Ministry of Sports – No teeth to bite
I am writing this on Thursday night. I have just read the press release by the Chairman of the Electoral Committee of the Nigeria Football Federation, NFF.
By the way, the NFF is a parastatal of the Federal Government of Nigeria, funded mostly by the Government, supervised by the Ministry of Sports and surviving on the benevolence of the government.
The news is that the elections for the board of Nigeria Football Federation went on yesterday courtesy of a Civil Court decision. It is a great relief.
However, as you read this on Saturday morning, the fallout and reality of this new state of affairs will be that the members of the ‘failed’ Executive Committee whose tenure has expired, would return as ‘elected’ members of a new board. The country will have to endure another four years or more of the same of the immediate past. As you read this, most of them will be grinning from ear to ear, celebrating their ‘victory’ over the people and government of Nigeria.
The realities on the ground., however, are indisputable. Dangerous precedence has been set.
A sports board disregards the ‘instructions’ of the President of the country who, in his wisdom, had advised that the constitution of the Federation that needed some tinkering with, be amended before new elections are conducted. This step would have allowed genuinely disenfranchised and ostracised members to be re-admitted, peace restored, and a new leadership elected from a wider pool of members to run the federation.
Everyone is in agreement that amendments to the constitution needed to be done. The issue was whether should it precede the elections, or be done after the elections. To do it after would mean returning to the country’s vomit.
Unfortunately, it was the responsibility of the Sports Ministry to clean the stable. That is my biggest problem in all of this – the seeming powerlessness of the most influential and most authentic member of the federation finding itself helpless because it ignorantly ‘relinquished’ its status as a member of the General Assembly, Congress and Elective Congress of the NFF, and now accepts through its posturing that it is a ‘Third party’.
How can an agency of government that funds most of the activities of the federation, that owns most of the Stadia the federation uses, that owns the national teams the federation registers for international competitions, that provides the secretariat the federation uses, and had participated as a full member of the federation for decades since it was established suddenly be considered a ‘Third Party’ and cannot have a say, or even participate in the affairs of the federation without being wrongly labeled? What kind of ‘Third Party’ is that?
When there was a National Sports Commission, NSC, supervised by the Sports Ministry, the ministry was rightly considered an ‘external party’ because it was the NSC that was the member of ALL sports federations, actively funding and participating in all activities as bona fide member without problems with FIFA or any international body.
When the Ministry annexed the role of the Sports Commission, it indirectly created the present problem for itself. It became increasingly difficult to erase its former ‘Third Party’ status and adorn a new one as ‘Member’
Yet, that’s what I must do to end this seeming powerlessness that may be frustrating even the current Minister. That is why, the call for the revival of the National Sports Commission should have been taken more seriously and pursued more vigorously. The country cannot have federations that are more powerful than their primary provider of funds – the government.
Understandably, the tag ‘Ministry’ connotes an external body, with the image of ‘government’ looming over it. Whereas in our own peculiar Third World Country set-up, it is almost impossible to completely remove government from every social activity. Would any one describe the China Football Federation as a ’private organisation’, even if that is the prerequisite for joining FIFA?
In order to regain its place, influence and proper status in Nigerian Sports, the Federal Ministry of Sports has plenty of work to do. Too late, the present Minister does not have the time to complete the assignment before he leaves office in a few months’ time, but he, surely, can start the process.
The Sports Ministry’s seeming helplessness, first during the basketball fracas, and now this, sets bad precedence that may infect other federations if not nipped in the bud now.
Now is the time to start and do what is right – re-install all the ostracised members of national federations – NAPHER, NSSF, Coaches Association, Referees Association, the Military and Paramilitary, and any others, like an umbrella body for the Academies. These bodies must come together and reclaim their rightful places in every State or
National Sports body.
The State FA’s own nothing, are creation of the States, and contribute little to the National Federation beyond helping to register State clubs for national competitions. In absolute reality, the one single spot they occupied for decades on National sports federation boards was a ‘gift’ by the government. Now, they occupy 37 places in the Elective Congress of 44 members without any justification. It must end or there will never be peace in Nigerian sports.
The Ministry must fix the problem of its own status. With the tag of ‘government ministry’, it will face a herculean task. Yet, it must start the process by re-instating its place in the NFF General Assembly, Elective Congress and on the board of the NFF, as a bona fide member. With the NSC in place, it becomes a lot easier.
During the week, I read interesting discussions on a particular platform to which many sports stakeholders belong. I found the contribution of Emmanuel Zira particularly interesting and insightful. Zira is a seasoned sports administrator that I knew more during his struggles in basketball than in football.
I sought and secured his permission to reproduce a few of his words expressed in questions that do not need answers. They make interesting reading.
“Why this desperation for NFF positions? Is it because of the dollars that are shared? The tons of money gotten without accountability? The travels in business class while the Federation bleeds to death? Do the pictures members take with The ‘Who is who’ in football and post on social media to brag that they have arrived? Is it the flamboyant lifestyle some of the members live? Is it the frequent travels to choice countries that some can not use their money to go? Is it dollars and huge sums of grants and sponsorship monies that are not accounted for? Or is it the vault-breaking subvention they receive from the Federal Government with, oftentimes, no result to show for it?
What, what, what and what is the reason for this do-or-die posture of the NFF? To a point that innocent and harmless advice by even the supervising authority and critical stakeholders to expand the congress and make an all-inclusive one is falling on deaf ears?
Why? Why? Why?”
“… what is wrong with comprehensive reforms by the NFF? What does it take to amend common statutes?
If it is to travel by business class and be paid estacode, it will be done with lightning speed!
It pays to respect a plea by the Federal Government and the head of the Government to amend common statutes!”