Sunday Dare And Nigerian Sports: An Excursion On Abuse Of Power

By Fred EDOREH

The orchestrated attack against the person of Amaju Pinnick continues. The whole objective: To discredit and force him out of re-contesting as President of the Nigeria Football Federation, and all manners of lies, misinformation and disinformation are being thrown in the propaganda.

Following the Super Falcons’ loss to the Banyana Banyana in their opening match of the ongoing Morocco 2022 Africa Women Cup of Nations, they sought to rub it in against Pinnick with a barrage of sponsored negative stories. They forget that the team also lost to the South Africans at the group stage of the 2018 tournament but proceeded to win the competition.

Their latest is contained in a recent Daily Trust article titled “Pinnick knows everything but honour” authored by one David Ogobua. It was tailored to incite the Presidency against Pinnick with suggestions that he might have sponsored the recent Punch newspaper editorial which faulted the unrestrained interference of the Minister of Sports, Sunday Dare, in oft disrupting the processes of the NFF in the name of “Presidential directives.”

First, it is a back statement on the integrity of Nigerian newspapers for Ogobua to suggest that the editorial of the Punch newspaper can be influenced either by money, power or friendship. But we know that, at the least, the Punch newspaper remains an impregnable bastion in objectivity.

Second, that the Minister of Sports, in recent times, parcels his power showmanship as “Presidential directives” indicates a realisation that he has lost all credibility and the sports community do no longer take him seriously except he mentions the name of the President to effect a scare.

However, the Punch editorial spoke simple, publicly acknowledged truth. What do we say about the Minister’s “Presidential directive” to bar Nigerian Basketball from international activities simply because he lacked the skills to resolve the political leadership conflict and could not have his way to install his preferred candidate as NBBF President? Wasn’t it a shame that the “Presidential directive” was rescinded only after the senior national women team, back to back to back Afro champions, had missed out of the FIBA Women World Cup with the slot given to Mali? How “Presidential” was it to act before reasoning?

What about the truly “mess” that was made of Nigeria’s participation in the Tokyo Olympics, also because of ministerial meddling in the political leadership of the federations, many or all of whose boards were dissolved ahead of the games to enable ministry officials run things exclusively outside the view of the boards?

Such was it that when the AFN was dissolved at a point and the ministry officials put in charge, they wacked the $150,000 which World Athletics sent to the AFN in error as against the $20,000 it meant to send as administrative grant.

When World Athletics discovered their error and asked for a refund of the excess $130,000 they began dancing on whimsical chairs. They asked the new board led by Ibrahim Gusau to accept responsibility which it refused to do. Then they pretentiously set up an investigatory panel to find the whereabouts of the money they knew they had spent themselves. When that didn’t make sense, they accepted to repay the money in installments. What a shame.

Angered by Gusau’s refusal to accept responsibility, they determined to boot him out. In the process, they disrupted the pre-event doping procedures he had set up for our athletes to the Olympic Games. The outcome was the barring of ten of them from competing and the embarassing global glare of their protest right in centre of the Games Village in Tokyo.

Then came the conflict over kit provider following the minister’s rejection of the AFN’s $2.7m sponsorship deal with Puma in favour of AFA under the pretext of encouraging local content. The outcome was the embarrassing viral video of Chukwuebuka Enekwechi washing his single wear at the Games Village with the caption: “When you made the Olympic finals, but you only have one jersey.”

No matter that they later muscled the guy to retract, the whole world had seen and wondered at the strangeness.

At the Paralympic Games, world champion and record holder in shot put, Lauritta Onye, had to participate on barefoot. Why? The international federation had approved new specifications for competition shoes but Nigeria couldn’t provide for her. When she filed out with other competitors, her shoe was disqualified and, with no time left to get another, she had to compete on barefoot.

There was light drizzle on the day which made her slip each time she came for her throws. She tried to use her stockings which she frequently pulled to squeeze off water. After four attempts without full expression of her capacity because of the wet floor, she decided to go without the stockings on her last chance. She gave it her all which would have earned her the gold and another world record but she slipped beyond the line and was red-flagged. This was in the embarrassing full glare of the whole world. She came into the Mixed Zone weeping that her country had disappointed her.

For many, the most hurtful of Sunday Dare’s abuse of power was the needless displacement and destruction of close to 5000 businesses and employments at the National Stadium, Lagos, on the claim that we wanted to stop the sales and consumption of beer at the stadium and also to return the facility to its original 1970s status.

The Minister bulldozed sports shops, food canteens and other businesses that had been there for decades. They were  allocated to the entrepreneurs by the stadium management and the ministry itself. A number of people died while some others have remained in depression at the shock of the loss of their livelihoods.

After the destruction, it turned out that Chief Kessington Adebutu only offered to refurbish the grass pitch and scoreboard. The entire stadium now looks like scenes from Syria or Ukraine.

In football, there have been as much damages. Worst was the Super Eagles failure to qualify for the Qatar 2022 World Cup.

How did it happen? The argument over local and foreign coaches had been long debated and, at various points, the NFF had settled for indigenous coaches, especially ex-internationals.

We had Stephen Keshi who won the 2013 AFCON in South Africa. We had Christian Chukwu and Austin Eguavoen both of whom returned third at the AFCON, but while Chukwu failed to qualify for the 2006 World Cup Eguavoen also failed to qualify the Dream Team for London 2012 Olympics. We had Samson Siasia who was great with the Olympic teams but failed to qualify for the 2012 AFCON. We also had Daniel Amokachi, Franklin Howard, Emmanuel Amunike, Henry Nwosu and various others who had different disappointing results handling other teams.

Notwithstanding, when Amaju Pinnick came in as NFF President, he straightforwardly rooted for Sunday Oliseh even against all opposition. The experience, as all Nigerians saw, was awful. Not only did Oliseh upset the likes of Mikel Obi and Vincent Enyeama in unacceptable circumstances, he walked out of the team at a very crucial time. Nigeria lost qualification to AFCON that year.

It was at that point that the NFF looked outside for Gernot Rohr and he did the best he could for a team that had failed to qualify for two Nations Cup before he arrived.

He qualified for the 2018 World Cup in which he almost edged Argentina until a few minutes to the second round. He finished third at the 2019 AFCON and qualified for the Cameroon edition with matches to spare.

He was in the middle of preparations for the AFCON and final leg of qualifiers for the Qatar World Cup when the Sports Minister came with his “wahala” a few weeks to the tournament, insisting that Rohr be sacked.

Constrained by bloated ministerial power, the NFF submitted to his whim but asked to be allowed to sign Jose Peseiro as replacement. The Minister objected, insisting on the engagement of an indigenous ex-international coach, notwithstanding that he was not offering anything new, that we had experienced them and that we have also always known that having played for the Super Eagles do not translate to being a good coach, manager or administrator.

Instructively, after the jubilation that followed Eguavoen’s 1-0 defeat of Egypt with which Sunday Dare claimed vindication for his interference, the outcome of the tournament is well known.

Under the circumstance, the NFF thought to quickly bring in Peseiro to salvage the Qatar World Cup qualifier but, again, the Minister would not let them act their plan, insisting still on Eguavoen with Amunike added.

The outcome is also well known. It was only after losing the Qatar ticket to Ghana that he let the NFF proceed according their plan.

Interestingly, he struts around like a sissy in the media while Amaju is castigated for the externally induced failures now being bandied as reason for him to be pushed out.

Pleading national sovereignty over FIFA Statutes, the Minister has come up with another “Presidential directive,” that the NFF must amend it’s statutes to expand its congress and also to hold its election unfailingly by September.

First, it must be made clear that, agreed that Nigeria is a sovereign state, it is not under any compulsion to affiliate with FIFA, but once it voluntarily does, it is bound to also comply with the statutes. The preachment that the government part-funds the national teams cannot be any excuse. It funds the teams to achieve the benefits of national glory, unity and positive international image. It reserves the right not to fund its teams. That cannot be a bother for the international bodies just as it’s decision to fund its teams does not grant it room to interfere with the administrative and political processes of the national federation in violation of universally affirmed statutes, except in matters of criminal conduct.

Secondly and accordingly, the expansion of the congress of a national federation cannot be by Presidential directive but by the application of its statutes. It  requires the resolution of its General Assembly but the Minister is sure aware that there is a subsisting court injunction restraining the NFF from convening its AGA consequent upon a litigation ironically instituted by those who want the board expanded.

In realisation of their double standard, they say they have resolved with the litigants to forfeit the injunction to enable the convening of the AGA and the election proper. Still, the court has to be properly notified of the withdrawal of the litigants so as to enable it issue a reversal of the existing order before the NFF can proceed.

That is the simple judicial procedure but, as we speak, the court has not vacated the order. Yet, they say they will not accept the subsistence of the order as an excuse for not convening the AGA. They  suggest that that would mean that Pinnick is cunningly seeking extension of tenure. But Pinnick wasn’t the one that sued nor secured the injunction against himself and the NFF. The lackeys did.

More importantly, why do they want him to act against a subsisting judicial order and risk contempt of court? What hideous blackmail!

But the “Ministry Against Pinnick” keeps  jiving in its media storms with the hand of Esau and voice of Jacob. They may succeed with the influence of prevailing ministerial ego bandied in doubtful “Presidential directives” but it is well known that those who trade in lies and propaganda offer nothing at last.

Pinnick has by dint of personal efforts climbed up to the upper class of world football. It is our choice to take pride in him or pull him down with half truths and base arguments.

We have seen these shennanigans many a times. We saw how previous ministers wielded the weight of their powers against past NFF Presidents – from Kojo Williams, Ibrahim Galadima, Sani Lulu to Aminu Maigari, all for the ministry to subject the NFF to its manipulative dictations.

We recall the wanton disruptions of the NFF under Solomon Dalung in his bid to install Chris Giwa, to the point of suggesting that Nigeria should pull out of FIFA and even orchestrating a forceful take over of the NFF Secretariat by Giwa, Harrison Jalla and co.

We saw the orchestrations of Obono Obla and his Presidential Panel for Investigation of Corrupt Practices and how so much they tried to nail Pinnick with false charges.

This has been a recurring trend at the point of all NFF elections. Therefore, nobody is fooled by Dare’s “Presidential directive.”

Perhaps those in league with his present onslaught may wish to re-learn a few lessons, that they hurt no one but themselves and our football, because even if they sly in today, the same system comes for them like they did the others and that might remain the story of the NFF.