by Jibrin Ibrahim
I seriously doubt my qualifications to write about football. I am not a football fanatic, I do not have an EPL (English Premier League) club that I support fervently and until recently, I did not watch football at all. This made me an abnormal male Nigerian. On many occasions I have proposed meeting at times when important EPL matches were to be played and I have been asked whether I was mad. I wondered whether there is a problem with my DNA but then my brother is a normal male Nigerian who is a fanatical supporter of Arsenal. My son poses a problem; he watches football but does not have an EPL club he supports. Now to the wives, I avoid going to my brother’s house during the weekend because his wife insists that as a democracy advocate, I should support her right to watch Nollywood movies at times when her husband is watching football. There is apparently something wrong with her too, she says that even when Arsenal is playing.
As a sensible human being, I know these issues are very delicate as everybody tells me that football is not just a game, it’s a matter of life and death. So many Nigerians have been killed of suffered heart attacks due to the changing fortunes of English clubs. In my own home, I have started watching football recently so that I can join the conversations with friends and assure everyone I am a normal male Nigerian. The problem now is that my wife is asking me if I am all right. After two and half decades without football, why am I suddenly beginning to watch? I did not want to confess that I was crumbling under the weight of peer pressure so I try to explain that I had been reliably informed that football is the beautiful game. Yes indeed, football is too delicate, too important, too passionate and too complicated to have someone with my limited CV dabble into it.
So let’s forget the football and discuss politics, elections, the rule of law and the democracy crisis affecting the Nigerian Football Federation. Our media has been full of it over the last two months. Our honourable Minister of Sport, Tammy Danagogo has been threatened and issued an ultimatum by FIFA that he must immediately send out one Chris Giwa from the NFF’s presidential office by midnight this Monday, September 1, 2014 or Nigeria will be thrown out of world football. This is a clear threat to the survival of Nigeria. What will males do if there is no football? How can we survive as a nation if the only thing that unites us, the Green Eagles, are no more. At this time of high tension, what will calm down our men? These are fundamental questions about the survival of Nigeria.
Now to the issues of election, democracy and the rule of law. On the one hand, I read that on Tuesday, August 26, 2014 the Congress of the NFF held its congress in accordance with their statutes, that there was a quorum and the Congress exercised its sovereign right to hold elections and give itself a new executive. Seems very normal to me. But then I hear that just as the meeting was starting, SSS secret service personnel, (of course football is a key element in state security), stormed the venue of the meeting and abducted NFF President Aminu Maigari, General Secretary Musa Amadu and Chair of the Technical Committee Chris Green. They were kept incommunicado for the duration of the congress and immediately afterwards released without charges or even questions. Immediately after the abduction, a faction of the NFF walked out of the congress, found another venue and held their parallel congress. As an expert scholar on Nigerian political parties, I can assure my readers that NFF is indeed a normal Nigerian political party and the congress resembles so many I have analysed previously.
There are fundamental questions about democracy and the rule of law. Why was the election held on Tuesday, August 26, 2014 while it had been announced for Thursday, September 4, 2014? Why was presidential candidate Aminu Maigari abducted by state security at the beginning of the meeting and released immediately after? I say abduction because if he had been arrested, he would have been interrogated and charged with some crime. Indeed, I got alarmed when I read in Leadership newspaper yesterday the President of Lagos FA declaring “the shambolic election that produced Chris Giwa as NFF President is a clear intention to ruin the future of football in Nigeria”. Ruining football is without doubt ruining Nigeria so we must all be concerned about Minister Danagogo’s intentions. It is important to point out that he is rumoured to be a recidivist. On July 8th Nigeria was suspended from world football because someone secured an alleged “jankara” judgement from a court of competent jurisdiction removing the Maigari executive. With the life threatening decision to exclude Nigeria from the Under-20 world cup in Canada, somehow, the Nigerian magic happened and a reasonable court quickly reinstated Maigari and all was well again.
I sympathise with Minister Danagogo, the NFF is the biggest parastatal in his ministry and like all Nigerian ministers, he must believe that it is his right to appoint or elect his people to run it. Unfortunately for him, there is a big boss who sits in Switzerland and tells him that although he has a valid letter from President Jonathan appointing him minister, he cannot run his parastatal the way he wants to. The most painful aspect is that the Nigerian Government heavily funds this parastatal called NFF. I guess this man that is doing this to the minister from Switzerland must be a very committed democrat ensuring free elections, rule of law and democracy in world football. To find out more on his democratic credentials, I googled FIFA and what I saw was not pretty.
World football is a huge global financial empire and the stakes are so high that a mafia has been created to run it. According to the 2014 Deloitte Annual Review of Football in Finance, the cumulative value of the five big European football leagues alone – Bundesliga, La Liga, Ligue1, Premier League and Serie A is 19.9 billion euros. World football operates on the principles of mob rule and the Don is one man called Sepp Blatter. According to Lord Triesman, a member of the British House of Lords and the former chairman of England’s Football Association: “FIFA, I’m afraid, behaves like a mafia family. It has a decades-long tradition of bribes, bungs and corruption,” he said. “About half of its executive committee who voted on the last World Cup have had to go.” ‘Don Corleone, I believe, would have recognized the tactics and he probably would have admired them.’ From all indications, Sepp Blatter and his gang members awarded of the 2022 World Cup to Qatar on the basis of massive bribes. Qatar is not a footballing country and they have summer temperatures surpassing 45 degrees, and yet they were chosen because they have a high capacity for inducement. Michael Garcia, FIFA’s top investigator and a former US attorney, is currently investigated these claims and will soon submit a report. What is interesting is that there are good reasons why FIFA are based in Switzerland. It is one of the few countries in the world where you can move in with massive amounts of cash and no questions asked.
Sepp Blatter is 78 years old and was elected FIFA President in 1998 and re-elected in 2002, 2007 and 2011 and will be re-elected at the next congress. He is effectively president for life and all the people who had tried to contest against him got expelled from FIFA. In as many countries as possible, he tries to reproduce this tradition of mafia executives who cannot be removed. I don’t know who Aminu Maigari is, but I never heard his name until he became NFF President. Why can we not get people who know about football to run the beautiful game? Why not Segun Odegbami, Jay Jay Okocha or Tijjani Babangida for example. Sadly, Blatter will deal with us if we try so let’s behave ourselves.
Dr. Jibrin Ibrahim, a senior fellow of the Centre for Democracy and Development, CDD, and Chairman of the Premium Times editorial board, writes a syndicated Monday column. Kindly follow him via his twitter handle @Jibrinibrahim17.
The opinions expressed in this article are solely those of the author.