While the Federal Government expressed desire to see Nigeria football governed in line with FIFA Statutes and, thus, intervened to restore the Amaju Pinnick Executive Committee of the NFF in office, the Minister of Sports, Solomon Dalung, moved to set up a 21-member reconciliation committee to device a different road map on resolving the crisis.
Dalung based his rejection of President Muhammadu Buhari’s directive on two false grounds: that there was a Supreme Court judgment sacking the Amaju board and that the ex-parte order obtained by the Chris Giwa group was still valid.
For the avoidance of doubt, the Supreme Court panel led by Chief Justice Walter Onnoghen, did not give any ruling on the validity of Giwa or Pinnick as NFF President. It held that the matter should be re-listed for expeditious hearing at the lower court but declined to determine the case on its merit, pointing out that the conditions that could warrant such determination had not been met. Also, the ex-parte order obtained by Giwa on June 5 to take over the NFF has lapsed, going by the Civil Procedures Rule (2009).
Whereas there is nothing wrong with the intervention of elders in any crisis, it has become obvious that Dalung’s recourse to reconciliation committees has been ineffective in the resolution of the NFF dispute and has become a mere facade.
This is so because, clearly, the crux of the matter is whether the administration of Nigeria football and elections into its board should be by the provisions of FIFA Statutes or by the rulings of regular courts in Nigeria by which Giwa has been seeking to claim the leadership of the NFF after he had contested and lost his claims through FIFA Courts, Appeals Committee and the Court of Arbitration for Sports.
FIFA has insisted since 2014 that it rejects the Giwa election of August 26, the process being at variance with its statutes, and upheld the Pinnick election of September 30 which it supervised and endorsed. It also, in 2017, extended the ban on Chris Giwa and four others to worldwide effect, for violation of its code of ethics by dragging the NFF through regular courts and thus destabilising its operations.
The matter therefore is a simple “to be or not to be”, for Nigeria football to be administered in line with FIFA rules or regulations. Whatever the elders or the courts in Nigeria decide, the response from FIFA in the event that they force Giwa’s take over of the NFF or interfere with the Pinnick board is known. The option for Nigeria in the face of FIFA’s unequivocal insistence on its standards is also known. This is why the Dalung committees will remain an exercise in futility.
The genuineness of his sincerity towards resolving the crisis is also very suspect. While inaugurating the latest committee on July 24, 2018, he admitted that there was no mention of the NFF dispute in the handover note he received; that it was Giwa’s counsel that brought the matter to his attention; and that he was privy to the re-listing of the matter in court. This is how the crisis was exhumed after Giwa had earlier withdrawn from the court in 2014,
He explained that having thus revived the crisis, he tried to resolve it by asking the Pinnick board to accommodate Chris Giwa in the running of Nigeria football as a solution. He also lamented that he asked the Pinnick board to sponsor Giwa’s men to the 2018 World Cup and sent their list to that effect but they were refused.
How the NFF would officially send persons banned by it, CAF and FIFA, to the FIFA World Cup is indeed curious but it resonates with suggestions that, perhaps, benefits to individuals might have informed the exhumation of the dispute and the sustained attack on the NFF. Is that what the elders have been called to mediate over?
It will be recalled that Dalung had, after reviving the crisis, set up a similar seven-man committee headed by former NFA Chairman, Ibrahim Galadima, in April 2016, and gave it one week to submit its report. Galadima explained then that they would focus on the reforms of the structure and legal framework for Nigeria football, to be in tune with FIFA Statutes, rather than on reconciliation.
“The problem of our football is that of structure and we have to restructure it. Until we do it, we will be going round in circles. Legally, we also need to know whether it is NFA or NFF. With the reforms going on in FIFA, we have to follow suit. It is left for the minister to implement our recommendations or not,” Galadima said then.
Three years after, nothing was heard about the committee’s recommendations. This might not be unconnected with the fact that the Giwa group rejected the committee.
“May we put it on record that the board of the NFF has no confidence in that committee and disassociates itself from its activities. We urge Nigerians to disregard this action of the minister,” Effiong Johnson, a representative of the Giwa group said then, in a public statement.
It is curious therefore that, in 2018, the Minister has called back same elders he gathered in 2016 – past chairmen, presidents and secretaries of the NFF among others – for same assignment while he stokes the embers.
Interestingly, former Secretary General of the NFF, Tijani Yusuf who was in the 2016 and now in the 2018 committee, has re-echoed Galadima’s earlier position, that the issue should not really be about Pinnick versus Giwa but on the truth that is Germaine to the good life of Nigeria football.
“We are looking beyond the problem between Pinnick and Giwa. As you are aware, there are issues on ground that led to the present crisis. The problem has been there all along. It happened during the time of Alhaji Ibrahim Galadima, Alhaji Sani Lulu Abdullahi, Alhaji Aminu Maigari and now it is happening again. So a lasting solution is what we are looking for,” Yusuf reportedly has said.
The meaning of this is that they are not focusing on Pinnick and Giwa, perhaps because they know that Nigeria cannot effectively function in world football outside the precepts of FIFA; that their recommendations cannot change the stand of FIFA on the matter, neither would FIFA accept the running of its member federations through the orders of regular courts of individual nations. So, why are we deceiving ourselves?
The lasting solution can only be in line with President Muhammadu Buhari’s directive through the Attorney General of the Federation to the Minister of Sports: the need to respect FIFA’s universal position on the governance football. The trouble, really, is whether Minister Dalung is ready to let this be and stop breathing life into a non-existent and globally rejected Giwa mandate.
Until then, like Galadima said, we may keep dancing in circles. After the reggae, play the blues. And…the world moves on.