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Dalung on the Cross

— 22nd October 2016

… Fingered in the unending Nigerian football crisis

• I m not the problem, says minister

By George Aluo

The city of Jos, Plateau State is one place that has been ringing bell in Nigerian football of late, but unfortunately for the wrong reason.
In the yester years, when mention is made of Jos in Nigerian football circle, a great team like Mighty Jets readily comes to mind. Stars like Baba Out Mohammed and Ismaila Mabo emerged from the Tin City. But today, when mention is made of Jos, what resonates is nothing but trouble.
Giwa FC that has since been banished from Nigerian league is Jos based. The proprietor of the club, Chris Giwa has been having a running battle with the nation’s soccer governing body, NFF.
Giwa’s quarrel with the NFF eventually saw him also falling out with the League Management Company (LMC), organisers of the Nigeria professional League.
Today, Nigerian football is now being played in Jos courts, where both the NFF and LMC are facing litigations that dated back to 2014. At a point the legal battle almost saw the country incurring FIFA’s wrath. The nation’s domestic league won by Rangers this term almost ran into trouble, but for the doggedness of the LMC.
The crisis rocking Nigerian football is no doubt taking its toll on the round leather game in the country. That Nigeria did not qualify for any of the African football age group competitions is a direct fall out of the crisis. The nation’s soccer governing body, NFF is being distracted on a daily basis and with the FA facing a lot of distraction, the game is bound to suffer.
The Golden Eaglets, it would be noted failed to qualify for the Rwanda 2017 African U-17 Nations Cup, just like Emmanuel Amuneke tutored Flying Eagles lost out in the race to Zambia U-20 CAF Nations Cup. What that means is that Eaglets that conquered the world back to back in UAE 2013 and Chile 2015 wont be anywhere near India to defend their trophy next year.
At the senior level, the Super Eagles also failed to qualify for the Gabon 2017 African Cup of Nations. The NFF has warned that the Eagles could also (God forbid) not qualify for the Russia 2018 World Cup if those “fighting them” are allowed to have a field day.
Corporate sponsors that ordinarily would have identified with Nigerian football are also backing out, no thanks to the unending crisis. No corporate body would want to invest in a venture where all that is dished out to the public domain are unpleasant stories.
The clear signs of the divisions and disagreements amongst stakeholders are there for everybody to see.
The situation has degenerated to a level where some top football officials no longer walk freely for fear of either being arrested or abducted.
Some aggrieved stakeholders rather than work and pray for Nigeria’s success at the international scene now plot for the fall of the country’s teams be it at the club or national team levels.
The scenario that played out at the Nnamdi Azikiwe Airport, Abuja on October 9, when the Super Eagles returned from Zambia after a Russia 2018 World Cup qualifier tells all the story.
The Nigerian contingent to Zambia that was still basking in the euphoria of the 2-1 away victory the Eagles recorded in Zambia was jolted, when it returned home only to discover that some security agents were waiting to arrest NFF second Vice President, Shehu Dikko.
The Super Eagles players were so terrified that they had to run for their dear lives when the security agents, who came for Dikko released gunshots into the air.
All those who came to welcome the Eagles that night at the airport vamoosed, even as one could not but wonder how things had degenerated to a near level of anarchy in Nigerian football.
Interestingly, Sports Minister, Solomon Dalung is from Jos the city from where all the football crisis are emanating from.
Has Dalung done enough to stop the trouble from his Jos home from “killing” Nigerian football? Many analysts believed he hasn’t.
When the minister assumed office, one of the first steps he took early this year was to invite the warring NFF parties to his office, a meeting that ended up on a shameful note, as Amaju Pinnick and Chris Giwa ended up in a brawl to the consternation of everybody.
President General (Worldwide) of Nigeria Football Supporters Club, Dr Rauf Ladipo had after the meeting called by Dalung described it as uncalled for. Hear Ladipo: “I sympathise with the minister because there was no need for the meeting in a matter that CAS, FIFA and CAF had handled and trashed out.”
Veteran football administrator, Isidore Oduah on his part stated: “Dalung acted like a loosed bull …he should have remained neutral in the whole affair and play the role of a mediator. For him to take sides smacks of irresponsibility and lack of quality leadership. Nigeria football needs total concentration to gather itself from the shock of not qualifying for Gabon 2017 AFCON.”
A former director in the National Sports Commission (NSC), now Sports ministry, Abba Yola who spoke from his base in Kano told Saturday Sunsports that Dalung was wrongly briefed when he assumed office. “You will agree with me that there was peace long after the Warri elections. The administration of football was beginning to find its feet. You will also recall that there was a Presidential intervention by the former President GEJ before he left office. Even though there was a breach of the agreement reached the Chris Giwa party did not go back to the trenches (court) up till the end of the last administration and some six months or so into the administration of President Muhammadu Buhari.
However as soon as Dalung was appointed Minister of Sports and Youth Development the drums of war started sounding. A court case that was abandoned was surprisingly reopened.
Unfortunately Dalung was not properly briefed before he dabbled into the matter. And since then things have never been good which ever way you look at it, because there is no stability. That was how we got to where we are today. There are varied solutions to ending this crisis if Dalung would listen.
The first is to ensure NFF stability. Dalung should get  Giwa to completely abandon his claim to the NFF leadership. He should allow the present NFF board to carry its cross till 2018 when new elections will be held. Government should come up with a criteria on eligibility for contesting elections into State FAs and the NFF. Government should encourage the NFF towards becoming self funding. If these measures are taken, I m sure we will start moving forward.”
Veteran coach and former Super Eagles handler, Adegboye Onigbinde who was reluctant to speak stated: “I am becoming short of words talking about Nigerian football. We have people at the helm of affairs, so let them do it the way they want. I have stopped commenting on Nigerian sports, because the more I talk, the more I make more enemies. I have not seen in Nigeria where a Carpenter is appointed as the Minister of Finance. I have not seen in Nigeria where a roadside Mechanic is appointed as the Information Minister. But it is only in Sports that everybody or anybody is appointed as Sports Minister.
Its quite unfortunate. I once wrote proposal to the President where I suggested that every local government should have a team. If that happens, you can imagine how many Nigerian kids that would be engaged.Nigeria is a place where those who know are relegated to the background and that is why we are always having crisis in our football. You cant bring a novice to run our sports and get result.”
The minister has, however, defended the actions he took, even as he insisted that the problem of football has to do with the actors refusing to embrace what he called “give and take.” He stressed that they have also refused to shift grounds.
Dalung had after the Zambia, Nigeria World Cup qualifier in Ndola told Saturday Sunsports that he is not backing Giwa and that he wants peace to return to Nigerian football.
Hear Dalung: “My intervention failed because the actors are not shifting grounds. When I invited Giwa and Pinnick, I discovered that part of their problem was that of struggling for position. I then told Pinnick to give some positions to Giwa’s men for peace to reign. But the next thing I saw was the NFF people going to a congress to say nobody from outside can contest to be on the board. These are the things causing problem there. I m not supporting Giwa as some people believe and I want peace in our football because I am aware the crisis is scaring away sponsors. Government alone cannot fund football, especially now that there is recession. In fact, I must confess to you that I have a soft spot for the young man running NFF, but the fact is that he has not acted on some of the advise I gave him on how to end the crisis. He is sitting on a hot seat and shouldn’t think it would be rosy. Running NFF is not easy because football is something every Nigerian is interested in.”
Continuing, Dalung said : “If I want to give them trouble in NFF, I know how to go about it. But that is not my plans, I want peace to reign because we need it to qualify for the Russia 2018 World Cup. Even the LMC, I m happy they have done a good job in the league.  But the fact is that they don’t brief me on what they are doing. They will only run to me when they run into trouble and need my intervention to wriggle out.”

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