Sunday Dare and the Facade of Football Reform


Egged on by the likes of Segun Odegbami, Harrison Jalla and a few hitherto functionaries of our sports, the Minister of Sports, Sunday Dare, is riding roughshod to  dismantle the structures of Nigerian football, from the statutes of the NFF, its Congress and, recently, the League Management Company.

His propaganda machine makes it look altruistic and in national interest, but those who have followed Nigeria football from 2010, at the least, will know that it is all a facade.

Dare's simple objective, like successive Ministers before him, is to install his friends and associates into the leadership of the football organs and for the Sports Ministry to  exercise day to day control of the operations of sports federations. It is a trend in Nigerian sports administration, even though against international best practices, but it is the only pride and legacy he craves, to be seen as the Conquistador.

He experimented it with the sacking of the boards and the setting up of Caretaker Committees to usurp the the roles of virtually all sports federations to prosecute the last Olympic Games.

We also saw all his afflictions on the Nigeria Basketball Federation. Yet, his antics are neither novel nor strange, he only frets so. 

Under Tammy Danagogo, we saw how the the Ministry dragged the NFF elections with the Congress and Executive Committee, how, at Chida Hotel, they struggled to forcefully impose Chris Giwa as NFF President and one of his associates as Chairman of the League body.

It was just like they did in removing Kojo Williams, Ibrahim Galadima, Sani Lulu and Aminu Maigari as NFA Chairmen or NFF Presidents. 

Solomon Dalung was so frenzy against Pinnick in his bid to substitute. He resurrected the old crisis about Giwa, even flaunted a non-existent Supreme Court order to support the take over of the NFF Secretariat on two occasions.

So, Dare's present onslaught is nothing novel nor strange. It is about just the politics of gaining leadership control for proxies, nothing else.

Any who read Odegbami's April 2021 article titled: "Re-setting the Button of Nigeria Sports Administration," will understand the whole plot and the script.

Pretending to be promoting but a warped sense of entitlement by Nigeria ex-internationals to take over the leadership and management of Nigerian football, he and his co-travellers are charging the Minister to tear down the structures and statutes of the football organs to provide them easy win in elections.

For several years, Odegbami tried to get into the NFF board as President, Secretary or just member, but failed.   He admits that he couldn't play the politics.

In desperation, he once tried to impress former President Sani Abacha by joining a Two-Million-Man-March, possibly in return for selection as Government nominee into the NFF, in the belief that Government nominees always won the elections, as he pointed out to Minister Dare in a recent self piteous article titled: "The Facts, Fables and Foibles of NFF Elections."

When Ibrahim Galadima wanted to return as NFA Chairman against the preference of the Ministry, Odegbami, not sure where to stand, ran to Kano to participate in Galadima's election and  back to Abuja to the Ministry.

He blames the composition of the NFF Congress by mostly state associations as his drawback. He now wants the Minister to reduce the number of the state associations and put in ex-internationals and clubs from the several leagues to vote for him and his people. It is not that he cares about the clubs though. It is just convenient and politically auspicious for him to pose so.

Unarguably, Odegbami is a national football hero, but everyone knows that he has been tested and tried in various sports governance roles, from Gateway FC to Shooting Stars and as Chairman of the Governing Council of the Nigeria Institute for Sports, but he failed to deliver in all.

We also saw Sunday Oliseh mouth so much intelligence about coaching. We know our experience with him and his records from the foreign clubs he has coached.

Daniel Amokachi, fine footballer too, has had Nasarawa United, Enyimba FC, Ifeanyi Ubah FC, in Nigeria, and JS Hercules in Finland, to manage. We know the outcomes.

Our Jay Jay was once gifted the Chairmanship of Delta State FA. We also know the outcome.

The list goes on. We have known long enough that being a good footballer do not translate to good administrator nor coach nor manager. It is just as neither foreign coach nor home based coach do not guarantee the success of any national teams. So, all the Odegbami, Jalla and co  sense of entitlement which Minister Dare is obviously timidly charmed is baseless.

No doubt, our football needs reforms but we must be honest to ourselves about the real issues.

We once had a League Board composed mostly of club owners. After Chief Oyuki Obaseki's chairmanship and despite its faults, they ran the league completely aground. The facts are well known. 

Their embarrassingly abysmal failure  prompted Minister Bolaji Abdullahi to set up the Interim Management Committee that translated to the League Management Company to handle our league. So, there is nothing new about club owners exclusively running the league. 

It was also not out of place for the LMC to be registered as a private company under the holding and security of shares for the clubs by  the NFF.

The English Premier League, the Spanish LaLiga are registered as private companies with the clubs as majority or full shareholders. 

It is the same thing with the LMC. Just like in the foreign leagues, the NPFL Club Owners Association decide and approve the league policies, programmes, directions and transactions while appointed independent professionals, CEOs, COOs, manage the league on their behalf. 

The problem of the Nigerian league is not about the structure of governance. Structures vary slightly from one league to another. The ownership, establishment and governance structures of the German Bundesliga, Spanish LaLiga, EPL, Lique 1, Serie A, the American NBA, NFL, Formula One etc are not exactly the same but the success factors of any league are largely relative to their operating environment, the synergy with government with regards to enabling infrastructure, and economic realities.

Everyone knows that the state governments which own most of our league clubs are not in it for business. The stadium facilities are hugely deficient. The know-how and competence of most of the club administrators is lacking in requisite quality for delivery of the business of club ownership.

A primary condition for development is political will and I would have thought that a serious Minister, seeing the deficiencies in the ownership and management of our clubs and the disparity between them and the foreign clubs, would have used the influence of the power he exhibits now to engage the state Governors towards embracing a more business-like approach, rather than just vain gloriously preening in his mirror.

Beyond the deficits in the clubs, the league cannot thrive in the absence of an equally thriving broadcast industry. We have seen that no indigenous broadcast company has shown capacity to successfully  produce and transmit a live match to current global TV standards nor afford to pay standard  broadcast right fees for the league. 

Even when the LMC attempted to leave the broadcast right free, none of the states could afford to deploy their radio and TVs to even provide coverage for their own clubs and make money for themselves and the clubs through their home fans. 

The consequence is the drift in interest and attention of our fans and corporate community to the foreign clubs.

Knowing this, a serious Minister ought to have supported the football house to engage the Broadcasting Association of Nigeria to build a working relationship, possibly with support from government in terms of tax or duty waivers or even grants on loans and  equipment. 

This is part of nation building if Sunday Dare truly understands that the domestic league is a cultural economic asset and such investment It is all part of nation building will pay off in the GDP in the long run. Unfortunately, it seems his cleverness is only by half, all to the extent of invoking and intimidating us with the name and office of our President just to satisfy parochial interests.

Somehow, the Minister of Information, Lai Mohammed, seemed to understand better and we saw it in his proposal to upgrade the capacity NTA to respond to the needs of promoting our national sports.

 He also attempted to impose conditions for the sponsorship and support of the broadcast of foreign sports against domestic sports. 

We lost all that crucial conversation, but I should think that a serious Sports Minister would even have owned it.

Interestingly, Dare started by setting up an inter-ministerial committee on Sports with a view to creating sectorial synergy to drive sports development. Pathetically, he left that noble quest for the fancy  (or infancy) of imposing his friends and associates in leadership positions.

To be sure, I am aware of the brutality of power. I learnt from MKO Abiola that if you are a man and government says you are a woman, then you are a woman. That is perhaps Dare's enchantment, but I hate it when people leave leprosy to treat eczema, leave substance for form, shy away from reality and dwell in pretence, facades and make-believe. That is exactly what Sunday Dare is doing.

Minister Musa Mohammed set up the old League Board of club owners. It survived only through Chief Obaseki. Minister Bolaji dismantled it and set up the LMC. Dare is dismantling the LMC today to set up another structure. 

Lesson: It all shows not just ministerialy occasioned policy inconsistencies but the ephemeral nature of power. It shows that whatever Dare sets up today can be dismantled by another minister. It shows that we have not focused and driving at true and sustainable solutions because, perhaps out of laziness or infantilism, we dodge the real issues but chest out in vain glory.


Fred Edoreh 

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