The Sports Minister, Solomon Dalung, should be called to order
Shortly before the deadline given by the football world governing body for Nigeria to resolve the contrived leadership dispute in the Nigeria Football Federation (NFF) expired on Monday, the federal government conveyed to FIFA a letter recognising Mr Amaju Pinnick as the authentic president. But while the letter sent from the office of Vice-President Yemi Osinbajo (then in his capacity as acting president) has received a positive but cautious response from FIFA, the Sports Minister, Mr Solomon Dalung, who in the first place instigated the whole crisis, countered the position of the government in another statement released on Tuesday.
According to Dalung, the crisis “cannot be solved with a temporary measure or scratched on the surface. The intervention of the vice-president should not be viewed as different from an attempt to abate an escalating situation.” The tongue-in-cheek press statement by the minister came after surreptitiously dispatching a counter letter to FIFA in the early hours of last Saturday. However, that would not be Dalung’s first public confrontation with colleagues and superior while his press statement is just another attempt at obfuscating his disregard for constituted authority. Besides, the statement conveys several untruths chief of which is that there is a Supreme Court verdict that ruled in favour of his preferred candidate in the NFF leadership tussle.
It says so much about discipline in the current administration that a presidential order would be publicly countered by a serving minister. Meanwhile, for the past two years, Dalung has been trying to use contrived court orders to install an interloper as the NFF President and in the process put our country to ridicule. And during the FIFA World Cup, he encouraged Mr Chris Giwa to forcefully take over the NFF secretariat while Pinnick was away in Russia for the tournament.
Since FIFA has always recognised Pinnick as the validly elected president of NFF, the action of Dalung was considered an act of interference by the federal government and a gross violation of the international football statutes to which Nigeria is a signatory. Associate members of FIFA cannot refer football matters to ordinary courts. Such matter can only be resolved via internal mechanism or in the worst case, through the Court of Arbitration for Sports (CAS) based in Switzerland.
It is instructive that Giwa lost at CAS and was banned from all football activities when he referred the matter for arbitration. Besides, FIFA actually annulled the election held on 26th August 2014 at Chida Hotel, Abuja which Giwa claimed he won. According to FIFA, the meeting was a non-elective congress to discuss the electoral template. It also said many of the delegates that assembled in Abuja were not the real football stakeholders as the real delegates were hounded on the eve of the election by security agents.
In part, the crisis has been allowed to fester due to the subterfuge and open support for the Giwa faction by both the current sports minister and his predecessor. But now that the matter has been resolved on the side of common sense, it is unfortunate that Dalung will still not allow peace to reign. Yet, at a period he is expected to be sufficiently contrite to seek genuine means of extricating Nigerian football from the damaging course he was bent on taking it, Dalung seems not to care if he pulls down the entire edifice to achieve his selfish goal of hijacking the NFF.
Now that another election is looming, chances are that Dalung would want to impose his will on who emerges from that process. That is why he must be stopped. There is no reason why such a lawless individual should remain a member of the Federal Executive Council.