Battles ahead of Ibrahim Gusau led new NFF board

Battles ahead of Ibrahim Gusau led new NFF board

On September 30, 2022, the 8-year administration of Amaju Melvin Pinnick officially ended with the election of Ibrahim Gusau as President of the Nigeria Football Federation.

Upon taking office, the Zamfara-born administrator is entrusted with restoring the fortunes of Nigerian football, which have suffered on the field.

However, it won’t be a piece of cake for the former chairman of chairmen since there will be bobby traps he must avoid to have a fruitful term as the 38th NFF president.

PFAN demands
The build-up to the NFF elective congress was characterised by court actions with the Professional Footballers Association of Nigeria (PFAN) Task Force securing a Federal High Court order in Abuja to stop the NFF election.

The NFF went to an Appeal Court, also in Abuja who gave the football body the go-ahead to conduct the election as scheduled.

However, the outcome of the election in Benin City notwithstanding, the PFAN Task Force has threatened to proceed to the Supreme Court to press home its demands.

The group had demanded for the statutory amendment of the current NFF status 2010, the composition of the executive committee of the NFF, the voting pattern and other relevant provisions of NFF statutes 2010 in consonance with FIFA, CAF, NFF and the constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria 1999 as amended.

It will be noted that five statutory bodies make up the NFF – the players union, coaches union, referees, the clubs and the state FAs – but the players union, which has been factionalised following a leadership rift, would be represented by the All Nigerian Players Union at the AGA, which didn’t go down well with the PFAN, led by ex-international Tijani Babangida.

Not wanting to risk a lengthy court battle, it was gathered that the new board has agreed to undertake peace talks with the group.

No love lost with Sports Ministry
It is no news that the relationship between the sports ministry and NFF has been more than cordial in recent years.

The problem has always been that the NFF lacks the funding to enter the nation in all the many international football competitions. Because the teams are national teams and the Federal Government’s property, they have always been financially dependent on the government.

The NFF has the responsibility to take care of the national teams for the government, who then in turn determines which competitions to participate in and approves them for registration by the federation and this is why there is a basis for a good relationship to exist between the federation and the ministry.

However, under Pinnick, the NFF has not had it smooth with the ministry under the former minister Solomon Dalung and the current one, Sunday Dare.

In the past when FIFA or CAF didn’t fund federations, the Federal Government funded all of Nigeria’s participation in all international events, covering preparation, travels, allowances, accommodation, competition, equipment, clothing, everything.

The federations were involved only as facilitators for the registration of the teams for the international competitions and there were no crisis. But the moment Nigeria qualified and went to her first World Cup in 1994 and got some funding from FIFA, the landscape of Nigeria football changed as the experience really opened the football administrators’ eyes that football offered a lot of financial potential.

Power struggles started with war breaking broke out over the federation’s leadership as the millions of dollars from FIFA flowed directly into the football federation’s bank account.

At this point, Gusau led board has to find a middle ground to respect the laws of the land that established the federation while retaining its affiliation with FIFA which does not entertain or tolerate decisions by local courts in footballing nations worldwide.

Divided supporter clubs
The Nigeria Supporters Club has been enmeshed in division with two presidents claiming leadership of each of the factions. While Abayomi Ogunjimi prides himself as the President of the Authentic Nigeria Football Supporters Club, Prince Vincent Okumagba claims to be the President of Nigeria Eagles Supporters Club.

There are other groups such as Nigeria Football supporters club, the Eagles supporters club and the Super Eagles supporters club who are also fighting to be recognised as the main supporters group.

It will be noted that Dr. Rafiu Ladipo was the President-General of the supporters’ club when two elections were held in Lagos and Abuja, yielding two separate candidates vying for the position. At the time, there were demands for Ladipo to step down from his position.

In the Lagos election, Rev. Samuel Ikpea ended up winning the position of national chairman, and Okumagba did win the position of national president.

Since that time, the body has been experiencing a leadership conflict between Dr. Rafiu Ladipo and Rev. Ikpea, who won the Lagos election, on the one hand, and Okumagba, who won the Abuja election, on the other.

In order to gain relevance and make their presence felt at Russia 2018 world Cup, the Okumagba faction has metamorphosed into a new brand in Nigeria football supportership, when Vincent Okumagba created his own version named Nigeria Eagles Supporters Club (NESC) thereby dissociating himself and his members from Dr Rafiu Ladipo -led Nigeria Football Supporters Club (NFSC).

However , this event didn’t go down well with Dr Rafiu Ladipo and he went to court to challenge and restrain the creation of another supporters’ club in the country since there is an existing one and since then, it has not been the same.

In the past, Pinnick had sought to reconcile these groups and at a point invited the President- General of the Supporters Club, Dr. Rauf Ladipo and others for truce meeting.

Players had in the past complained about the negative effects the disharmony among the groups affects them during the games. The various groups play different tunes during games which turns out to ‘noise’ instead.

Welfare for national teams
The welfare for footballers has been poor and inconsistent over the years with players going on protests for not being paid their salaries and allowances to sleeping in the airports lounges as well as being ejected from hotels rooms.

These incidents had put the Nigerian image in bad colours and Gusau has given his pledge to improve the welfare of players.

“Administration at every level, that of football inclusive, requires the wisdom to be able to listen to everyone who has an idea and then pick the very best to deal with each situation at hand. Those of us in the Executive Committee are only privileged to be representing the entire fraternity.

“We will run an inclusive administration in which ideas and advice will be welcome from all quarters, and will be guided in our resolutions. It is very important to resuscitate the League and engender a massive football economy from which every stakeholder can benefit and also be happy to contribute to its growth.

“It is important to prioritise grassroots football and youth development, and that we will take to heart. It is also important to win trophies, and both can go side-by-side. Winning trophies is good for our country’s image in the international sphere and also helps to motivate the upcoming stars at the grassroots level,” he said recently.

Sponsorship deals shrouded in secrecy
The NFF in 2021 signed a N500m deal with telecoms giants, MTN as well as N400m deal with Premier Lotto Limited. The federation also signed a $4m partnership deal with Coca-Cola, another $8m with Aiteo as well a four-year partnership deal with Air Peace worth N300m annually renewable every year.

The federation also signed and extended kit sponsorship deal with Nike with the details unknown while announcing a sponsorship deal with a leading fintech company, Bitnob.

Zenith Bank is not left out as the bank entered into a partnership in 2015 for the development of youth Football and capacity building programs just as Friesland Campina WAMCO, via its Peak Milk brand, has renewed its deal with NFF. There are other deals signed but most are allegedly shrouded in secrecy in terms of the details.
The new helmsman will be burdened with the tasks of opening the account of the NFF to ensure transparency is the watchword of his administration.

Dwindling fortunes of NPFL
Recently, Sunday Dare, the minister of youth and sports development described domestic leagues as the livewire of Nigeria’s football development and expressed optimism that requisite reforms will soon kick off to ensure that Nigerian football and its administration attain the enviable standard where rules are adhered to, and governance structures follow international best practices.

The Nigeria Professional Football League has suffered, like many others, from the financial impact and dwindling fortunes since the late 2000s and its currently ranked 12th in Africa.

The league has witnessed late kickoff dates and sometimes never completed leading to using technicalities to determine league winners. As at this moment, there is no confirmed date the new season will start, two months after the previous season ended.

The new board has the enormous task to see the league is in tandem with other leagues in Africa that align their calendars with foreign leagues.