The Minister of Youth and Sports Development, Mr. Sunday Dare yesterday hit hard at the members of the Nigeria Football Federation (NFF) as they held their Annual General Meeting (AGM) in Benin City, Edo State, saying football in Nigeria has become comatose under their watch.
Mr. Dare, who spoke through the Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of Youth and Sports Development, Mr. Olusade Adesola, warned that the world has taken note of the decline of the sport in Nigeria and that tough questions that require urgent answers are being asked.
He noted that the problems that the board should have solved keep festering with previous AGMs have been too ordinary because of the false sense that the federation has achieved.
The minister, who hinted at a lack of excitement about the meeting, complained that “My excitement is subdued today not because we have not had a few successes in our football development, but because these successes have been diminished by recent losses and happenings in the world of football.
“We have gone from a football loving nation to a nation that needlessly squabbles over football. We now showcase more of our disagreements and discordant tunes in football than the talents and skills that should be displayed in this game. Nigerians and the world have taken note and tough questions that require urgent answers are being asked. There is no better place to provider these answers here in this assembly, this morning.
“My dear stakeholders of the once beautiful game in Nigeria, I will be shying away from the truth if I say everything is right with our football. Previous Annual General Meetings (AGM) have been too ordinary by simply accepting what the federation thinks it has achieved.
But like a cancerous wound, the problems that the Board should have solved keep festering so much so that our football is in a coma. Some have even taken the less optimistic stance of declaring that Nigeria’s football is dead. So, let us forget some of the pyrrhic feats we have achieved especially when they have not translated into growth.
“Do not forget that firms have to account for the investors’ money they use for business. Such firms will only do business with organizations that are accountable not the ones that are bogged down in controversies. If we must tell ourselves the truth, accountability is the soul of any business concern.
“The bad image at all levels of our football, including the organizers of the domestic league cannot attract sponsorship, which is the biggest hub of business. In the eyes of the Nigerian public, the perception that NFF and Nigerian football is corrupt is rife. I have had cause in the past to speak on how perception is everything and the perception around the NFF is not one that will court new partners and sponsors for the federation.
“Even though many of the allegations have not been proven, the atmosphere around football is polluted on account of the negative perception of corruption and we must move quickly to sanitize this. Agreed, the stigma of corruption in NFF predates this board, hence the need for proper accountability and transparency going forward because we must move quickly to change this toxic perception.
“The first step towards reducing corruption is for all transactions in football to be transparent and it starts now. transparency should be new watchword if the NFF and its affiliates want to do the business of soccer to rake in millions as is the case in other climes. Transparency can only be attained when the activities of the federation are subjected to routine checks, while those found culpable are made to face the wrath of the law, no matter whose ox is gored.
“If corruption is reduced, blue-chip firms will return to support the federation to actualize some of its noble objectives,” he noted.
The Minister assured that “A brighter future is possible for our football development in Nigeria. Nigeria has the abundant raw materials (talents) to dominate the world in football.
“But we need to organize the business of football as it’s done in order climes to achieve the same success. The journey starts now. Hard work, bumpy stretches, twist and turns lie ahead. Nigerians expect us to put in the hard work today. Not tomorrow. I am ready. I ask you all, stakeholders to join me,” he urged.