifier? Power tussle!
Congo was lucky. They better see it as that. They meddled into the lion’s den on a day the invincible beast was incapacitated.
They will come again, someday. That day, it will be different. For now, let Nigeria handle her problems irrespective of that Nigeria- Congo Brazzaville result.