AMOS ADAMU AND FIFA BAN
FIFA, the world football governing body's attempt to salvage the credibility of the selection process for the 2018 and 2022 World Cup hosts has finally forced a ban of two key executive committee members, Amos Adamu of Nigeria and Reynald Temarii of Tahiti, from football-related activities for three years and one year respectively. That the duo, along with four other officials indicted for various offences, was also fined 10,000 and 5,000 Swiss francs is a likely measure of their alleged culpability in the scandal, which in Adamu's case we find most embarrassing to the country. The EFCC's intervention to further determine his level of involvement is therefore a welcome gesture. But he deserves a fair hearing.
Considering his stature in FIFA, it is just as well that Mr. Adamu has protested his innocence and promised to lodge 'a full appeal against it (the verdict) with immediate effect'. We trust FIFA's mechanism to adequately and fully accommodate his appeal, to erase any doubts of complicity or otherwise. Unconvincing as the appeal may appear, he has a right to clear his name and reputation.
The Ethics Committee that investigated allegations of cash-for-votes against the two officials following a controversial sting by undercover reporters of the Sunday Times of London, about a month earlier, had practically returned a guilty verdict, which seemed a relief in the circumstance to millions of agitated followers of the game worldwide. Even the committee's recommendations considered by many observers as disproportional to the alleged offences are also almost expected, given the indicting audio and video evidences the newspaper volunteered to FIFA on request.
There had been allegations that Adamu demanded $800,000 to be paid 'directly' to him to construct four artificial football pitches in his home country while Temarii, a vice-president of FIFA and Oceania Football Confederation's president allegedly asked for $2.3 million to sponsor a soccer academy, but in his case, the money could be remitted through the confederation.
The Claudio Sulser-led committee which also had to deal with allegations of collusion between bidding nations left no one in doubt of a thorough job as it cleared the bid teams of Spain-Portugal for 2018 and Qatar for 2022 of vote-trading allegations, for insufficient evidence. Therefore, it could be safely assumed that it truly found the indicted persons wanting in the discharge of their duties.
Among the suspended officials are Ismael Bhamjee of Botswana who got a four-year suspension; Amadou Diakite (Mali) and Ahongalu Fusimalohi of Tonga - three years; and Slim Aloulou of Tunisia who bagged two years. The quartet also got a fine of 10,000 Swiss francs each. It is not amusing that four of the indicted top FIFA officials are blacks, half of them Africans at least. This is a blight on the integrity of Africans and blacks in key administrative positions globally, and on whatever achievements African teams have recorded in international competitions.
The number of officials involved is in itself a commentary on FIFA which has been rightly or wrongly described as an enclave of corruption even before the ethics committee launched into the current investigations. Is it any wonder then that the body has tried to defend the Adamu-Temarii infractions as only a breach of its ethics and not corruption? What then is FIFA's definition of corruption if it could slam punishments like that on its officials for certain breaches of its rules? The organisation must look inward and reassess its operations if it must continue to be relevant and to enjoy the confidence of stakeholders and affiliate bodies all over the world.
The implications of Adamu's suspected infractions on the development of the game and quality of Nigerian representation at international bodies are varied.
The country has definitely lost a seat in FIFA, the West African Football Union (WAFU) and the Confederation of African Football (CAF) by virtue of which Adamu sat on the FIFA executive committee, even if on a personal level. His tenure will elapse before the ban is over and that means for the country, a lost voice in the organization.
The ban automatically renders him ineligible to re-contest his current CAF position in February 2011, apart from being deprived of the right to vote for the 2018 and 2022 World Cup bids. The ban is also coming at a time the world is showing respect to Africa following a successful hosting of the 2010 World Cup.
Adamu may have also robbed himself of the opportunity of grooming a credible successor, and of the country gaining from his wealth of experience. As things stand, no matter how long it takes the country to get a more credible person to the high office, the Nigeria Football Federation would do well to start working towards identifying a man of integrity from its fold to replace Adamu.
However, the NFF could only do this if it puts its house in order. That, we are convinced, is not the case with the federation at present. A new dawn could only come with improvements in football administration in the country. Nigeria is not in any way short of administrators with integrity and credibility, worthy of being considered for positions at the highest levels of football administration. Unfortunately, Adamu's indictment has not helped the country's case.
He has been a beneficiary of the Nigerian success story in sports for many years, but now, he seems to have failed to give back as much by rubbishing the country's image on the world stage. He was appointed Sole Administrator of the football association (NFA) in 1992 and as the Director-General of the National Sports Commission (NSC) in 2006 before he was unceremoniously transferred to the Ministry of Special Duties. In 2006, however, he became a member of CAF and FIFA executive committees, courtesy of the status he enjoyed by the high profile appointments he held in the country.
The lessons here are simple: the country should be wary of putting too much responsibility on one man. Two, no citizen is bigger than the country. Ordinarily, a job like Adamu's should add to the profile of a country but in this case, it is the opposite. The country needs people who will think Nigeria first as her representatives. It is ironical that the FIFA incident occurred just when the world was beginning to trust the country in its fight against corruption. Adamu owes the country an obligation: sign off from sports matters.