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Feature Opinion Update

Re-structuring Nigerian Football Administration By Segun Odegbami

The State Football Associations are one member in the Nigeria Football Association structure, not 37 different members. 

It is surely a bitter pill for these major actors currently dominating football administration in Nigeria to swallow.

I plead with them to go through this …little excursion into history….without bias to… understand the issues.

The domestic game of football in Nigeria is the primary reason for which the Nigeria Football Association was formed and registered as a corporate body – to carry out the business of football in the country.

Although affiliated with CAF, WAFU, and FIFA to enable its club and national team representatives to participate in their competitions and programmes,  its primary responsibility is domestic, to regulate and organize football amongst its registered members in Nigeria.

At inception, the members were clubs, referees, coaches, schools, the military/para-military, and so on, each a different organised body represented by one person. 

These representatives constituted the NFA board and from amongst themselves they elected the Chairman.

Even as the political/geographical regions increased with additional clubs, ….that did not translate into an increase in the membership of the NFA. The clubs still came under one umbrella, the referees under one umbrella, the Regional/State Football Associations under one umbrella,  and so on. 

The number on the board only increased with new groups getting affiliated to the NFA by fulfilling specific criteria as stakeholders…that’s how the Nigeria School Sports Federation, The Players Union, the Sports Writers Association, the Military found their way and became members of the NFA at one time or the other.

The Federal Government, through the Federal Ministry of Sports, from inception, enjoyed a special status as member because it not only provided funds and facilities, it also was responsible for critical personnel for the running of football in the country. It was and remains a major stakeholder.

Each member organisation, no matter their geographical spread or population, was represented by one person on the board of the NFA.

The NFA elected its leadership from amongst the board members. They constituted the Elective Congress.   

Elections were straightforward, held in the headquarters of the NFA, inexpensive, uncomplicated, not prone to corruption, and did not require public campaigns, use of funds, bribery, and all the shenanigans of partisan political party elections that the country has now inherited.

There was no problem until this simple process was abused. 

A new Chairman, purportedly ‘anointed’ by government was installed. The puppeteers (the Sports Minister and Director-General at the time) soon found out they made a ‘wrong’ choice and orchestrated plans and removed him. 

It was the attempt to halt this overbearing influence of persons in sports ministry masquerading as the President’s-Voice… in ‘selecting’ the Chairman of the NFA that birthed the ‘re-structuring’ that birthed illegal new constituencies, long and convoluted processes, radical moves, civil court cases, and the destruction of the fine fiber of Nigerian football administration at inception.

This new virus birthed the present monster we have been unable to ‘kill’ for almost 30 years.

The State Football Associations became ‘illegal’ individual members of the NFA.

……That ‘error’ of expanding the place and power of State Football Associations and inserting it (in ignorance of the long-term consequences) into the NFA constitution, is NOW the biggest hindrance to the growth of Nigerian football administration today. To move forward the faulty decision must be reversed. 

It seems impossible,…… yet it must be done.

That’s what Tijani Babangida, president of the Players’ Union, was talking about last week. That’s what Dr. Kweku Tandoh, a first-class sports consultant, spoke about recently on The Sports Parliament on TV. That’s what I have been writing about for decades and no one seems to understand.

That’s what even the Committee set up by the Honourable Minister of Sports to plan a 10-year masterplan for Nigerian football is finding difficult to unknot – The State Football Associations are not individual members of the NFA. They are like every other member of the NFA, one body, and should have one representation in the Elective Congress of the NFA!

Those that shall elect the next President of the NFF should be from an Elective Congress of registered stakeholders represented by an equal number of its members – One each…….

By Segun Odegbami


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