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Saturday, June 3, 2023

The way forward for Nigerian football

Any organization with a flawed foundation and divided against itself cannot survive adversities. We may replace our leaders annually but nothing will work without fixing the foundations that make enunciation and implementatiin of policies impossible. Only the right environment with exemplary leadership can give any organization desirable outcomes especially in times of raging challenges.

When we build structures around people instead of building structures around systems, the results are usually disastrous. So, when Nigerians moaned our inability to qualify for the World Cup in Qatar after our match with Ghana, I wondered why we wanted the miracle amid a whirlpool of commotion and confusion in our football administrative structures.

On this note, I sympathize with Nigerian football enthusiasts, especially the players and the Nigeria Football Federation (NFF), who are now being bashed everywhere. In all the criticisms, everyone blames the coaches and the players. But the truth is, no player wants to deliberately fail to play in the world cup, which is the ultimate in football. No coach would deliberately set themselves up to fail because the incremental successes add to their CVs and make them some dollars richer. In addition, the supporters club wants to be at the world cup to cheer their team to success. Nigerians want to see the Green-White-Green among the flagpoles at the World Cup venues. The Federation also wants to be there to cap their tenure up with a precedent, a success story, and earn some estacode.

Now that we failed the Qatar test, tongues are wagging. The larger society is not taking responsibility for not doing enough to call the NFF to order when turning the Glasshouse into a Fuji house of commotion. The few persons that dared critique the NFF were labeled unpatriotic individuals.

One of the fiduciary duties of the Nigerian Football Federation has been to put structures in place to evolve a system that runs and would groom future Nigerian footballers from the local League’s system (amateur and professional). The Oyarehuas, Rufais, Okoyes, Odegbamis, Chukwus, Lawals, Okalas, Yekinis, Fuludus, Popos, Temiles, the Headmasters, etc., were products of locally generated football engine room from within that put Nigeria’s name on the continental and world maps. How come we cannot replicate those things that have worked for us?

One of our failing points, which also characterize our political ethos, is the divide and rule tactics as if we are fighting a guerrilla warfare. Any organization that promotes divisions among stakeholders that should work together for promoting organizational goals cannot attain lofty heights. When anyone promotes division among members, those that lost out will curse and never wish the system well.

In Nigeria, the League Management Company (LMC) and the Nigerian Professional Football League (NPFL) have been at war for many years on whose right it is to manage the League. The Supreme Court has just ruled in favor of the NPFL. We also have the Professional Footballers Association of Nigeria (PFAN) as the authentic players union and another parallel union, the All Nigerian Players Union (ANPU), pretending to be fighting for the same players’ interests. Surprisingly, the Supporters Club has not been left out of the equation. In my opinion, the NFF, by its acts of omission or commission, has been partly responsible for promoting the decimation of the Supporters’ Club and the Players Union for its selfish interests consistently.

On the other hand, those who feel disgruntled with their organizations always find a melting point to form a parallel organization for their selfish reasons. It usually pays the NFF to invite which faction to work on a match-to-match basis. Unfortunately, some of our ex-internationals enable and motivate the NFF for the insulting crumbs that drop from the master’s table.

In the past, the Association of Professional Footballers of Nigeria (APFON), the National Association of Nigerian Footballers (NANF), and the National Association of Nigeria Professional Footballers (NANPF) were parallel players’ unions that fought bitter wars for supremacy and pursuing the same purpose.

While these organizations pitched their tents against each other, the NFF was busy formulating and implementing policies that would cement their positions in the Glasshouse. In the end, except the officials of the NFF, every other person lost. By the time the players union woke up, the NFF had become more entrenched. It is now an uphill task to undo the policies put in place, which have also gone to the National Assembly as a Bill.

Unbeknown to many, besides the in-fighting among the football stakeholders and the structure in place for running our football federation is outlandishly faulty and share a greater blame for our failings in football matters.

First, there is no player, present or past, who occupies an executive position in the NFF. That on its own is an aberration.

Second, the NFF has five statutory members with 44 votes. The statutory members are; The total number of delegates of the NFF with 44 voting rights spread across the five (5) members are

a) States Football Associations,

b) The Leagues’ Football Clubs,

c) The Coaches Association

d) The Footballers Association

e) The Referees Association

Sadly, we allowed the Football Administrators to manipulate the statutes in their favor because we went to slumber and turned the guns on ourselves when we woke or simply used positional tactics. For example, in a Congress with 44 voting rights, the NFF allocated 37 votes to (a) above the State Football Associations. In another bizarre twist, it distributed the other seven (7) votes to the other four members as follows:

a) The Players Association – 1 vote

b) The Coaches Association – 1 vote

c) The Referees Association – 1 vote

d) The League Clubs – 4 votes

The above is, in part, one of the reasons for the birthing of the PFAN 2022 Task Force Project.

Thirdly, the Technical team constituted to help the Coaching and the NFF with technical support is only there in the name. For example, when Rohr was fired and the NFF was on the verge of bringing in another foreign coach, the Technical Committee members said they were unaware of the transitional arrangements.

Fourthly, the NFF Arbitration Committee, saddled with promptly addressing the concerns and complaints from members and making binding Arbitral Awards, has mainly remained moribund. No organization attains a world-class status without efficient and effective grievance management systems.

From the above, it is clear that our system is a 360° reversal of what happens in other climes. The disadvantages of the current model used in running our football are:

1. The overall Chairman of Chairmen, the NFF President, dictates what happens. No member of Congress has an overriding voice because of the second or third-term agenda.

2. Under this type of system, the big boss would be the one to allocate the resources as deemed fit. Everybody wants to be careful to play along to get their benefits.

3. If the system were unlucky to have an autocratic NFF President, the person’s words would become laws. There shall be no statutory brainstorming sessions, and if there were, it would be a one-way directional pathway.

4. Transparency and accountability principles would be circumvented.

5. The Players, who are the raw materials for the production and baking of the football cake for sharing, do not have a say in how the cake would be shared or their future managed.

6. The Coaches are the experts that shape the players and direct the technical play on the field of play and have no voice on how to turn things around for their good and the good of their players.

7. The Referees, who ensure that the game is played according to set rules, cannot raise their voices because the one who pays the piper dictates the tune.

8. The League that has the Club owners and current players are also helpless and have no say in what happens in matters that concern the clubs and their players.

9. No nay-sayer will survive the stick of the big boss.

10. In an autocratic setting, considerations for appointments and positions will not be on merit but on a boot-licking and sycophantic behavior basis, which is the bane of the political environment in Nigeria.

11. The technical team is as helpless as all others in matters that they should be the front benchers

Does anybody really and sincerely think our football can progress beyond the current level with these drawbacks? From now to eternity, one may blame the President of the NFF. If another NFF comes in the future with this structure and power, we should not expect a different outcome.

Therefore, Nigerians must now demand:

1. Urgent restructuring and reforming of the NFF statute to give equal representations to the five statutory corporate or individual members. Using a distrustful system, where everyone avoids the hammer of the NFF President and where everyone suspects each other more disasters are waiting to happen

2. Amendment of the NFF Statute to equal representation to the five mandatory members.

3. Reconstitute the Arbitration Committee to handle grievances and get the go-ahead to enforce the pending Awards

4. Groom and give good incentives to home-based players to serve as the fulcrum for nurturing our future national team. Our league systems cannot encourage and motivate good players to stay and play football in Nigeria. Many clubs are in arrears of salaries and emoluments. A hungry player cannot give you the best.

5. All players’ union factions and supporters clubs, etc., should unite as one strong entity to speak up and save Nigeria’s Football. Presently, we are all losers. We can reverse the fortunes.

6. The League Clubs, Coaches, and Referees Associations must join the PFAN in sustaining the campaign for equal representation for the five statutory members.

7. The players union must now change the engagement strategies that have not yielded the desired fruits in the past. The time has come to:

a. First, conscientize the Nigerian public, who may not know the stated facts above.

b. Second, let Nigerians know football in many climes is a money-spinner.

c. Third, Nigeria should find a way of investing in football to generate an inflow of investments in foreign currencies

d. Ex-internationals should now be seriously thinking of how to give to Nigeria football and stop expecting what Nigeria football will offer them.

e. Appeal to private investors to help revive the dwindling fortunes of our football.

8. Without prejudice, if confirmed that the coaching crew has been sacked, the NFF should also be generous and accountable enough to accept that it was partly responsible for our failings. Therefore, it should follow the example of its Algerian counterparts that resigned after they lost to Cameroon.

You may wish to add your suggestions for the way forward for Nigerian football. I come in peace.

Grace and peace!!!

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