By Victor Okoye
A cross-section of football stakeholders on Tuesday in Abuja urged candidates in the upcoming Nigeria Football Federation (NFF) elections to be more committed to positive change and an all-inclusive leadership.
The 2022 NFF Electoral Committee had on Monday cleared a total of 11 persons to contest for the position of NFF President at the Federation’s elections scheduled for Sept. 30.
The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reports that the elections have been slated to hold in Benin City.
Some football stakeholders who spoke with NAN on the sidelines of a Nigeria Football Progressive Forum noted that there was a dire need for all concerned to join hands.
They said this was necessary in order to turn the dwindling fortunes of the country’s football around.
Chidi Okonkwo, the Convener of the Forum and Chairman of Abuja-based City FC, said Nigerian football had suffered a lot of setback and was desperately yearning for a positive change.
He added that what the country’s football needed was a selfless leadership devoid of personal interest.
“It is very easy for each of the presidential candidates to say what they want to do and what not, but for one to run the Federation, he needs God’s grace.
“This is why all hands must be on deck as nobody knows it all and that is the main aim of this gathering,” Okonkwo whose club plays in the Nigeria National League (NNL) said.
He explained that the forum was a bi-partisan body of patriotic stakeholders committed to positive change, anchored particularly on the recently-approved 10- year Football Masterplan.
“The forum has declared support for any NFF presidential candidate committed to the new Masterplan and the reconciliation of all football stakeholders.
“We are also in support of any candidate, who is ready to cooperate with government devoid of personal interest to find a lasting solution to issues bedeviling Nigerian football,” Okonkwo added.
Godfrey Gaiya, former Chairman, House of Representatives’ Committee on Sports, lauded the Forum’s Convener for bringing all stakeholders together to rub minds and chart a new course for the country’s football.
“It’s a good thing that we are finally meeting and talking.
“For a long time, that silence in the footballing circle was disturbing. So, this is good and I commend the initiative of the Convener.
“This has allowed us to at least ventilate and air what we think should be the way out for Nigerian football.
“That this has started, I think, is indeed the right step to take and coming two weeks to the NFF Elective Congress is a good omen.
“At least, people can now listen to the candidates, see what they have and what promises they offer for Nigerian football and what they can do to make a difference,” he said.
Gaiya noted that from all indications the country’s football has not had the best of moments, adding “if this assertion is true, then one has cause to worry for the leadership of the football house”.
He, therefore, urged the elections delegates to choose and elect the very best who can change the fortunes of Nigerian football, irrespective of tribe, religion or any other affiliation.
Emmanuel Babayaro, an ex-international, harped on the need for all stakeholders to be carried along in the NFF leadership, noting that a house divided against itself cannot stand.
He pointed out that the media, in spite of being important stakeholders were always neglected.
The former goalkeeper said the media was a vital part of the game and therefore must be carried along.
“When you talk about football business, you cannot do without the members of the press.
“When we talk about the English Premiership, which is the best run League in the world today, we talk about the media.
“We talk about South African football, FIFA, and so on. What makes them all tick is the media.
“Unfortunately, it is disheartening to note that the media is always kept aside in Nigerian football today,” he said.
Babayaro also advised the incoming NFF executive committee to be more open to constructive criticism.
He stated that the NFF leadership must look into the several issues surrounding the country’s football, adding that there were so many loopholes needing attention.
“The incoming executive committee members must take a look at our football holistically and review some of the laws and NFF statutes which have been a constant bone of contention and confusion,” the former Plateau United player said.
Seyi Akinwunmi, NFF’s First Vice-President, who is also a presidential candidate in the upcoming elections, said he was extremely happy that the meeting was devoid of any rancor or partisanship.
“People will look at all the presidential candidates present and say ‘oh they are here’.
“But there are other candidates, who are contesting for other positions in the NFF executive committee other than the presidential office, also in attendance.
“So, that’s how our football should be and I am very happy that this has come up.
“We don’t know how far it will go, but I think it is a good start. The more we have this kind of camaraderie the better.
“You wil recall that I was one of the major candidates to attend the declaration of another candidate.
“I did that on purpose because this is what I wanted and I am glad that we have gone down that route,” he said.
Akinwunmi, who is also Chairman of the Lagos State Football Association, urged other candidates to ensure they remained as one and focus on football which is the main priority.
“That’s what we are all about in this sphere. So, football (should be) first,” he said.
NAN reports that there were goodwill messages to the Forum from other stakeholders, including Musa Amadu, former NFF General Secretary, and Chikelue Iloenyosi, Chairman of Anambra State Football Association. (NAN) (www.nannews.ng)
Edited by Ifeyinwa Omowole