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Who say we tire? Nigeria at 50


Nigerians should not expect a new day yet as envisaged for our football development. The omens are still bad from the much that have transpired in the current race for seats on the board of the Nigeria Football Federation (NFF).

By this time tomorrow, elections into the board would be underway after the postponement of same by five days from last Saturday, courtesy of a Congress decision after days and weeks of suspense, indecision and horse trading among the organizers and participants. It was a clearly divided house that necessitated the invitation of FIFA and CAF officials to oversee the preparations (talk of inability to manage our internal affairs again creditably).

The presidency of the federation (or is it association as provided in the statutes?) is attracting so much interest and public attraction one would think the contest is for the highest political office in the country. Two factors are at play here: a genuine interest in or an altruistic move by some credible persons to save whatever is left of the debilitating image of the crumbling federation. Here's a body that has succeeded in giving the nation more heartaches than joy in the way it has handled the national football team's preparations for major international championships. The other factor of course is the do-or-die nature of some discredited fellows to perpetrate a regime of crass mediocrity and corruption that has been the hallmark of successive administrators.

So intense was the scramble by 'same of the same' for the office of the federation president.  From all indications too, professional politicians who ought to be busy thinking out strategies for 2011 general elections in the country infiltrated the camps of the candidates into the board. Right now, there are allegations of a major political party heavily involved in the bid of a candidate, their crony. That would be a tragedy for football development if is true.

There are even claims of zoning to a particular region when forward-looking football lovers and some stakeholders are about breathing air of relief from the boredom that has characterised the NFA activities for years. Are these enemies of progress ready to move with the world at all? Zoning, what zoning? Is this a PDP internal arrangement we are talking about here again? All we need are men and women who can deliver and take us to that level we belong in the international community.

It is bad enough the congress cannot guarantee to the nation an election that we can all be proud of. It is much worse if some FIFA agents have to come around to lend credence to illegalities. There have been legitimate protests from some quarters about the composition of delegates made up of the same state officials whose terms have expired as they themselves. The same FIFA has interfered so much in the affairs of member countries that it has made nonsense of its own protectionist clause of non-interference by home governments in the local federation's affairs. Why are affiliate member-countries always threatened with ban anytime governments try to enforce certain rules they deem progressive for their countries? Certainly it's time the world football governing body reviewed many of its archaic laws that are anti-progress to countries whose governments are funding sports wholly like Nigeria . One can understand President Goodluck Jonathan's frustrations the other day over Papa Eagles.

The argument has been that if the NFF elections must be credible, there ought to be a thorough exercise of first installing new state administrators who would then serve as delegates to the national election. But a powerful few in the caucus who seem to have been holding sway won't hear anything of such. What new administration then is the country expecting to take her to the heights of developmental football, as obtains in other countries?

Well, if tomorrow comes for the Glass House, we will celebrate. If not, the country continues the search for those men and women of honour who would do our sports proud. Sports, yes sports. The reason is simple: there is rot in almost all the sporting federations and that has stunted growth over the years. Today, it's football. Tomorrow, we may have cause to peep into the rottenness in other circles. We, the people, only hope that if we manage to get it right this time with the oft-repeated promises of President Jonathan on a credible election next year, the process may, over time, through a multiplier effect, throw up men of honour in other areas of national life including sports.

Arisekola's worthy example
Alhaji Alao Arisekola, the Aare Musulumi of Yorubaland is a man I adore for his very positive disposition to life and worthy footprints he tries to leave in the sands of time. We have never met, but I have heard a lot about him - his philanthropic nature, his respect for the other man, devotion to his religion and God, his sense of appreciation for any little favour done to him.

The current Ramadan has afforded the man the chance to see the other side of himself. Reports said the Aare Musulumi promised during a Ramadan lecture that he would henceforth channel his resources to the education sector to help the poor get qualitative education. Literally regretting he had not been investing in the sector, he said: 'What we have invested in sending people to Hajj annually is enough to provide adequate education for over two million youths to the university level without any stress, and now that we have been educated on what we should use money for, I am willing to diversify with immediate effect.' He added: 'Most Muslims are guilty of such mistake and should do something very fast to diversify and invest in education.' Quality thinking. No sentiments, no fundamentalist approach to religion. That is the stuff great men are made of.

Tears for Comfort Monday
Incidentally as I prepared to write this week's piece, I came across an address in a national newspaper by the Lagos State Attorney General at the commissioning of the Igbosere Magistrates Court complex, titled 'Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere'. This word on marble, I understand, is also inscribed on the first floor of the new JIC Taylor courthouse. It comes as a refrain against injustice. Fine.

But today, my mind goes to Comfort Monday, a 17-year-old victim of injustice who has benefited from Governor Babatunde Fashola's kind intervention and eventual release from the jail house.

Comfort has been incarcerated at the Kirikiri prison in the last eight months during which she nursed an unwanted pregnancy she claimed to be the handiwork of a man and boss who made a theft case against her. We are not to determine the veracity of this. The alleged theft is neither the subject of this article too. What is seen as the injustice is bundling of a pregnant minor into a prison cell for some offence she has not been proven guilty. There, she fell into labour and was taken to the hospital where she had her baby boy on August 1. Thank God for the Office of the Public Defender and the press that took the matter to the public domain. Comfort would have continued to languish in confinement with an innocent baby.

There's no doubt that hers is not an exception because with the kind of penal system we run, many such cases had gone or are going unreported. Too many people are suffering unjustifiably behind the bars as Awaiting Trial Men. The 227 prisons across the country are overflowing with cases of injustice, man's inhumanity to man. Agreed, thousands of cases are beyond the law enforcement officers to ameliorate, due to the provisions of the law but there are scores or hundreds more that are traceable to collusion by men of means in the society with some heartless law enforcers. There should be no room for injustice like Comfort was made to suffer.

This is a clarion call to Attorneys-General in the states and at the federal level, the

  Nigerian Bar Association and lawmakers (or other relevant authorities) to assist in a review of sections such as would allow a yet-to-be-convicted minor to be clamped into jail from where he or she may not be lucky enough to get justice until the life is ruined. We should not be slaves to the law in any circumstance.  

  By Olu Ojedokun