Averting FIFA Hammer On Nigeria

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Less than one month to the commencement of the 2018 World Cup billed for Russia, Nigeria’s football is at the risk of being ostracized from the rest of the world. This, if allowed to happen, would banish Nigeria from participating not only in the forthcoming World Cup in Russia but in all international, including continental, football competitions, both competitive and friendly.
The threat is as a result of the recent Supreme Court’s decision setting aside the judgment of the Appeal Court and asking the Jos High Court to re-open and hear the case brought to it by one Chris Giwa against the emergence of the Amaju Pinnick led Nigeria Football Federation (NFF) board. That such a football matter, especially concerning the election of the leadership of a country’s football federation is made a matter for litigation in the regular courts is considered an infraction by the world football governing body, Federation of International Football Associations (FIFA).
Giwa and his co-travellers had gone to the Jos High Court to contest the emergence of Pinnick and his board members in an NFF Congress in Warri in 2014 and got some relief that threatened the validity of the election. However, an Appeal Court’s judgment, which the Supreme Court has now set aside, later threw out the case for lack of jurisdiction.
We are, indeed, worried by the unfolding drama. Our concern stems from the fact that FIFA has viewed the latest development as an infringement and warned that it would not issue any other warning before sanctioning Nigeria if it feels that there has been a breach of its statute, which particularly frowns at external political interference in football matters.
FIFA and football have extant laws and processes of resolving issues, particularly disagreements arising from elections and expect every stakeholder to tow the line without let.
The Tide thinks that at a time like this, especially in the face of improving stock of football in Nigeria, all true stakeholders should be concerned with how to take the game to the next level instead of working at cross purposes. We believe that at all times, national interest should be paramount and be promoted rather than personal and parochial interest.
This is why we expect Chris Giwa and his supporters to have, ab initio, known the right steps and channel to take to seek redress or settle any misgiving. However, it is not too late to avoid FIFA’s hammer. We therefore, appeal to the warring parties, their supporters and sympathizers to sheath their sword so that the game can move forward.
Leadership should be a call to service and not a matter of life and death. Also, the spirit of sportsmanship should not only be a maxim but a demonstrable value by those seeking to steer the ship of sporting institutions in our country.
We think that the Amaju Pinnick led board of the NFF, whose tenure will elapse in a couple of months, has recorded some bold achievements so far, as the nation’s football seems to be on the part of improvement. It should not hurt so much to choose the option of allowing the board to run its full course, avoid FIFA’s wrath and work for a fresh start in the next NFF’s elective congress in less than four months.
It is, indeed, time for Nigeria to join the committee of advanced sporting nations and offer the sports sector the environment it needs to thrive as well as free it of all the vestiges of interference. Moreso, the Federal Government should, as a matter of importance, begin the process of domesticating and aligning our judicial provisions to the dictates of FIFA statute as far as issues of football and its administration are concerned.
Since Nigeria has accepted to be part of the world football family, the country cannot be seen to observe its statute in the breach or give leeway to individuals to circumvent the statute and bring the country in conflict with the world football authority. It is either we belong to the body on the stipulated terms or opt out on our own volition.
Unfortunately, no country can confront FIFA on its own turf and not bat its eyelid first. Everything possible must, therefore, be done to ensure that Nigeria does not only fall in line with football’s best practices, but also becomes a FIFA friendly environment in order for the country to continue its march to the pinnacle of world’s relevance in football.
Football is a major lifewire and unifying factor in Nigeria and should not be allowed to be emasculated on the altar of desperation and selfishness of any individual or group.
The implication of a FIFA sanction on Nigeria at this time can only be imagined. The country may never recover fully from its far-reaching consequences. Thus, it will be easier and better to avoid the hammer coming down than to go an extra mile in attempt to pick the pieces afterwards.