Only hours ahead of the FIFA threat to send Nigeria to the soccer freezer, President Goodluck Jonathan today rescinded his widely-criticized decision to suspend Nigeria from international soccer for two years on account of the poor performance of the national team at the 21010 World Cup. The World Cup was seen as the trigger for the decision, but Saharareporters investigations have revealed that the decision was actually aimed at breaking the back of the Amos Adamu-led mafia at the Nigeria Football Federation.
Mr. Adamu is the super-rich and notably corrupt FIFA executive who runs Nigerian football. His wide connections at the highest levels in FIFA and in the ruling elite in Nigeria have seen him holding football administration to ransom.
Mr. Adamu was recalled from South Africa a few days ago by aides to Mr. Jonathan to prevent him from using his connections at FIFA to ban Nigeria after the ill-advised decision was taken to withdraw Nigeria from all FIFA competitions for two years. FIFA then gave the Nigerian authorities 48 hours to withdraw the letter.
Earlier today, Jonathan met with Adamu and decided to change his stance. Adamu and Jonathan became close when Jonathan superintended the Under-20 soccer competition while he was VP. The decision to rescind, which was reportedly composed and sponsored by the governor of Rivers State, Rotimi Amaechi, in order for Nigeria to avoid FIFA banning it from competitions that would have seen her unable to participate in any soccer competitions until 2018!
Saharareporters sources said with the "peaceful resolution" of the standoff today, Jonathan's people will be allowed to participate and possibly take over the NFF when fresh elections are held next month, a position that would have been impossible because of Adamu’s cronies at the NFF who had already decided on those who could participate in the elections. An extra-ordinary meeting of the NFF congress might be underway to open the way for new members to contest NFF positions.
For Adamu, it is great reprieve as he gets to retain his position on the FIFA and CAF boards, which would have been overturned had Nigeria been banned by FIFA.
The game of soccer indirectly employs over 1.5 million Nigerians and has become an avenue for talented Nigerians to make it in life even when Nigeria's notorious political elite refuse to provide formal employment for its teeming youth population. A Super Eagles player who spoke to Saharareporters said Jonathan’s reversal, if confirmed, would be a big relief as a ban against Nigeria by FIFA would have affected Nigerian players planning to play internationally.
He said that every player, regardless of skillset or talent requires the local FA letter to get an international gig. "If we are not in FIFA, no European club would accept a Nigerian player," he fumed.
He stressed that the Nigerian government ought to know that FIFA rules are sacrosant when it comes to international soccer. "You see countries like North Korea and China, who routinely flex muscles on nuclear weapons with the US, but when it comes to FIFA they have to conform with international standards of behavior. It is not not a territorial issue, it is common sense and I am happy that it finally prevailed,” he said.
The player advised the Jonathan government to arrest and prosecute NFF officials involved in corruption and not allow them to continue ruining Nigerian football because "most of them are agents to players looking for clubs in Europe, so they are involved in personal businesses that conflict with Nigeria's national interests."
But Nigeria may not be out of the woods yet as FIFA officials in South Africa said they might reject the impeachment of NFF officials carried out yesterday in Abuja. A FIFA source said Nigeria should wait till August and conduct free and fair elections instead of staging coups against NFF officials.
Jonathan's Office Press Statement:
President Jonathan Reviews Ban On Eagles
The Nigerian Football Federation at a meeting with President Goodluck Ebele Jonathan today tendered unreserved apology to the President and the Nigerian people on the dismal performance of the country’s football team, the Super Eagles, at the World Cup appearance.
They also informed the President of their decision to disband the team, and address the numerous shortcomings evident in the management of football in Nigeria.
They assured the President of their commitment to evolving an enduring football development programme, and grow a new senior national team that will bring glory, rather than consistent embarrassment to Nigeria on the world stage.
They informed the President that as a first step, they have proceeded to put their own house in order by removing the former leadership of the NFF, and replacing it with an interim leadership.
Based on these assurances, and the appeals of well-meaning Nigerians, including former leaders, President Jonathan has decided to review the earlier two-year ban on the country from all international football competitions.
This review would enable other categories of Nigerian players participate in global football competitions, while a new senior national team is being developed.
At the meeting, the President also directed the Sports Minister to call a meeting of all relevant stakeholders to resuscitate football academicals and other talent spotting outlets to produce a new crop of footballers and other sportsmen for the country.
Special Adviser to the President,
July 5, 2010