Yes, MY PRESIDENT, at least as far as football in Nigeria is concerned. And given the popularity of the game in Nigeria and the huge, but perennially unfulfilled potential it holds, being the president of the NFF is a big deal. So, this is a little note to my new president, Mr. Pinnick Melvin Amaju.
First, I congratulate you for this momentous attainment. I have known you from afar for almost 15 years now and have always been interested when I hear your name in the news. The things you achieved with Delta State sports are there for all to see. I wish you a fruitful tenure and hope you achieve unprecedented success.
Also, before I delve into the reason I am writing this memo, let me use this opportunity to appeal to Mr. Chris Giwa and other aggrieved members of the ‘football family’ to cease all hostilities at this point. I have always wondered why we are so eager to go to the civil courts to seek redress when even mere observers like me know that this is against the basic codes of the game. All grievances must be resolved through the structures available within the football community, the highest of this being the Court of Arbitration for Sports. So, Mr. Giwa, in the interest of all Nigerians please go to FIFA with any issues you might have and if you don’t like what they decide, CAS is available to you.
Now, back the subject matter. As soon as I heard this evening that you had won the elections, I was both happy and worried. Happy because you have a great track record coming in from your current job as Chairman of the Delta States Sports Commission. But worried because its too easy to attribute your relative success to the tremendous financial backing you have always enjoyed from the sports loving Governor of your state. With this worry follows the inevitable question of whether you can solve the REAL problem of Nigerian football. In my humble opinion (IMHO, in social media parlance), our one big issue in Nigerian football is a chronic lack of private sector interest and the resultant dependence on government for everything. This government dependence in itself is not necessarily a problem, since government interference is largely a thing of the past thanks to FIFA’s strong non-interference posture. The real problem with government funding is that it inadvertently and invariably creates, breeds and nutures mediocrity. The usual lack of accountability means things can be done ‘anyhow’ with no repercussions. So things generally gets done ‘anyhow’.
Now, like I said in my tweet upon hearing of your election, I have heard you speak on Channels TV with Toyin Ibitoye where he asked you questions about your views on how to attract private sector funding into sports and football in particular. Your response was a liturgy of complaints against private sector companies in Nigeria and their unwillingness to support sports, instead of a clear strategy to address that problem. I choose to believe this was not because you don’t know what to do but because time was short on the show and there were too many issues to address. But just in case, I offer this advice free of charge (even though I am a Financial and Business Development Consultant and should really charge for this).
Here are some of the things I think need to be done:
Leave the LMC as it is. It’s a good foundation for attracting private sector funds and for the future success of our senior national team.
Model the organizational structure of the NFF secretariat after a private business organization and not that of a government parastatal.
Adopt standard policies and operating procedures of a private business entity, paying particular attention to accounting standards as well as strong internal control and audit procedures.
Recruit top minds to head each department based on their ability to achieve set objectives and targets.
Create an environment where there are strong corporate governance practices.
Unleash your brand new organization on the private sector and see whether they will not bite the bait.
These steps are obviously not exhaustive and have been suggested only as an illustration of the overall direction I believe the man that will solve the Nigerian Football problem will have to go. The eventual solution will not be this simplistic but will also not be overly complicated.
Remember sir, football is a multi-billion dollar business even in Nigeria. All that’s needed to unlock this potential is a focussed, performance driven mind and in Nigeria’s peculiar situation, a man of history.