Sport is best when peace reigns supreme with athletes and officials on the same page working towards results. The peaceful conduct in camp, at events and in the various federations at all levels goes a long way in the development of sports. It also helps to boost results posted by athletes at national, continental and global levels.
In Nigeria, crises in different forms tear administrators apart in federations and this affects results.
We quite know that many federations have failed to deliver the results expected from them due to fighting within the body. Football is not an exception as Nigeria lost Nations Cup tickets during the time a Jos-based politician and businessman, Chris Giwa, was fighting for legitimacy in the football house. Only last year, Nigeria also lost the tickets to feature in the men’s and women’s football events of the Tokyo 2020 Olympics. The U-17 and U-20 male teams fumbled at the World Cup while the CHAN team failed to make it to the finals of the home-based AFCON. We believe the inability of administrators to guarantee peace resulted in setbacks for many federations including the Nigeria Football Federation (NFF). It is expected that administrators at all levels learn from this and avoid crisis but this has not been so. Today, the Athletic Federation of Nigeria (AFN), Nigeria Basketball Federation (NBBF) and the Gymnastics Federation of Nigeria are in crisis. The NBBF and the AFN have two factional presidents each.
Only last week, the crisis in the Delta Football Federation deepens with correspondence from Abuja. The Delta FA situation is dicey following the interest from the NFF secretariat to have another FA board in the state.
On July 13, 2019, election took place with two former internationals – Edema Fuludu and Victor Ikpeba – emerging the chairman and vice-chairman respectively.
Somehow, the NFF is not comfortable with the elected leadership in Delta and rather than wait for another tenure, moves began underground to get another FA chairman for the state.
In a letter dated January 15, signed by Joshua Onoja on behalf of the NFF General Secretary, the apex football federation set up a four-man normalization committee headed by Henry Nkeki to run football affairs in Delta State and stage an election between January 16 and April 15. Azuka Ogosi is secretary of the committee while Emma Nuhu and Mitchel Amami are the other members.
The NFF insisted that because of crisis within the board of the Delta FA and the inability of the board to stage an election between April and June last year, the body has decided to invoke Art 8.2, 14(1) of FIFA Statutes to create the normalization committee.
The NFF should have embraced dialogue in dealing with the issue. For example, the two formal internationals in the board of the Delta FA should have been approached for talks on the way forward. Interestingly, the Delta FA’s vice-chairman, Ikpeba, is a member of the technical committee of the NFF. The implication of the crisis is that some programmmes of the Fuludu/Ikpeba administration might suffer as the current imbroglio lingers. Some youths might be denied the opportunity to come to limelight due to this crisis. In the last quarter of last year, Delta staged the Principals’ Cup Football Cup competition for secondary schools and this year, the Delta FA is working to stage the Headmasters Cup Football tournament for primary schools. With the current impasse, this and other programmes will suffer.
It is sad however that so far, the NFF is not speaking officially about the ongoing crisis but there are feelers that top chieftains of the federation are interested in bringing in the chairman of the Delta Sports Council, Tony Okowa, as the Delta FA boss.
We vehemently frown at the ongoing crisis in Delta, which is the home of talents in the country especially in football, athletics and some other major sports disciplines.
Since there is no dialogue apart from the letters coming from the NFF secretariat, this is a clear signal that the crisis might linger for long in Delta and it could lead to court. We recall that the Giwa issue was in court for over three years while the chieftains of the NFF are still visiting courts regularly till date. This is not good enough.
A battle ready Delta FA chairman, Fuludu, said: “We won’t fold our arms for anybody or group to hijack the Delta FA, we were duly elected and will seek redress in court rather than allow people scuttle our developmental process in the state.”
We expect the government of Delta State and the ministry of sports to show interest in this issue before it degenerates further than it is at the moment. Delta is like a factory of sort for young athletes and efforts should be made to solve this problem now. A state that has been winning the National Sports Festival consistently in the past four editions should be encouraged to do more.
Whatever official or political plans the NFF have can be executed after the Fuludu/Ikpeba regime. We need no distraction but peace in Delta FA, peace and in Nigerian football and peace in Nigerian sports.