Crisis has been a major obstacle in the development of sports in Nigeria. 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 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.
The inability of administrators to guarantee peace has resulted in setbacks for many federations including the Nigeria Football Federation. 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, Nigeria Basketball Federation and the Gymnastics Federation of Nigeria are in crisis.
The NBBF and the AFN have two factional presidents each. The latest now is the Delta Football Federation, which is in hot crisis following the interest from the secretariat of the Nigeria Football Federation to have another FA board in the state. On July 13, 2019, election took place with two firmer 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 the because of an alleged 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. This NFF is cleverly using a technical way to create crisis in a state regarded as number one in sports and football in the country.
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. So far, the NFF is not speaking officially about the ongoing impasse 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.
This plan can wait till the next tenure of the FA board. Why the rush? It was also learnt that a candidate who did not petition the Delta Appeals Committee but wrote straight to Abuja last year that he was not aware of the venue of the election gave NFF the impression that there was crisis in Delta. 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.” This is a clear signal that the crisis will linger for long in Delta.
A state that produces talents for football and other sports regularly should not be engulfed in crisis. The developmental process will stop during the period and it is bad for Nigeria. The NFF should have sorted this issue out through dialogue rather than setting up a normalization committee.
One wonders why Muhammed Sanusi, NFF General Secretary, did not sign the normalization letter and it was also funny that the federation invoked FIFA statutes and not that of NFF or Delta FA. NFF should be concerned about crisis in this state rather than ignite it. Enough of the crisis that sets the country back in the game. We should be looking at how best to bring out hidden talents and take them to the top but rather, it is crisis all over the place. Time to stop is now.