BY TAYO BALOGUN
Let me start by apologizing for being off this page for quite a while. As a writer you sometimes get fatigued. You get a blockage you can’t dislodge no matter how hard you try. Then you wonder why things never change despite the proliferation of intellectuals gutting every single space in the country. And you ask yourself why a country blessed with several Ronaldos, Messis, Ahmed Musas would not be able to raise a credible awe-inspiring football team. You get annoyed at the cyclic repetition of stupidity. Take for instance; we have always been praying that we have a long tenured Sport Minister. When the prayer was answered we were forced to accept one we don’t want to keep for more than one day! Worse still we have one who appears set to destroy the little gains we have made in Sports. Then the ‘Siddon Look’ syndrome sets in and you become certain you are better off keeping quiet.
But I assure you this situation, like everything in life, never would last. Particularly if you are condemned to watching puke-inducing incidents all around you. Everyday, I knew as a senior citizen of this once great country I can not afford to keep quiet when the least I should do is talk. By resuming this column, I intend to keep talking and keep drawing attention to the good, the not so good in our sports terrain…
I have always wondered about what drives us. I mean do we really have a national mean to predict how the average Nigerian would react given a particular situation? From observations I have come to a conclusion that Truth for us is relative and subsequently we do not see justice or the lack of it from a universal prism. And that is the root cause of our problems as a nation. Let me illustrate with the FIFA ban we just narrowly, by a mere sixty minutes, escaped from. Since football became big business in our country we have always had one problem or the other.
Anthony Kodjo Williams and Sani Lulu Abdullahi were impeached. Segun Odegbami who played for and captained the national team was adjudged not qualified to run for the office of Chairman/ President of the NFA/NFF. Don’t want to include the injustice meted on Alhaji Ibrahim Galadima. All through this one man was playing god and serving as a master puppeteer. And FIFA was illegally used to keep everyone in check. Things came to a head about six years ago when it became unmistakably clear that you cannot take football matters to our local court.
Some few years before then, President Goodluck Jonathan had incurred the wrath of the world football governing body when he pulled Nigeria out of all football competitions citing corruption and incompetence as reasons. The truth is that we have always seen election into the NFF as ‘a be all and end all’ affair. Most who have aspired for office have been driven more by what the office does for them than what they can do to better our football. So as is the case at the national level winning election into the NFF is mainly ‘a do or die’ affair.
Unless we find a means to restructure our football federation we cannot grow. Disruptive litigation will always come up, threats of a ban would always be invoked and in all these our football would suffer.
So where do we go from here? First, bring back a functional National Sport Commission that would be manned by professionals in the field of sport. Secondly, pass the NFF act currently before the National Assembly. Government should subsequently gradually withdraw from funding football at all levels.
In the meantime, can someone please ask our Comrade Sport Minister, Solomon Dalung, to kindly step aside? In recent memory, he is the longest serving minister yet he has caused the most harm to sport in our country. Under him, we have regressed. Under him, nearly all the sports federations are in disarray. Our major sports like athletics, basketball and football are undergoing internecine ‘wars’ reportedly fueled by the minister. Conventional wisdom indicates he is the backbone behind one of the warring factions in the now resolved (?) leadership tussle in the NFF. If he can help our sports, can he be eased off, please?