Date Published: 07/01/10
No, Jonathan, No! The Return to Military Fiat By Henry N Ibe
Where is the outrage, Nigerians? We are on the threshold of a dictatorship - Jonathan style. Somebody should tell him that the NFF is a not a government Department per se. At a time we were beginning to think that sanity was crawling into the polity, Mr Jonathan is taking us back to 1996. Then, Sanni Abacha and Jim Nwobodo withdrew us from defending the African Nations’ Cup, and we have yet to recover from that act of madness. If you are looking for things to dissolve, please start from the PDP; then the Governor's forum; the PHCN; and then Bank-Ole’s House of Rabbles. What about the Presidential Task Force that recommended this rather absurd policy in the first place? I bet they have succeeded in diverting the President’s attention to avoid scrutiny on how they wasted the hundreds of millions of naira put in their care, spending like drunken sailors. Why don’t we dissolve that one and let the probe start from there? Who knows what might be unearthed? I bet he would not have finished with these before his term expires.
In announcing the stinger, the President’s spokesman said: "The problem of Nigerian football is structural. We need to reorganise the structures and there is need to withdraw from all international football competitions so that we can put our house in order”. This is a logical non sequitor and Mr Ima Niboro has the duty to tell us how putting our house in order is a function of withdrawing from international competitions; let him say whether he would withdraw a child from school for two years for poor academic performance or whether he would close down an entire school because of one bad pupil. Why did we not disband INEC instead of changing the leadership as we just did? Perhaps we should shut down all the power installations for two years to enable us solve our power supply headaches. What about the Police? Why don’t we dissolve the Nigeria Police for two years since they’ve failed incurably to protect the people? And NITEL, how come it is still there, albeit comatose, begging for buyers? As some patriots have said, let Mr. Jonathan suspend the 10 billion naira Golden Jubilee spending orgy forever and use the money to recruit more police. There are more questions than answers for this president and his advisers. The announcement was rashly made and should be quickly rescinded.
The Lagerback (we are really lagging back) debacle is only a regurgitation of an old script. The problem here is that we as a nation were insane enough to expect a different outcome having done the same thing over and over again. In 1998 we sacked the qualifying coach and brought in Bora Milutinovic, and the rest is history. Then in 2002, having also sacked our qualifying coach, we lost to Argentina in the first game (1-0) and same thing happened in South Africa this year; in the second game we lost to Sweden (2-1) after scoring first through Julius Aghahowa, and in 2010 we lost to Greece (2-1) after scoring first; in the third game of 2002 we drew with England and in 2010 we drew with Greece. It’s not too hard to see the glaring pattern. Against Nigeria, Greece scored their first goal and their first win in the history of the World Cup. On a lighter note, however, Nigeria made an addition to the dictionary – YAKUBU- one who converts a goal into a goal kick. The noun means an obvious goal converted into goal kick, that is to say, an unpardonable miss. Anyway, at least we achieved something.
Having yakubued a myriad of chances, the NFF have their cup overflowing with dirt and deserve the whip but it is not the President’s call to directly intervene, more so, in the manner he is going about it. He belittles this office by such acts. There are surely other ways of cleansing the system – one of which is the withdrawal of all government funding and forcing the bad eggs out and thereby getting to really democratize nay sanitize the Federation. Another measure would be to engage a coach on a long contract of, say, five years. The Westerhof experiment worked to everyone’s delight.
The most sickening aspect of the announcement is that is affects all our national teams. Now Nigeria is without question the best male U-17 team in the world having played in the finals six times, winning it on three occasions. What is wrong with our under U-17 team, Mr Jonathan? Our Olympic team is the second best in the world so why “withdraw” them? Our Super Falcons have remained African champions from the beginning and it’s only a matter of time before they conquer the world stage so let me ask again – what is wrong there? The Falconets are due for the FIFA U-20 Women’s World Cup this month in Germany and their U-17 counterparts, the Flamingoes, have qualified for the 2010 FIFA U-17 World Cup in Trinidad and Tobago.
Our football is not all about the (un)Super Eagles, for crying out loud. One wonders whether the President wants to create more prostitutes and kidnappers by denying these young people what is arguably the only means of escape from poverty for a lot of them. Whoever sows in the wind should be ready for the whirlwind. One is utterly shocked that some compatriots are celebrating this most insane of policies! One of them is the “Modakeke high chief” – Adegboye Onigbide – who is only angling for an opportunity to repeat the ignominy of Japan/Korea 2002, when they most unashamedly robbed Shuaibu Amodu of his hard work. Hear John Fashanu: "It's the right decision ... President Jonathan has made a bold step to clean up the rot. We need to move the country in football," Well Mr Fashanu, is that they way Mr Cameron is dealing with the English team? You can surely do better than this? In England, Italy and France, where their teams also failed woefully, hell isn’t loose yet; instead individuals are taking personal responsibility. Why hasn’t our Sports Minister resigned? What about the PTF Chairman, Rotimi Amaechi or are they not part of the failure? Do you realize, Mr. President, how many lives you stand to ruin by this singular ill-conceived policy? Did you know that to play in the English Premier League one ought to have played seventy-five per cent of their national team’s games?
It is not beyond any careful observer to see the grand deceit behind this tasteless policy – Jonathan has found a major DISTRACTION to occupy the minds of football-crazy Nigerians. He wants us to take our eyes off the other balls - the massive rort still going on in the system; his electioneering plans; the 10 billion naira Golden Jubilee scandal; the great malfeasance going on in the National Assembly, the official amnesia on the Siemens bribery scandal, and other issues of great national urgency. Is the NFF more wasteful than this government? How much did the president waste on his entourage to the G-20 observer mission? How much did it cost for the President, some ministers, and sixty senators to attend the opening ceremony of the World Cup? How many of their wives and girlfriends (WAGS) accompanied them? How many people were on Governor Ikedi Ohakim’s entourage to the World Cup and at whose expense? Why is the President giving an appointment to a convicted criminal like DSP Alamieseigha? What message is he sending out ? Who are his nominees for national honours? Former speaker Patricia Etteh, Halilu Akilu, Femi Otedola, and the president’s own Chief of Staff , Mike Oghiadomhe. The big question now is what are the criteria for determining who gets a national award? Who is fooling who in all of this?
Well enough, FIFA is ready to step in as according their spokesman: “FIFA's policy towards political interference is well known. Our statutes do not allow for any political interference." We stand to be banned from the game beyond the two years envisaged by the Government. Like almost every other Nigerian, one is silly sick of the NFF but we do not need a military-style fiat to fix our crumbling house of football. Mr. Jonathan did not appoint the NFF Board and so has no constitutional or statutory powers whatsoever to do what he had done. This is a blatant abuse of power and an affront on our democratic experiment. The policy was hastily thought out and should be hastily reversed. It’s a no-brainer which would do more harm than good.
Henry N Ibe
New South Wales, Australia.