The News (Lagos)

Nigeria: Legacy of Intrigues

After one month of intense high level horse trading, Alhaji Ibrahim Galadima, emerges the 36th chairman of the NFA

As it was in the beginning, so it is now, so ever shall it be. The old catholic rendition clearly captures the hitech and top flight adrenaline flow which swept through the entire land last weekend, as election into the Board of the Nigeria Football Association came to a climax with the installation of Alhaji Ibrahim Galadima as the new helmsman.

From the inception of organized football in Nigeria, the position of NFA chairman which was first occupied by Englishman, Pa Alex Mufford, in 1945 has remained coveted.

Thus in 57 years of its existence the soccer house has had a record 35 chairmen, a feat which remains outstanding in world football. Once again with the expiration of the tenure of the Gen-Dominic Oneya led Board in September, it became imperative that elections should be held in accordance with the provision of Decree 101 of 1992 to usher in a new Board.

Towards this end, sports minister, Steven Ibn Akiga, inaugurated a seven-man electoral committee headed by Chief John Ojidoh on the 17th of October. The committee which was given four weeks from the date of inauguration to complete the first phase of its assignment was saddled with the following responsibilities; to take a hard and critical look at Decree 101 of 1992 with a view to identifying areas of weakness, define the quality of desirable membership of an ideal board for effective football administration.

The Pa Ojidoh committee was also expected to draw up appropriate guidelines for conduct of elections into the NFA board in accordance with laid down guidelines.

The election panel went into work with the conduct of zonal primaries which was followed by the convocation of delegate conference election. The conference produced eight representatives of clubs in the new board.

Then came the big one - the announcement of Alhaji Aligote Dangote alongside Ayo Omidiran, Chive Kaave and Tony Nnachetta as government nominee's brought fresh fever to the already frenzied scenario. But Dangote kept all guessing and after an initial refusal, reluctantly accepted the offer only to back out later. It was Thursday, 22 November, time was running out with less than 24hours to the chairmanship race and no word from the cement merchant, the ministry had to do something. Thus in an apparent display of ministerial fiat, the sports minister approved the dropping of Alhaji Aliko Dangote and ex-ACB FC of Lagos chairman, Tony Nnachetta from the list of Government nominees. While Emmanuel Ibru and Nassarawa state Deputy Gov Prof. Onje Gye-Wado were appointed in their stead. Though, no reason was given for the decamping of Dangote, ministry spokesman, Victor Iroele, told newsmen that Nnachetta was dropped for alleged sponsorship of what the ministry considered an embarrassing report in some dailies.

With Dangote out, the battle line was drawn among Chive Kaave, John Fashanu and Ibrahim Galadima. But more drama was in the offing; Benue Born Bar Chive Kaave pulled out the next morning due to what he dubbed Holy-Ghost revelation. "I had a dream last night, it was like a vision, something told me to pull out of the race," Kaave said.

John Fashanu on his part had to step aside when he could not get the required two board members to endorse his nomination form. Consequently, when delegates converged at conference hall of the Federal Secretariat Abuja on Friday 29, November, Alhaji Ibrahim Galadima was the only standing candidate in the election which turned out a major anti climax.

However, some close observers in tune with the intrigues and power play inside the sports ministry knew before hand that the nation was in for a well choreographed show.

According to Confederation of Africa Football, CAF, media committee member, Paul Bassey, the whole exercise though, transparent, smacks of a well orchestrated game plan aimed at installing a favoured candidate. "Am not surprised at the turn of event. I remember few months ago at a CAF meeting in Cairo, Dominic Oneya told the house that he was not coming back for a second term and that the ministry had already zoned the position to the North with Alhaji Galadima as the anointed candidate." Corroborating Bassey's view, sports journalist, Kolawole Kumuyi, insists that the entire process was a case of transparent manipulation. "I have been in this business for 10 years and I don't need anybody to interpret the writing on the wall which has been there all along from the zonal to the delegate conference.

We know all these things that Galadima was the original man the ministry wanted. The Dangote option was just a game of chance." The Radio journalist fumed.

Pa Alex Mulfford was appointed the pioneer chairman of the novel Nigeria Football Association in 1945. In 1947 the Briton was replaced by Pius Quist in 1947.

Quist touted to be the first African on the FA hot seat lost his job the following year in good time for his first year anniversary in office. David .H. Holley who had earlier worked as the pioneer chairman of the then Amateur Athletics Federation of Nigeria-AAAN, now AFN, Athletic Federation of Nigeria, occupied the FA hot seat from 1948-1950. In 1951 Mr. Patrick Harvey became the fourth chairman of the NFA and two years later he lost his position to Mr. U. Miller who reigned from 1954 to 1956.

Rev. Father Dennis Joseph Slattery of blessed memories became the sixth helmsman of the soccer house in late 1956. Slattery a journalist, Teacher and one of the pioneer FIFA graded referees in the land held sway till 1959 when Mr. R.B. Allen came on board for a one year stint.

Port - Harcourt born Chief Godfrey Amachree became the first indigenous FA boss in 1960. Though Amachree's reign did not go beyond the independence year providence provided the Okrika Chief with a comeback seven year's later for a four year tenure.

Mr. F.A.S Ogunmuyiwa was in charge of Nigeria football from 1960-1962, paving way for Louis Orok Edet who reigned for some few months in 1962. Edet was promptly replaced by Mr. M.S. Adewale. Adewale was to hand over to A.B Osuala in 1963 while Francis Osagie took over in 1963 and handed over to Kola Bajulaiye.

Bajulaiye called the shots from 1963 to 1965. Justice Ikpeazu came on board in 1965. In the first of his two term reign on the throne, veteran sports journalist, Malachy Ugwo, recalls, "Justice Ikpeazu, who apart from his legal duties had a soft spot for club ownership which became manifest with his founding and financing of the defunct Ikpeazu Redoubtable Fc of Onitsha." Another lawyer, returnee Chief Amachree took over in 1967 to commence a four year term which ended in 1971 with the appointment of Kelvin Lawson in 1971.

Unfortunately, Lawson was sent packing after one month in office thus going down in history as the NFA chairman with the shortest tenure in.

That same year Navy captain Micheal Okwechime was on the right side of history when he became the first military man to serve as the FA boss. Okwechime, a civil war veteran enjoyed a three year blissful reign which came to a climax with the country's gold medal outing in the football event of the 1973, Lagos, All Africa Games.

Despite success on the field of play, Okwechime was replaced by Ademola Adeoba who in turn was sacked for J.E. Falope, Falope lost out to Foluso Sotimi, all in 1973. Thus in that year alone the NFA was ruled by four bosses, Okwechime, Adeoba, Falope and Sotimi.

Things became brighter the following year with the appointment of Mr. Sunday Dankaro as the NFA leader in 1974. Sunday Dankaro had the good fortune of being the longest serving FA helmsman courtesy of his six-year tenure in office which came to an end in 1980 with the appointment of Navy captain Edwin Kentebe in 1980 as the 23rd chairman of the NFA.

Air commodore Tony Ihazoboh was in charge from late 1984 - 1987. Ikhazoboh who took over from returnee Justice Ikpazu handed over to another airman, Group Capt. John Obakpolor who reigned for few months in 1987. Ikhazoboh was to make a brief comeback in 1989.

Mr. Effiom Edet Okon, the pioneer Secretary-General of the Football body was on call between 1989 to 1990 handing over to Alhaji Yusuf Garba Ali. Yusuf would later return the baton to Okon in a dramatic turn of event in 1991. Effiom called the shots until the enthronement of Dr. Amos Adamu in 1992 as the sole administrator of Nigeria football.

Dr. Adamu's tenure was a transition which gave birth to the controversial decree 101 of 1992. The decree among other items provided for a fix three-year first tenure for each board which ultimately led to the election of Air Commodore Samson Emeka Omeruah as the 32nd Chairman of the FA.

Omeruah passed the bulk to Katsina born Col. Mumuni Aminu in 1996. Aminu was succeeded by Anthony Kodjo Williams in 1999. Kodjo was subsequently impeached from office barely two months after his inauguration in 1999. Dominic Oneya was sworn in his stead in early 2000. He held swayed until September this year to give way for the coronation of Ibrahim Galadima as the new helmsman.

For a throne bedevilled by primordial chaos and vulnerability, the circumstances surrounding the recent election has gone a long way in sustaining the NFA's intriguing legacy.

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