An African’s FIFA presidency dream – an update!

I hope everyone understands why I am unable to write on any subject matter outside the oncoming FIFA elections. I am involved!

The countdown to the February 26, 2016 election has begun.

There are only five working days left between Nigeria and the realization of the country’s ambition to present a candidate for the vacant seat of the presidency of FIFA. In those five days two things have to happen to convert that intention into reality.

The first is that the Nigeria Football Federation, NFF, must write a nomination letter addressed to FIFA confirming the status of its nominee as a bona-fide and active member of the football family in Nigeria for, at least, two of the last five years.

The second is that the nominee must secure letters from the football federations of five other countries from any part of the world endorsing his candidacy to contest for the elections.

Neither of these two actions confers on the nominee definite support when the actual voting comes up in February 2016, provided 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 letters must then be deposited with FIFA by October 26.

The reality is that by Friday, October 15, 2015, the two Nigerians that have indicated their interest to contest the election still have not heard a word from their football federation in response. From the body language of the NFF it appears the NFF are indifferent to the issue. With the deadline for submission looming, the silence and inaction of the federation mean that the journey to Zurich may terminate 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. The earth will simply 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 a chaotic football planet.

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 the right to contest to the other, and supported him to embark on this great journey where there is absolutely nothing anyone stands to lose but the possibility of a bountiful harvest (tangible and intangible) for Africa any way the election goes.

I am a two-time Olympian. I see the greater glory of sports in the participation rather than in the winning! Otherwise, why do we continue to engage in the FIFA World Cup when we have always known that our continent’s chances of winning the world’s most prestigious trophy are slim and unlikely to happen now? Yet, we also know that without taking part a country’s chances of ever winning it are nil. So we must participate, always. That explains why we lavishly celebrate even qualifying from Africa and regard many of our players as continental heroes. 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. Competing is the real motivation that makes every country 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 improve the level and standard of our football to improve our chances, and, then, compete.

Participating is the only guarantee of a possibility to win either the small rewards along the course of the World Cup journey or the ultimate trophy at the end. Just as football has had only eight different winners of the World Cup (five from Europe and three from South America), so also has FIFA elected only eight presidents (seven from Europe and one from South America) in its history. This is a unique opportunity for Africa to seize and change the statistics by making a serious effort to compete for the highest seat in world football administration. Rather than not nominate anyone, the Nigeria Football Federation should go ahead and select either of the two Nigerians’ today. They do not even have to justify their choice. Africa’s interest comes first in this matter and the NFF must not be seen to be the continent’s stumbling block to this faint possibility.

Other qualified Africans can also indicate an interest and enlist to contest. They must all be supported with the necessary five endorsements to become candidates. At the right time before the election, Africa would have a small pool of good candidates from which to select its best and support him to attract support from other countries outside the continent to win it. Otherwise, since I announced my intention to contest it has been a great and exciting experience and adventure.

I have learnt a great deal about human nature, about the deep politics inside football as well as about CAF and FIFA, and the intrigues in football administration. Football has been in ‘prison’ for too long and African football, even more so.Those controlling the game are too powerful and too entrenched in the system that they asphyxiate any one or federation that attempts to infiltrate and break their stranglehold. In 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 their clique will be confounded by the magnitude of their imminent collapse, by their helplessness to do anything to halt the tsunami, and by the absolute shock of the ultimate result. I am but a small part actor in this 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!

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