he Election for the office of President of the Nigeria Football Federation has gripped the imagination and attention of Nigerians. A meeting of the General Assembly of the federation has never attracted as much national attention as it did these past few days. At the time of writing this, the meeting had ended, the ‘camp’ had been vacated, and all the assembled members had withdrawn to their various interests to draw up new strategies on how to wrest power.
A day after the meeting, all is seemingly calm. Anticipated ‘fights’ did not take place. There were even little hugs and kisses beneath the pent up ‘anger’ to add to the real drama of the President, Amaju Pinnick, finally succumbing to the reality that he could not win in a third term election in office with all the ‘forces’ against him at the Congress.
So, he tearfully ( I am told) announced his last meeting as President of the Federation. He also asked for the forgiveness of all his ‘sins’ by all those he must have wronged during the period of his long, unprecedented and almost barren 8-years in office.
The 30th of September was announced as the date for new elections, and the committees that would conduct the elections and handle all appeals from them were set up.
Everyone then departed. Peacefully.
It was an anti-climax. The world was supposed to end in the bloodiest fight in Nigerian football history.
From my observatory high up in the hills of Wasimi, I sense it is not over yet. There was plenty of motion at the meeting, but there was no movement away from the smouldering crisis that had engulfed the NFF before the meeting. The contending forces remain, just as the contending issues have only just been withdrawn temporarily to allow peace to reign.
There are only 41 days to the elections.
There was only a mention of amendments to some articles in the current statutes of the federation without laying out the processes and steps to effect the change within the short-time to the elections.
There was no mention of who would drive and effect the amendments in the statutes that are the major problem with the election. Without those amendments nothing can be achieved, it will be a return to the status quo, back to ugly vomit, back to an administration populated by the same persons that have led the country down the road the country wants to veer away from. The membership of the congress and of the electorate that will elect new executive members has not changed. The product of such an election will be more of the old same.
There is also the matter of a court case in Bayelsa State that had stalled the meeting of the general assembly for months. The petitioners had only partially fulfilled their agreement to withdraw the case in court to allow for the General Assembly to take place. They can, and will, go back to the courts should the defendants, the NFF, renege on any part of their agreement about amending the constitution to bring about equity in representation, before any elections take place. There is a big question to which no answer has been provided satisfactorily: is there an order from the court vacating its earlier ruling?
The absence of a clear answer has become a burden, an Albatross around the neck of the elections.
The current lopsided representation that gives State Football Association Chairmen, who are not actual registered members of the NFF, undue and undeserved advantage during elections and for membership in the board, is totally unacceptable.
By the time the General Assembly meeting ended both issues were untouched and unresolved.
The challenges now are about who will carry out the amendment, and what time is available for the process of amending the constitution to be completed in time for the elections that must hold on September 30.
I spoke with a few attendees of the General Assembly meeting. Their response was that what they all wanted was a truce, a period to allow tempers and tension to cool, for frayed nerves to calm down, for a definite statement from Amaju Pinnick that he would not be re-contesting to come from his mouth, and for some rational thinking to start to take place.
All of these have been surely achieved.
Now, what next?
The coming weeks will be very interesting.
From my observatory, however, the coast is definitely not clear of potential turbulence and crisis.
The Players representatives were tactically disallowed from participating in the meeting and so, were not a part of the decisions taking. Yet, they are an integral part of the current five constituent-members of the congress.
They are waiting and watching patiently, like vultures.
They can return to the trenches if the issue of not holding new Local Government Football Council and State Football Association elections before the general elections is not dealt with first, to produce a brand-new electorate that will elect a brand-new leadership.
Otherwise, the same old electorate will elect from amongst the old leaders and everything returns to the failed ways and system. New elections for the largest representatives in the General Assembly, the State FAs , must take place first. All other members have their own elections in their own time.
It is an anomaly, a deliberately created one, to keep the members of that constituency (State FAs) in the leadership position forever, ensuring that they dominate Congress and always elect one of their own as President, who would then guide the State elections that follow to ensure their benefactors also survive in their various States.
That’s why in some States some Chairmen have been in office forever.
This singular act is what disallows any amendments to take place because the State FA Chairmen are in an absolute unmerited majority in decision taking.
Realisation is building up this time. There is great anger and movement against any of the old leaders returning to lead the next NFF again.
The issue of any appointed persons serving on the board of the NFF is also pending. This is against the statutes which clearly state that only elected persons can serve on the board of the NFF. Yet, an appointed staff of a company set up by the NFF to oversee one of its properties, is occupying one of the Vice-Presidential slots, with powers to vote and to be voted for during elections.
The general consensus is that the LMC has failed to deliver on its mandates to organise a great league and make money for the NFF through the professional league. Having failed in these missions, the continued existence of the League Management Company is in serious doubt, and the boss of the company will lose the seat on the board.
In short, the days ahead are likely to be turbulent as all the issues, apart from Amaju Pinnick not contesting for a third term, have not been addressed and resolved amicably.
Interesting times surely lie ahead for the administration of football in the country.
The solution is in how the Minister of Sports intervenes without interference, and drives the process of genuine change that will usher in a new Congress that will accommodate new members to expand the electorate that will produce a new kind of leadership and a new leader for the Nigerian Football Federation.