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THE END OF HIS GAME

By NBF News
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He was the owner, master and chief priest of the game.  The game of survival. The game of intrigues in Nigeria's  often rancorous and filthy  sports fraternity.  Like a colossus,  he had,  for over 20 years,  bestridden the corridors of power, playing the game deftly.  Ministers of Sports  who didn't know how to deal with the man,  embraced the exit door too soon because they learnt too late not to trifle, meddle or mess with him.  Now, it does seem the game is about to end, if it has not already ended,  for the football mogul who definitely  personified  the good,  bad and ugly sides of our sports administration,  Amos  Adamu,  PH.D. Adamu's  fall from grace to disgrace easily made the front pages of Nigerian newspapers on Friday.  Indeed,  for over a month, the nation had waited with bated breath for the outcome of  FIFA investigations  into the bribery allegation which rocked the football fraternity.   Either way,  the result was bound to have a riveting effect on our football.

The man at the centre of the storm comes across as easily the most controversial sports administrator who had often been perceived as 'corrupt' even with the absence of substantiated evidence or conviction against him.  Like many others, I had hoped that the FIFA investigation would afford Adamu the opportunity to prove that all the years his name had been associated with sleaze had been mere mudslinging.  A case of giving a dog a bad name to hang it.  Not being a sports writer and a bit unfamiliar with the goings on in that sector, I had nursed a sneaky feeling that the man would be cleared by FIFA which would then be his bill of health to be flaunted at home, to prove his innocence of all the sundry allegations against him  by those who swear that Adamu's middle name is 'corruption.'

In an earlier piece on this page, I had  submitted:  'Adamu should be grateful for this once-in-a-life time opportunity to finally lay to rest the baggage of corruption which has continued to be wound round his neck as a football administrator.  If he's nailed by  FIFA Ethics Committee, he will only be confirming the view  his army of critics  have often held:  that his babaringa stinks of filthy lucre fleeced from the nation's coffers over the years, while his acquittal will put a big lock on the lips of those who want him banished to Golgotha, the land of shame and regrets.'

Now, FIFA has dashed  Adamu's  hope of using the investigation to prove his innocence at home and abroad.   And predictably, he's kicking against the verdict. No man willingly goes to Golgotha.  He has vowed to appeal the FIFA sanction. His words: 'I am profoundly disappointed  with the Ethics Committee findings and had honestly believed that  I would be exonerated  of any charges by now.  I am innocent of all the charges levelled against me by the ethics committee and I completely refute the decision they have made.  As yet, I have not been advised of the grounds of the ethics committee's  decision, but regardless, I will  be lodging a full appeal against it with immediate effect.'

Indeed, with the three years suspension  slammed on him and his co-traveller in the bribe-for-vote scandal, Reynald  Temarri,  by the ethics committee of global football body,  the  Federation  of  International Football Association, FIFA, it is obvious  that  a vicious  six-inch nail  has effectively  been driven into Adamu's 'coffin.'   It would certainly  take a miracle for the man to rise from the death knell sounded by the FIFA committee.  Will he?

Even with his tough talk about appealing the FIFA verdict, it must be clear to Adamu by now that he's fighting formidable foes who will like to see the end of his stranglehold on Nigerian football and probably see him tucked  somewhere in the gulag.   With a litany of petitions against him, especially in the alleged shabby handling of finances during the 2003 All-Africa games, otherwise known as COJA, as well as other grave allegations bothering on alleged sharp practices,  the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission,  EFCC,  has indicated its intention to commence criminal proceedings against  Adamu as soon as it receives FIFA's full report.   In arriving at its last Thursday's  decision to send Adamu and  Temarri  away from all football events for three years, the ethics committee chairman, Claudio Sulser, said the two men and four others who were similarly indicted on various other charges, had violated  'various articles of FIFA Code of Ethics.'

He added for emphasis:  ' As long as I am in the ethics committee, we will have a zero tolerance policy.  When you enter FIFA, you must accept certain obligations and one of those is found in the code of ethics.  FIFA bears special responsibility to safeguard the reputation of football worldwide.  We need to face these problems and not ignore them.'

By way of a recap, two undercover reporters for the London Sunday Times, had allegedly  captured  footages  of  Adamu  soliciting for bribe for his support in the 2018 world cup hosting bid.  When the scandal broke, the world was aghast.  Even though FIFA had not often been the spick and span organisation the executives  will always want it portrayed,  the news that two executive committee members had been captured while on a dirty mission of demanding cash for their votes, was  a stain too pronounced to be concealed.

Before setting up the Sulser Committee to look into the issue,  FIFA's  president,  Sepp Blatter, had denounced football's  'devils'  who  engage in unwholesome practices which bring the game into disrepute.  'In our society, there are many devils and even in football inner circles, there are devils as well but we will do what millions of football fans around the world want to see and that is, flushing out these devils.'

Is the Adamu and Temarri  hammer, part of the cleansing of football's hall of infamy?  Will Adamu win his  appeal and  restore his battered image?  Will he go to jail as the EFCC's noose inches closer his neck?  The answers lie in the weeks and months ahead.  But even at that,  Adamu must be facing a serious dilemma in explaining his current quagmire to his children who will want to know why FIFA suspended him for three years since he has often told them that he's not the bad  guy as portrayed in the Nigerian media.

The embattled sports administrator once  told me: 'My children have  asked me:  'Daddy, why are they always writing all these(negative) things about you?  Are you a bad man?'  I used to tell them: you have nothing to worry about.  Your daddy has not committed any crime.  He has done nothing for you to be ashamed of.'

Will he still maintain this stance to his family after Thursday's hammer? Poor man.  Life, surely, is a bitch. But  the greatest wisdom of man should be in knowing when to exit when your time is up, when the game is over.  Whether he wins his appeal  or not,  Adamu ought to see the clear writing on the wall: it's over. The game is up.  He should quit  as a matter of honour. He has done his bit to the best of his ability. He has seen the glory of Nigerian sports and the rot he also contributed  in breeding. No man can do all.  For a man who rose to the position of Director-General of Nigerian Sports  Commission, Confederation of African Football,   CAF executive member,  president of  West African Football Union, WAFU and  FIFA executive committee member, that's  a bagful of achievements.  He can only now go home  and have a rest.  Again, will EFCC allow him a rest?  Fela was right after all:  life is a bitch.  Ask Adamu.

Oronsaye: A good man exits the civil service
Last  Thursday,  the nation's  number 1 civil servant, the Head of Service of the Federation,  Steve Oronsaye, a chartered accountant by profession, exited the service after clocking the mandatory retirement age. And everyone seemed to agree that a  hardworking, focussed, principled and no-nonsense administrator had taken his bow after serving his country with all his heart and might.  In the period he served, Oronsaye  sought to promote merit and competence in the nation's  civil service.  He also fought to instil discipline and order in a work force often characterised by inertia, incompetence, laziness and corruption.  In doing these, he was bound to confront the establishment cabal who felt affronted by his 'audacity' in seeking to cleanse the  augean stable.

Members of this desperate and vicious cabal in the service soon began to read ethnic and sectional motives  to the good intentions  of  the former head of service. It is to the eternal credit of the late President Umaru Yar'Adua that he resisted pressures to upturn the civil service reforms spearheaded by Oronsaye and his team.  Today,  permanent secretaries and directors know that they have to be professionally sound and competent to remain on their seats.  Many of those who often manipulated the  system to undertake a short cut(dangerous overtaking) to get to the top and remain in their positions even when they should have retired long time ago, have not only been flushed out, the civil service now has a properly defined tenured system.

Only a man  Oronsaye's strength of character  could have withstood the avalanche of attacks against his person by the cabal deploying all kinds of blackmail tactics.  Credit must also go to the government which stood by him.  As he exits, even his die-hard critic would agree that the man meant well,  that he wanted the best for his country and was neither swayed by region, religion, ethnic  nor other base sentiments.  Every innovation or revolution come with their own pains. Those who fought Oronsaye predictably did so because their narrow interests were threatened.

That they have accepted, albeit reluctantly, the new civil service order of  emerging meritocracy, is a tribute to Oronsaye's tenacity, doggedness and focus.

I join other well-meaning Nigerians in saluting this rare gem of a Nigerian, a detribalised man, a thorough-bred administrator and a patriot  of the Nigerian nation, and wish him a peaceful retirement, even as I am sure that he will not be allowed  a rest for too long.  With the agility  and capacity for work of a youth,  the nation would certainly need Oronsaye's wealth of experience and services in other areas.