Football is Politics in Nigeria

Nigeria is a serial offender at so many things, and the shenanigans in Nigerian football is consistent with its bad behavior.

The great Nigerian footballer Nwankwo Kanu playing for his club, Ajax Amsterdam in 1995. Image: Wiki Commons.

A few days ago, at the start of June 2o15, FIFA again, suspended Nigeria from international football. Today, we will take a look at the remote causes of that suspension, and attempt to compare it with Nigeria’s politics. This will not be the first time that the big stick is being wielded on Nigeria, it probably won’t be the last. Nigeria is a serial offender at so many things, and the shenanigans in Nigerian football can’t be divorced from our bad behavior.

Remember that we failed to qualify for Germany 2006 losing out to Angola in a rather foolish manner. Following that failure, the Nigeria Football Federation chairman at the time, Ibrahim Galadima, declared that qualification wasn’t our birthright. As a result of that statement (made in July 2005), some football “stakeholders” had him sacked from office.

In December 2006, Galadima called for NFF elections in Kano, his hometown, and won. Those elections were conducted by Nduka Irabor. The sports minister at the time, Samaila Sambawa, didn’t feel comfortable with Galadima, so a group called “stakeholders” fought Galadima. At the time, Amos Adamu was still a bigwig in FIFA, and he was, err, contracted to put the nail in Galadima’s coffin. He got FIFA secretary, Urs Linsi on board, and Linsi agreed to back the “stakeholders” in a congress which removed Galadima.

In July 2006, at a new NFF election, Sani Lulu cme first, 75/97 votes, Lumumba Adeh came second, Segun Odegbami came last 6/97 votes. Forward two years, and in July 2008, the congress changed the name of the NFA to NFF, and changed ‘chairman’ to ‘president’. The 2010 congress, normally meant to hold before the World Cup was shifted to August 2010, after South Africa 2010. Another twist was introduced in that state congresses were shifted to after the national congress of the same year rather than before.

The 2008 congress also amended the statutes so that the only way to get into the NFF is through the state FA. So, let us ask a question, what were the implications of the changes made in 2008, how are they a metaphor for Nigeria?.

Under those new changes, the NFF president has sweeping powers since he constitutes both the electoral and appears committees. Note that he, the NFF president is a candidate in the elections of which he is the hidden umpire. Does that sound familiar? In Nigeria’s political dispensation, the President appoints the chairman of INEC, and is responsible for INEC’s budget. This makes it possible for him to pick a sympathetic party to be the head of INEC, sorry, electoral committee. Also, since the national elections are held before the state FA elections, he can guarantee that those loyal to him win at state level. That way, in the 2015 elections (blame my keyboard, sorry) in the August NFF election, his return is virtually guaranteed.

To be fair, it was not the incumbent that put those rules in place, Obasanjo started it. Sorry, I meant Sani Lulu. You see, OBJ in 2007 shifted state elections to April 14, so that his guy could take advantage of incumbent governors on April 1. I’m so sorry, my keyboard keeps misyarning. Sani Lulu wanted to stay beyond 2010, so he made sure that state elections were after national. As a sweetener, Sani Lulu’s board sponsored over 300 people (state FA bosses and their wives/babes) to the 2010 World Cup in South Africa.

Unfortunately, fate intervened and the Super Eagles had a disaster in South Africa. It opened the door for new “stakeholders”. This new set of “stakeholders” led by Chris Green sacked the Lulu-led board, and held elections that produced Aminu Maigari.Out the door went Lulu and his henchmen, Amanze, Ucheagbulam and Ogunjobi. In came Maigari, Ogba and Green.

However, Goodluck Jonathan continued Obasanjo’s tactics of swapping election. I’m sorry, Maigari continued Lulu’s tactic of swapping elections. As it were, in the 2014 World Cup, congress members, and their hangers on, got a joy-ride to Brazil. Maigari even went a step further.

With the congress in his pocket, his more serious opponents were even banned from contesting. His second term was virtually in the bag. Rumson Baribote, is serving a 15-year ban from all football related activity. Even Luciano Moggi didn’t get that much. Taiwo Ogunjobi is serving a 10-year ban. Both bans began in October 2013. For clarity, neither man is a saint. Had the drama of the last two weeks not happened, Maigari’s second term was lock, stock and barrel assured. Barring any drama in the next few months, GEJ’s second term is lock, stock and barrel assured. That Baribote’s wife, has instituted a court case, and is backed by their, err, countryman, the minister, isn’t a shock.

All in all, the drama that has plagued Nigerian football, I hope I’ve shown, is a template that can be used in the 2015 elections.

Further Reading

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