BY OMISAKIN, AYOBAMI
The poor state of Nigerian football has led many to see their rights as privileges. This same scenario can be likened to the state of political leadership in the country where our leaders are praised for performing their primary duties such as provision of water and good roads. It is very sad indeed. It is sad to see that rather than being condemned, the Federation is being praised for the “unprecedented success” enjoyed in Nigerian football under the Maigari-led administration. Aminu Maigari, the N.F.F president, was even awarded the ‘Football Administrator of the Year’; it is really true and worthy of all saying and acceptance that in a country of blind men, a one-eyed man is King.
I cannot but ask this question, what has the Federation achieved? I boldly state that the recent spate of success in Nigerian football is not to the Federation’s credit, it is just a mere coincidence that it occurred during this tenure. For example, many add the African Cup success to the Federation’s bag of laurels but it is not widely known that days before the tournament defining q/final match against Ivory Coast, the Federation had already booked travel tickets for the Super Eagles to come home and concluded plans to sack Keshi for ‘a poor performance at the Nations Cup’. This is the same Federation that slashed the wages of our beloved players as a reward for their triumph at the Nations Cup, a badly-timed move that undoubtedly cost us a promising performance at the Confederations Cup. This is the same Federation that has failed to pay its coaches’ salaries for several months. Need I say more, the list of woes is endless. In addition I dare state that our qualification for the World Cup, considering the talents inherent in the country, is not a plus for the Federation; it is our birthright. I would rather praise the players and coaching crew of the U-17 and National teams, who have no doubt been excellent; but as for the N.F.F, they deserve none, they made wrong decisions at the wrong times and this recent success, on their own part, is best described as an accidental discharge, a premature ejaculation.
Furthermore, there is a quite popular cliché that is used to describe very persuasive marketers, it goes thus- “he can sell ice to an eskimo”.To market merchandise like the Super Eagles, one does not need “a very persuasive marketer”; all that needs to be done is to just say “it’s the Super Eagles!” and sponsors will come wooing. Adding the fact that they are the African champions is just icing on the cake. But, it seems this apparently easy task is one too hard for the Nigerian Football Federation. Thus, the recent revelation by Federation of its broke state should be seen as a crime and an unforgivable sin.
When asked as to the reason of the Federation’s bankruptcy, the body’s General-Secretary, Musa Amadu, came up with not only a lame excuse but a deaf, dumb and blind one. He stated that; “We do generate funds, but we also have challenges in those areas because as we speak now, a particular major sponsor of our national teams, always associating with our programmes, has not paid its sponsorship fees.” Is it logical for a Federation to be so dependent on a sponsor that a default in payment by such would result in the inability of the Federation to perform its basic functions? Aminu Maigari and his ilk are more concerned with retaining their seats in the forthcoming elections than running a self-sustaining Federation. This is evident in the quick but questionable elimination of his 2 future enemies (a meal for another day). As earlier stated, the Federation should be a self-sustaining one, one that would not depend on assistance from the government. For example, an N.F.F delegation led by the first Vice President, Chief Mike Umeh met with Governor Imoke and the State Commissioner of Sports, Patrick Ugbe in Calabar. At the meeting, the governor consented to the idea of having the Eaglets camp in Calabar at the State government’s expense. Another example is President Jonathan’s decision to render assistance to the Federation by paying Keshi and his assistants all that they are being owed. This is a shame and it is an issue that should not go uninvestigated. Lawyer and renowned sports commentator Godwin Dudu-Orumen, earlier this year, stated that Nigeria Football Federation should maximize the new status of the Super Eagles and market the team rather than depend on the old fashioned way of waiting for state governments for cash donations. He finds it funny to hear that the federation is counting so much on donations expected from state governments to clear their debts from AFCON and finance outstanding competitions. He said, “This is not the time to wait for any donations; that is baffling to me. The NFF has the biggest brand on the continent today in football and so why should they be hoping that states would step forward to donate when they have African champions as their product? For all you care, proceeds from the sales of Eagles replica jerseys are such a huge source of revenue. Calculate how much revenue you can make from selling just one million of those jerseys but still hardly anybody can buy those jerseys anywhere. It is either people are getting third-rate fakes of it or the ones handed them down somehow by chance by their friends around the FA. People want to own these shirts and other fans items of the Eagles but still they are not available in the land.”
Certainly, a body that is not accountable is a corrupt one. I make bold to state that this Federation is rife with corruption and mismanagement. Ills such as corruption, favoritism, tribalism and inefficiency are prevalent in this Federation. Leaders of the federation have been known in the past to embezzle and misappropriate huge funds from its un-audited accounts. Therefore, the intervention by the House of Representatives is a welcome development. The House of Representatives Committee on Sports has called for a total review of all the sponsorship agreements signed by the Nigeria Football Federation (NFF). The Committee chairman, Honorable Godfrey Ali Gaiya made the call while reacting to NFF’s public outcry on their state of bankruptcy. He argued that the NFF’s current sponsorship arrangement that gave only one marketing firm sole right to negotiate deals for NFF and take 20% of all sponsorship funds meant for football is counter-productive and needed urgent reviewing for football to move forward. “Why has it become a tradition that only one marketing firm handles all the NFF sponsorship deals? NFF has a marketing department that can deal directly with sponsors without any agent. The agents collect 20% of whatever funds that comes to the NFF. N360 million was given to the NFF this year as part by Globacom and agents collect N70m from the funds,” he added. He further stated that “If the NFF is serious about saving costs they should cut down their market agent fees. Apart from government funds, NFF also gets money from sponsors and in any competition be it CAF or FIFA organized championship there is always appearance fees for such participation and we have never been told how they spend these funds, but from now on they have tell us how they are spending these funds because we are going to review all sponsorship deals NFF has so that we can protect the best interest of Nigerian football and the country.”
In conclusion, I quote one of the greatest men to don the famous green jersey of the Super Eagles “I am a Nigerian and that is all I will ever be”. Like many proud and patriotic Nigerians before him, he played the game of football with passion, patriotism and commendable professionalism. But the same cannot be said of the state of the game and its administrators in Nigeria. The Federation cannot even match its counterparts in other countries; there is need for a change and it must be a fast one.