The recent pronouncement by the Director-General of the National Sports Commission, Chief Patrick Ekeji that President Goodluck Jonathan had directed the Super Eagles to go to South Africa and win the Nations Cup has been condemned by sports critic, Alhaji Ahmed Shaibu Gara-Gombe who accused the DG of attempting to incite Nigerians against the NFF and the Super Eagles. In this exclusive interview with Shot!, the former Chairman of Gombe State F.A advised the Eagles to go and have a respectable outing in South Africa. He also bared his mind on the recent crisis in the Nigeria Premier League. Excerpts:
What is your take on the final impeachment of the chairman of the NPL, Chief Victor Rumson Baribote?
The impeachment of Baribote to me is a welcome development. Baribote is the architect of his own problems. He has not shown enough capacity to manage our league. At the same time, he has also not shown so much transparency in managing the league. He has also not shown much prudence to manage the league. There are also several allegations against him which honestly speaking is quite unbecoming of a leader. I knew right from day one that he wasn't going to last because of the process that brought him into office. He was only buying time and his greatest undoing was that he seemed to have forgotten how he came into office. He emerged NPL chairman because there was a court order and the NFF that time did the right time by making sure that a new leader emerged even against the wishes of the owners of the league who are the clubs. What he would have done was to immediately consolidate. He refused to consolidate. He made more enemies and one thing that was shocking to me was that he was so reckless in the way he handled the little resources of the league. Under the prevailing circumstances, there was no way a sensible corporate organization would put its money into the league.
You said there have been damning allegations against the Baribote led board of the NPL. In concrete terms what are some of these allegations?
So many but the most worrisome is the fact that despite the lean resources of the NPL, the board members approved and pay for themselves N150, 0000 every weekend in the name of going to assess league matches. This means therefore that in every month they had N600, 000 and that is different from other allowances like sitting allowance, travelling allowance and other nonsense.
But these are allegations Baribote has denied severally. Where is the proof that is guilty of such corrupt practices?
Which evidence or proof are you talking about? Will he deny that he did not pay N150, 000 to himself and board members every weekend? Or will he deny that he has not destroyed the minimum standard of financial management in the league or what? Even the auditor he brought to come and audit him came and indicted him? What other proof do you need again? If I can go and bring an auditor and I say come and audit me, he did and indicted me, what else do you want?.
What do you have to say about the intervention by the Nigeria Football Federation, NFF, in the crisis that rocked the NPL?
The intervention makes sense because most of the club owners are new and they do not know how such business is done. With due respect, most of them do not understand the politics of impeachment. You cannot go and have a meeting in your bedroom and remove a chairman. It doesn't work that way. It is just like shareholders of a company meeting in a beer parlour somewhere and saying they have removed Gara-Gombe who is the company chairman. It cannot work that way. The company should have articles and memorandum of association. It specifies where and how major decisions are to be taken. So the decision of removing the chairman of the league must go to the congress. They ought to have known that. For club owners to meet in one corner in Abuja and remove Baribote does not make it a congress. The same statues guiding the NPL has stated the proper way to convene a congress so when a congress is properly convened, then any action can be taken.
But it has been difficult to have a vibrant league in Nigeria. What do you think should be done to bring the league at par with the ones in other African countries like South Africa and Egypt?
In the real sense of the word, the league should be properly constituted and managed. It has to be managed like the business that it is. By 2015, I would wish that government hands off all these clubs. State governments with clubs in the NPL should make provision for at least N30m in their 2015 budget and by the time each state invests the N30m into the league, we would be having something close to N2b. The federal government should be able to support the establishment of the league as a business. If Mr. President can through the National Sports Commission bring in one or two billion naira that will be fine. The NFF also as the mother body should be willing and able to invest like N500m. Shares could be sold to the corporate bodies and individuals. By the time you put the money together, you will have enough to start a viable league.
In my candid opinion, having all the money in the world cannot translate into a viable league.....
I am not done. After constituting the board of directors, you then appoint a managing director or a Chief Executive Officer for the league. You advertise the position and ask people to apply. You don't need a footballer or a retired football referee to run the league. You need a business man who will see the figures and read them and understand that look I put A here and I need B on the other side. The management has nothing to do with technicalities. You then have the committees and in appointing committee members, you don't need committees of ten people. You don't have to bring in Gara-Gombe to chair a committee because he is the chairman of Kaduna United or Bayelsa United. You look at neutral people like media, accountants, and lawyers who have passion for sports to head the various committees. Then you appoint a knowledgeable secretary to guide them. Once the rules are clear, you just follow. By the end of the year, you have an Annual General Meeting where profit or loss can be declared. If you are making profit you know and if you don't, you know what to do. This is the way forward for Nigeria Premier League.
Away from the NPL, the 2013 Africa Cup of Nations is around the corner in South Africa. Do you see the Super Eagles winning the trophy?
No, I am not expecting much from the Super Eagles because we are still re-building. Like I said before, Coach Stephen Keshi and his team should go to South Africa and have a respectable outing. They shouldn't promise Nigerians the trophy. Even though Patrick Ekeji came and said the President said, but I don't believe him. He lied. If the President wants to say he needs the trophy, he knows how and when to say it. He can say it by himself, or through his media assistants. He has Reuben Abati, Doyin Okupe and Labaran Maku who is the minister of Information.
The marching order coming from Ekeji, I don't believe him. He is out for mischief. He is out to create crisis and pitch the public against the NFF and the Super Eagles. I remember that immediately he made that false statement, I had a TV programme and most of the callers said they disagreed with me, saying no! no! Gara we disagree with you, they must go and bring the trophy. Why were they saying this, because Ekeji had poisoned their minds with lies. Ekeji said the President said and they believed him.
Remember the minister said Keshi must win the nations cup, later when pressure came, he denied. It was the same sports ministry that said it wanted to reduce sports federations but when pressure came they denied so how can an official of the sports commission come out to tell us that Mr. President said and we believe him:? It was a deliberate attempt to incite the public against the NFF and the team.
o they should go to South Africa and have a decent outing. By the next two years, we start giving them the target of wining the trophy. After the nations Cup, we can come back and qualify for Brazil 2014. This was the same scenario during westerhof. On his first attempt, he did not promise and did not win.
He went to Algiers in 1990 and his first game, he lost 4-1 but ended playing in the finals. He came back and went to Senegal 92 and won a bronze.
He went to Tunisia 94 and won the trophy and qualified us for our first World Cup. It was over a period f six years that he built the team that became the most entertaining team in the whole world. So why don't we give the same co-operation to our own?.
The NFF, the sports ministry, I don't want to include the President here because I don't believe Ekeji, should allow Keshi and his boys to go and have a respectable competition and come back. By the next competition, Keshi can set a target for himself.