As a player of Zabgai FC of Bauchi who left to be a part of the foundation of El-Kanemi Warriors of Miaduguri before I turned professional in 1986 with Zamalek SC of Egypt, I can testify that Nigerian football has deeply emaciated and is close to death.
No child of this generation can have half of the privileges and rights I had as a growing boy in Jos, Zaria, Ilorin, Minna, Bauchi and Maiduguri where I had my sports career groomed. This should explain why my passion to recreate our football is like that of an extremist.
As a member of the National Association of Nigerian Footballers (NANF), we went to court to challenge what we felt was a wrong transition from the Nigeria Football Association (NFA) to the Nigeria Football Federation (NFF). We took to the courts as a last resort after all efforts within the game, including FIFA failed. We got judgment against the Aminu Maigari board in September 2010. They refused to obey that court order.
We wrote several agencies of government, including the President, Goodluck Jonathan. President Jonathan responded with a letter to the Inspector General of Police in 2013 asking him to obey the valid order of court since the judgment was not vacated. Hafiz Ringim was the IGP. Members of the NFF rushed to court as individuals. The case fell flat.
We returned to Justice Okon Abang asking him to order the enforcement of the orders of his court. Like Justices Gabriel Kolawole and Ibrahim Auta, I suspect foul play. Judgment will not come. Enforcement is taking like the number of years that Methuselah spent on earth while the judgment we are asking to be enforced took like the speed of a Ferrari to be gotten.
Beyond our own efforts
Justice Donatus Okorowa of the Federal High Court Abuja gave another judgment in a matter brought to court by Dr Sam Sam Jaja. He did not mince words. He also declared the NFF as illegal. The matter was not challenged because the NFF is not a juristic person that can sue or be sued. The judgment has become a part of existing laws.
Mrs. Baribote built on the foundation of these existing laws to approach a Jos High Court that also ruled in her favour giving teeth to her prayers by wholesomely sweeping away all the parties she asked should so be swept. Any Nigerian who understands these issues can also do same and get similar orders today or tomorrow.
Deterrence as a ward off
It is this principle that informed my choice of thought to write the Honourable Minister of Sports, Dr Tamuno Danagogo, who I believe as a lawyer and an astute administrator of note will understand the basis of my letter to him. I sympathise with him given the enormity of quality baptism he’s having upon his appointment and how much contradicting advises some selfish folks will be offering him in the present circumstances. But I also thought he would have brought my letter to perspective.
I have as a patriotic Nigerian gone beyond the ordinary to have followed all manners of mismanagement of public funds in the care of the Maigari board, I brought these to a page for which I demanded the Minister of certain actions, which if taken will also send the correct signals to those handling such current offices or and anyone aspiring to hold any such office in future.
The sports industry has been a place for anyone to come and make their billions and walk home with their loots while athletes and their siblings keep wangling and swimming in poverty. This just has to stop. That is why the Maigari administration must be brought to book to account for all the monies they had worked with in the last four years.
Why the minister has refused to attend with glaring action to my demands on him remains a mystery. I do not want to suspect he has been settled. I want to give him the option of doubt. I do not want to think he is afraid of fighting the glaring corruption in his ministry. I thought he would have taken the gambit and sort out the issues in-house or appropriately send same to the EFCC to investigate and prosecute.
I will not promote violence in the bid to achieve the appropriate reconstruction of the sports sector of the nation. I will not hesitate to seek legal redress against the minister and the parties I am accusing in this matter. I forthwith seek the indulgence of Dr Danagogo to be of strong character and heed to my demands.
What the nation had lost
I had demanded the Sports minister to probe where are the following monies:
i) The USD2million paid by the Federal Government and the USD8million paid by FIFA for the 2010 World Cup in South Africa as some players are still complaining that they have not received their share of the participation having played in the qualifiers without playing in the finals. This is a FIFA prescription;
ii) The USD1million reserved by the Sani Abdullahi Lulu led board for the furnishing of the Sunday Dankaro House and secretariat of the NFF in the Package B at the National Stadium, Abuja;
iii) The N790million they got for the 2013 African Nations Cup;
iv) The N170million received for the 2013 Confederation Cup in Brazil and the money paid by FIFA for the same overhead;
v) The USD1.5million grant given by FIFA to prepare the national team, the Super Eagles for the 2014 World Cup;
vi) Proceeds from the sponsorship deals with Globacom, Guinness, TomTom, Peak milk, and Adidas paid to them through Pamodzi;
vii) N1.288billion being the sum of the monthly subvention received from government from January 2013 to June 2014;
viii) N850million received from government for the preparation and participation of the Super Eagles in the first round of the 2014 FIFA World Cup;
ix) The USD8million and USD6million expected revenue from FIFA for playing in the first round and qualifying for the round of 16 respectively, whenever, it is paid to Nigeria after the World Cup;
What the nation is losing
This country has a sports sector that is valued at over N21.85billion per annum outside government funding. The Nigerian system is used to thieving the ‘chicken change’ coming from government because they won’t account for it. If we get the required changes right now, the NFF alone worth about N3billion can be positioned to source, secure and invest these monies and produce about 2,000 fresh kids on the bloc per annum with its attendant 6,824 employment spaces generated.
If the sports sector alone works well, we have capacity to generate about 82,116 employment spaces at salaries higher than what obtains in the civil service. Does this minister want us to reach this Eldorado? This is part of the reasons why he has to act proactively and help the sector. Between now and December 2015, we can generate about 30,000 employment spaces in the sector if he acts well. If he does not, I will be forced to seek legal means to get things done. The wheel of justice is slow but certain.
Nigerians who love this nation will appreciate the passion of a catholic that I have brought into the administration of sports. No Nigerian child, male or female, able or disabled, can have half of the opportunities I had to become what I became. If this fight is not undertaken by my privileged position as a former athlete who reports sports, then, the future is closed to the generation next. I have survived an assassination, two arranged car accidents, an organized police arrest, two physical attacks.
My resolve: sports must grow in an atmosphere that is sane and reproductive.
God bless Nigeria and those who bless and work to bless Nigeria.