EVEN, GOOD LUCK HAS ITS LIMIT
Whatever the situation, when a man makes a mistake and owns up to such especially by correcting himself, it must be seen as a courageous act. This credit goes to President Goodluck Jonathan. In an impulsive act deriving largely from political populism, Jonathan Goodluck mis-reacted and therefore overreacted by banning Nigerian football team(s) from participating in international engagements for two years. That was how he pretended to show his concern over Nigeria's poor performance at the World Soccer Cup Competition.
Why anybody, especially President Goodluck Jonathan should be concerned about Nigeria's performance at the World Cup is not clear. Was it not predicted in this column as far back as March 12? Did anybody listen?
If, however, we were going to show our displeasure at Nigeria's poor show, should it be by withdrawing from World Competitions for two years? On whose authority? The President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria with a fiat? That was authoritarianism in a supposed democracy. When was the decision to withdraw from world competition for two years taken? Who and who or what sporting bodies were consulted before such a major and embarrassing decision was taken?
The purpose of ministerial system of government is delegation of responsibility so that the main principal (President or Prime Minister) does not get enmeshed in unnecessary and avoidable political mud. If Nigeria's President could take it on himself to announce a ban of the national soccer team from foreign competitions for two years, what is the duty of Minister of Sports?
In the process, we cheapened Presidency of the Federal Republic of Nigeria. When the Federation of International Football Associations (FIFA) reacted, the agency portrayed Nigeria as a lawless nation violating agreed rules and regulations and thereby ridiculed President Goodluck Jonathan who had to be on the defensive.
Whose idea was Nigeria's initial reaction to FIFA that there was no going back on the ban on the National Football Team from international competitions for two years? Why then did Goodluck Jonathan humiliatingly back down? This disgrace could have been avoided if, in the first place, Jonathan had delegated the ban from international soccer competitions, provided such was warranted at all.
In that situation, the same Minister of Sports would have had to do the dirty job of carrying the can of Nigeria's humiliating climb down.
Did President Jonathan consult the Sports Minister before the disgraceful diplomatic miscalculation? If not, why not? And if the Minister was consulted and failed to advise Jonathan against the ban, to avoid a silly confrontation with FIFA, that leaves much to be desired.
And then the invocation of some misguided patriotism to justify lawlessness? In any dealing with any international organization like FIFA, the moment any country signs on to the membership, such a country impliedly signs away its sovereignty in total mandatory compliance with the organization's rules and regulations. In short, where a country considers FIFA rules unacceptable and therefore to be violated deliberately or ignorantly (as in Nigeria's case, at the Presidency level for that matter) the option is to incur the primitive consequences.
FIFA was, therefore, correct in rubbishing Nigeria in the international arena with the forty-eight hour ultimatum. If the Sports Minister and sporting agencies were not consulted before the purported ban on the national soccer team from international competitions, then what we have on our hands is creeping and arrogant dictatorship.
Or what was the 'arrangee' apology to President Jonathan Goodluck by remnant NFF all about? The whole show was laughable. Jonathan Goodluck is not Nigeria. If NFF were to apologise for Nigeria's poor show at the World Cup competition, such apology should be to Nigerians. Or is Goodluck Jonathan now the state of Nigeria?
What is more, Nigerians as a people, did not commit the blunder of confronting FIFA, leading to the humiliation of prospects of sanctions against our country. If therefore any apology were to arise, such should have come from President Jonathan to Nigerias for embarrassing us before world soccer enthusiasts. Until President Jonathan impulsively announced his ban on Nigerian participation in international soccer duels, nobody, despite our poor show at the World Cup, ever suggested non-participation. He must apologise.
For President Jonathan and Nigeria as a country, there are inescapable lessons from this episode. Jonathan miscalculated in assuming, perhaps exaggerating the anger of ordinary Nigerians over Super Eagles poor show at the World Cup to be such that could be exploited for cheap populism. For once, President Jonathan emerged unlucky with the resultant humiliation from FIFA.
Even if in anger, ordinary Nigerias demanded our withdrawal from international soccer competitions for two years following the poor performance at the World Cup, led by the Sports Minister, those around Jonathan should have briefed him, (and he in turn, would have placated Nigerians) on the implications of such a misadventure. That is what leadership is about. Was Nigeria the best football country so as to feel so bad to be sent packing in the opening round? France, Australia, New Zealand, Ivory Coast etc did not fare better than Nigeria. England did not go beyond second round. Did the leaders of these countries, either as Presidents or Prime Ministers overzealously get themselves involved in public reaction? Yet, necessary steps were taken in these countries to avert a repeat in the future.
Did Goodluck Jonathan observe the insincerity of Nigerians? When Jonathan announced the ban, the 'Baba ke' crowd around him hailed his decision by conveniently citing Nigeria's sovereignty especially when, in response, FIFA flaunted the red card. At the same time, the moment Goodluck Jonathan ate his words, the same motely crowd shamelessly embraced him as a listening President. What listening President? Did he have any other choice?
That is why Jonathan must be personal in his major decision rather than allow himself to be pushed around.
Incidentally, the very idea of not participating in international soccer competitions for two years would surely lower our soccer standard instead of improving it. For a start, we must discard the wrong idea that we must win all football competitions. Other competing nations also aim to win. Hence, the competition as survival of the fittest and the best.
Second, we are at our present level of surviving the qualifying eliminations only because we engage in international competitions. In so doing, we get acquainted with the quality and standard of our competing rival nations or football clubs. Such competitions could be African Nations Cup, West African Football Union Cup, African Champion Clubs, etc.
In turn, such competitions expose African footballers to European competitions like English League, German League, Spanish League, Russian and Italian Leagues which then recruit African footballers for their clubs.
Featuring in such competitions either as club mates or opponents also enable our footballers to measure their ability against their rivals so that by the time they engage themselves at African Nations or World Cup Competitions, members of each competing teams already know the strength or weakness of their rivals.
Keeping our footballers at home for two years would therefore never improve our standard of football. In effect, FIFA's big stick must be seen for its benefit for future improvement of our soccer. The current controversy also offers a lesson for Nigeria to do proper home-work before rushing to embrace membership of international organizations. For example, all we cared about was membership of FIFA obviously without understanding the demands of such membership or indeed, the standing sanctions for any breach of the organization's rules and regulations.
It was therefore ridiculous citing sovereignty to justify President Goodluck's unwarranted ban on Nigerian football team from any international competition for two years.
To assert sovereignty against possible international sanctions, Nigeria must be prepared to stand out. For example, more like arising from inferiority complex to be seen by (especially) Western international community as behaving well, African countries (including Nigeria) blindly rush to sign international conventions. America does not sign all such conventions without special attention to its vested interests.
Admittedly, FIFA membership is attractive to virtually all nations. However, should the membership of International Criminal Court (ICC) for crimes against humanity be mandatory for all member countries of the United Nations? Perhaps, with that in mind, African countries rushed to sign to the membership of International Criminal Court.
Till today, the United States refused to sign the ICC charter and heavens have not fallen. The reason is that the United States was far-sighted enough that membership of ICC would make American soldiers on combat mission all over the world liable for trial by the International Criminal Court for crimes against humanity. Nobody can fault such a country for protecting its vested interest.
On the other hand, Sudan leader, El-Bashir, was cited by International Criminal Court for crimes against humanity, for which African countries are complicit in keeping quiet over the genocide in Southern Sudan. Were African countries forced to sign membership of International Criminal Court? Surely not. Why then complain against the invocation of its provisions when cited against an African leader? Once a nation signs on to an international membership of an organization - FIFA or International Criminal Court - its sanctions must be obeyed. FIFA asserted itself quite rightly against Nigeria.
Thumbs up for David-West
Former Petroleum Minister Tam David-West was correct when he rejected President Goodluck Jonathan's award of the National Honour of Commander of the Niger (CON). There was no other choice. Probably disguised as appreciation of his various public services over the years at state and national levels, the award was in fact a trap to embarrass if not discredit Tam David-West. A known critic of the legislative process of Goodluck Jonathan's emergence as Acting President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, David-West could not have been a beneficiary of Aso Rock's large-heartedness, instead of the notorious mean-mindedness and dangerous political schemings.
Former national chairman of PDP, Vincent Ogbulafor is currently licking his wounds from such rough tackles.
Second, in the past ten years, merit for Nigeria's national awards has been so devalued such that crooks, touts and criminals have been dignified with such awards especially as beneficiaries of rigged elections. Third, is it not the case that, in a strange development, in the last ten years, Nigerians had been subjected to the humiliation aimed at some political manipulation of subservience to the incumbent emperor to apply for the award of National Honours? Nigeria must be the only country in the world for such stigma.
In any case, did Tam David-West apply to be awarded a National Honour? Definitely not, because in any civilized society, deserving awardees are recognized on personal merit.
The mistake should not be made that such circumstances earned David-West the award of CON. Similar trick was played on General Muhammadu Buhari and Professor Chinua Achebe last time in a futile attempt to shore up a sagging regime with the national and international reputation of these two distinguished Nigerians.
In the case of General Buhari in particular, he was purportedly offered the GCFR (his right as a former head of state) at a time he (General Buhari) was challenging in a law court, the legitimacy of the same regime which claimed to award him the national honour. Like David-West, General Buhari also refused to be undermined. Above all, no self-respecting Nigerian will go so low to apply for National Honours. You either merit it and are so recognized or you don't merit it. It is degrading for any Nigerian to apply for national honours.