Sports Development: Solving Nigeria’s Unending Challenge!

Solving Nigeria’s Unending Sports Development Challenge!  –Odegbami

Nigeria’s sports development suffered a major derailment between 2004 and 2006.

That situation sustains till now, unfortunately.

Until, the ‘train’ is put back on the track, no proper development may be able to take place.

This sad state of affairs was created inadvertently by government (the Ministry of Sports) in the process of trying to stop a ‘rebel’ group in Nigerian football that wanted to perpetuate itself in office, and halt government’s seeming control of football leadership in the country.

The product of that ‘confrontation’ created a ‘virus’ that has infected all other sports federations and even the architecture of sports administration in the country.

Also Read: Finidi George – Shepherding A New Era! –Odegbami

In short, the struggle for control of the leadership of the Nigeria Football Association during the elections of 2004/2006 is the root cause of the ineffectiveness of essential interventions by the Sports  Ministry since then to stimulate development.

Needless to go into the minute details of that event here even though a brief summary will provide some background to my position.

In 2004 to 2006, the Ministry of Sports was tied in knots. Its power was rendered impotent by Ibrahim Galadima who was drawing power from the Independence clause in the then constitution of the NFA to outlaw any external interference (including by the NFA’s primary funder, the government) in its affairs as a means to reinstating himself as Chairman. With FIFA’s threat dangled over Nigeria’s head should the government interfere, Galadima temporarily had his way, reinstalled himself, but drew government’s ire in the process. That confrontation cost Nigeria a World Cup ticket, and tied down Nigerian football from any major development for the next two years.

No one fights government and wins. Galadima was not going to be an exception.

In order to regain some control, the Sports Ministry, under the guidance of the most powerful administrator in Nigeria’s sports history at the time, Dr. Amos Adamu, planned and executed a coup d’état. His ‘people’ infiltrated the NFA, got some ‘rebel’ members to force a re-visit of the constitution of the Association, introduced some new strategic political rules, and, aided by Nigeria’s loss of a World Cup qualification with Angola from a misjudgement by Galadima, successfully conducted new elections and removed Galadima.

That story will be properly told one day by anyone of Fanny Amun, Amanze Uchegbulam, Abba Yola, Sani Lulu, and so on, all principal actors in that government action.

Unfortunately, although government achieved its objective, it came with a high cost, a massive amendment to the correct structures and constitution of the NFA.  With that ‘victory’, government inadvertently created a new knot that even the government itself has not been able to untie since then. The knot became cancerous, spreading to the entire sports apparatus, including the Nigerian Olympic Committee, that prides itself as fully independent of government.  That’s the product of applying a purely political pill to cure a technical problem in Nigerian sports.

Since then, from election to election in several sports associations now, the civil courts are being brought into the picture to untie the resultant political knots without much success.

Also Read: The Role Of The Sports Ministry In Nigerian Sports –Odegbami

So, returning to the proper order of sports administration since then has become impossible.  The strategic ‘illegality’ introduced to oust Galadima has become the norm. Its creator, the federal government, through successive Ministers, has  been grappling without success to understand why the Ministry finds it difficult to align its vision with those of sports associations that have become recalcitrant and seemingly untouchable. With the exit of several old staff in the ministry from service the situation gets worse with time.

Elections into the Federation boards have become convoluted, complicated, expensive, political campaigns (even with rallies) and movement of election venues on the basis of political strength, State government funding of particular interests, etc. ‘Wrong’ has now become ‘Right’, with unending crisis. Sports are the worse for it.

A body of ‘experts’ set up under the guidance of Amos Adamu, tampered with and re-wrote a new constitution for the Nigerian Football Association in order to achieve the new numbers of delegates that can vote and oust Galadima. The body took a new political route of using the State Sports Associations to carry out the hatchet job.

The State associations were actually non-registered administrative bodies created by States using the National Federation guidelines to conduct football activities at State level.  At best, they attended the annual General Assembly  meetings of the Nigeria Football Association along with other members, affiliates, stakeholders and even an invited public.

As a group of State associations, they had only one vote in the election of the Chairman of the NFA, like every other member.

In 2006, the State football associations were suddenly empowered to the status of full, independent individual membership of the National Association without any justification other than the optics of being like an arm of the National Association. This move made each of the State associations a full member of the NFA, a member of the General Assembly and a member of the electoral body!

Think of it this way. Each State Coaches association to become a full member of the NFA. Or the State associations of the Referees.

With their new number in the membership of the National Association increased from one (or two, when Secretaries were even admitted into it in another political dispensation) to 37, or 74 at a time, ordinary administrative affiliates, without any business at the national level, became full individual members of the national Federation. They now determined who became the Chairman. They took over the reign of governance and sports development.

They simply used their new numbers to vote out Galadima, and terminated his ambition as well as his regime.

That’s how administrative affiliate bodies became full, individual members of the NFA.

Meanwhile, that whole process of making State Football Associations to become full members was wrong and illegal.

Also Read: 7 Feats Achieved By Nigerian Coaches In Super Eagles Job – Should Motivate Finidi

The activities of State sports associations do not go beyond the States. Expanding their status, place and roles as direct, full members of the National Federations was and continues to be the Achilles heel of sports development in Nigeria. It was a grave mistake in the story of sports administration in the country.

Simply put, every national sports association (federation) is made up of the following full and independent members (existing, or when they eventually exist):

One rep. of each of the Leagues (any number of them that are registered for competitions)Rep. of the national body of Coaches Rep. of the national body of RefereesRep. of the national body of SchoolsRep. of NAPHERRep. of the national body of Football Academies (when they are registered)

Other admissible stakeholders and affiliates are:

A representative of the Ministry of Sports, a representative of the national body of Players, a representative of the national body of State Sports Associations (called Chairman of Chairmen), and one representative of any other stakeholders registered by the federation or recognised.

It is these representatives, all elected by their different constituencies, that shall form the board of the national sports federations and shall from amongst themselves elect a Chairman or President without the shenanigans of political manipulations and brazen illegalities.

The process of electing a Chairman or President will become equitable, inexpensive, without any room for open political manipulations. The constitution must once again be amended to restore order and legality, removing what obviously was constructed to serve a special purpose in 2004 in Port Harcourt. It has served that purpose and must now be discarded.

The Minister must be strategic in approaching this subject matter.

Without addressing and solving it, his dreams of advancing the cause of sports will be hinged not on his plans but on the whims of State Sports association chairman that control the levers outside the proper national federations with which his ministry interacts.

My postulation, of course, requires interrogation and careful examination by the Minister for verification of the claims that I make. The Minister should set up a committee to do so immediately, with some time still available before new elections into boards. This way he will  avoid the endless cycle of conflicts, and restore justice, equity and order to sports administration and development in Nigeria.

I know I am stirring the hornet’s nest by this piece, but truth must be told, even if nothing will be done!



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