How elections in the Nigerian Football Association were fixed


By Olukayode Thomas
In Nigeria, the football association has elected Abdullahi Sanni Lulu as its new chairman under the watchful eye of FIFA secretary general Urs Linsi. On the surface all seems well, but in this background analysis by Olykayode Thomas from the Nigerian Guardian it turns out the elections were fixed. In fact, the analysis was written a week before the election and still predicted the outcome with great accuracy. See how one man – Amos Adamu, a director in the Ministry of Sports and Social Development – directs affairs in the NFA and holds the media in the palm of his hand.

The Guardian, Nigeria

It was sometime in the penultimate week, at a prestigious hotel in Abuja, a group of sports journalists and the sports commissioner of a South state had gathered to brainstorm on sports in the country and the nosedive in athletics and other sports. The subject of discussion was Nigeria’s bid to host the 2010 African Nations Cup.

As the group was brainstorming, Amos Adamu, a director in the Ministry of Sports and Social Development, and FIFA and CAF executive member, walked in. The moment a reporter from one newspaper was introduced to him, Adamu forgot about protocol and did not wait for others to be introduced.

He started accusing the reporter, saying: "Your stories were false, you were misinforming the public. My friend, (he turned to the reporter who sat next to him) after you have killed a fowl or goat, you know the thing will still be struggling but it is dead.”

"That was what happened to Galadima (former president of NFA, ed). The moment he failed to tow the line, as far as I am concerned, he was gone. All the noise was just struggling before he finally gave up the ghost. So where is Galadima today?" he asked rhetorically.

Adamu then gave an insight into how he makes and brings down personalities in sports. He boasted and he raved about his power and how he makes and mars sports personalities.

Adamu fixes everything
As the NFA elections hold next week, the number one factors that will determine the next NFA chairman and other board members is Amos Adamu: forget about the candidates’ programmes, revolutionary ideas, contacts, football knowledge and manifestos that will move our football forward. 

Adamu, the Capo di capi of Nigerian sports, the Mr. Fix it has already fixed everything. Just as he fixed the exit of Galadima, Williams and others before them, Adamu has also fixed the election of Sanni Lulu, director of sports, F.C.T., as the next NFA chairman, Amanze Uchegbulam, the loquacious head of stakeholders, as vice-chairman, and Bolaji Ojo- Oba as NFA scribe.

This may be bad news for our football, it means more years of the locust. We may not qualify for the World Cup, the Olympics soccer event; our football administration will still be in the stone age, marketing will be zero, fire-brigade approach and lack of competent manager will remain the norm.

Despite of all these and other minuses, Adamu will have his way. But who is Adamu and how has he been able to get such a firm grip on our football? What makes him tick and powerful?

Adamu’s hold on the sports press
Adamu’s main power is his native intelligence. What he lacks in managerial ability and ideas for how to develop Nigerian sports he makes up for with his native intelligence. His understanding of Nigerians strains the descriptive power of any adjective. For him, the average Nigerian has a price and once you can pay the price, you control him.

Adamu, the Maradona of Nigerian sports’ grips on the sports ministry, athletes, footballers, coaches and other stakeholders in sports is total, but no when is his control more evident than in the Nigerian sporting press.

Adamu’s control of Nigeria’s sports journalists is absolute. Truth, one of the sacred principles of journalism takes a flight when it concerns Adamu. Last week, for example, Adamu was credited in a newspaper (not The Guardian) as being responsible for Nigeria’s success at the Atlanta 96 Olympic Games.

The reporter even gave him credit for Nigeria’s two gold medals, the nation’s first at the Olympics.

This is nothing but distortion of historical facts. Every student of sports history knows that credit for the nation’s first gold medal, won by Chioma Ajunwa at the Atlanta Games, goes to the athlete herself for her determination, self-belief and sprint discipline.

The key actor that assisted her to achieve her dream was Segun Odegbami, the football legend. While the then Minister of Sports, Jim Nwobodo, and Adamu were investing their time, money and emotion in the Ezinwa twin brothers, Davidson and Osmond, and Mary Onyali, Ajunwa was neglected.

Odegbami it was who assisted Ajunwa financially and otherwise, assisted her to travel to London to train.

He was always at the National Stadium when she was in Nigeria, where the Cuban-born coach Jorge Diaz gave her tutorials. Others include Mobil Producing Nigeria Unlimited, through its then amiable External Affairs Manager, Oluyomi Adeyemi-Wilson.

The soccer gold medal, with which Adamu was also credited, is false. We all know what the team went through because Nwobodo had insisted that Finidi George, Ben Iroha and Jonathan Akpoborie must be in the team. The coach, Jo Bonfrere, stood his ground and insisted that the minister could not dictate to him.

The minister and Adamu, his main man, ensured that the team was starved of funds. Sanni Torro, the then NFA scribe, and Olagbemiro, a board member, ran to Chief Nathaniel Idowu, the doyen of professional football in Nigeria, who bailed the team out.

 For his contributions to the Dream Team’s success, Idowu was awarded the highest International Olympics Committee (IOC) honour by the IOC President. Prof. Agboola Gambari, then Nigeria’s representative in the United Nations, Hassan Adamu, Ambassador to the United States, and Raheem Adejumo, President of the Nigeria Olympic Committee (NOC) are all alive as witnesses to history.

Others include the team’s coach, Jo Bonfrere, his manager, Chris Eseka, and the players.

Journalists also credited Adamu with Nigeria’s qualification for USA’94 World Cup. If he takes the credit, what about Admiral Agustus Aihkomu, late Chief S.B. Williams, Clemens Westerhof, Bonfrere Jo, Stephen Keshi and other behind-the-scene workers like Hon. Nduka Irabor.

The truth is, with sports journalists, Adamu takes credit for all the good things in sports thanks to his deep pocket. So it is not a surprise that any time he is in position, the only class of people that benefits are journalists. 80 per cent of COJA staff, the body that organised the Abuja 2003 All Africa Games, are journalists. Ditto for CAN 2000 and other Games and Championship that Adamu has ever been in charge of.

The rise and fall and rise of AdamuAdamu became a director in the 1990s but before anybody could say Jack, Shola Rhodes fired him. Thanks to his KebbiState contacts he came back through General Ishaya Bamaiyi.

He worked and walked with Nwobodo, Emeka Omeruah and Damishi Sango before he had problem with Ishaya Mark Aku. Then he wanted to control the sports development department and at the same time run COJA. Thus began a running battle between him and Aku.

While Adamu was away, Patrick Ekeji ran the sports development department in a professional manner. Norm was restored and the Team Nigeria Project began. But as soon as the Abuja 2003 Games ended, Adamu started plotting his return to the ministry.

The first thing was to replace a competent Ekeji with Musa Bindir, whose knowledge of sports is zero.

Within a few months, Bindir was exposed and the clamour for Adamu’s return became the new anthem. And before anybody could say Jack, Adamu was back in the ministry as director of sports development.

When he returned, the first thing he did was returning his principal men to centre stage from the periphery which they had been relegated while he was away. Tijani Yusuf, who was on the verge of being returned, is now one of the main men in the ministry.

Bolaji Ojo-Oba, another member of the core team is now a deputy director. But it was not all success for Adamu as he failed in his attempt to bring back William Boyd as secretary general of NOC.

Nevertheless, Adamu cannot afford to fail in the NFA: football is the goose that lays his golden eggs.

Recent example has shown that when you have your boys in the NFA, you can do and undo. After all, Adamu, like Kojo Williams and Adegboye Onigbinde, were allocated 78 tickets as FIFA committee members.

Whereas Williams and Onigbinde had to pay for their tickets or forget their allocations, all Adamu had to do was tell the NFA acting scribe, Fanny Amun, to pay for him. Amun did pay for him, though Adamu continued to deny this. He is yet to provide proof that he paid for the tickets.

Interestingly, correspondence between Amun and FIFA shows that the NFA paid for Adamu, and FIFA’s Head of Media, Andreas Herren, confirmed that Amun, not Adamu paid.

But nobody in the FA has told Nigerians what happened to the over 200 tickets allocated to Nigeria.

They were neither advertised nor sold to anybody. Amun is yet to offer Nigerians an explanation as to what happened to them. 

These men will be electedWith the Olympics around the corner, as well as the 2008 African Nations Cup 2010 World Cup, Female World Cup and numerous other football championships, between now and the expiration of the board’s tenure, Adamu knows it will be suicidal to leave the NFA in the hands of the likes of Williams, who will is not ready to hand over the national football teams to the sports ministry and be contended with running the league.

Fixing next week’s election will not be a difficult task; Adamu is familiar with the terrain. When Nwobodo wanted Omeruah out of the NFA, Adamu, did a perfect job. When it was time to ease Abdulmumini Aminu out, Adamu did not fail. Kojo Williams also had a taste of Adamu’s venom. Ditto for Oneya and lately, Galadima.

Outside football, other victims include Tony Urhobo, Brown Ebewele and others in athletics. In basketball, boxing, NOC and cricket, among others, Adamu’s hurricane is everywhere sweeping away non-conformist.

He is the only factor in next week’s election and these are the candidates that will be elected:

SANNI LULU: The director of sports in FCT was the anointed son of Sambawa and was on the verge of becoming the NFA chairman last December but for Nduka Irabor. The chairman of electoral committee that returned Galadima made it clear to Sambawa that there would not be anything like government candidate or private candidate; that each candidate has equal chance.

This did not go down well with Sambawa, who expected the committee to rubber-stamp his choice.

When Irabor asserted the independence of his committee, Lulu, who enjoys the backing of FCT Minister, Nasir el-Rufai, backed out of Kano election on Sambawa’s instruction.

Because Irabor refused to be a rubber-stamp chairman, Sambawa refused to recognise the Kano election, thus began the impasse that culminated in Galadima’s removal at the last kangaroo congress.

Lulu will get the post this time because the new electoral committee seems to be dancing to the tune dictated by Adamu. Secondly, all the candidates that have all it takes to defeat Lulu have either been disqualified or schemed out by one rule or the other.

The immediate beneficiary of Lulu’s chairmanship will be Adamu and his group in the sports ministry. But for millions of soccer-loving Nigerians, it is the beginning of another season of heartbreak.

For years, Lulu has been the director of sports in FCT and sports in the FCT is like trees in the desert.

It is not just there; even at recreation level, sports is dead in Abuja. At National Festival, Games and other events, they always fail to impress. So Nigeria should be ready for a period of heartbreak, because if Lulu cannot run the  corner shop that is FCT sports, how will he run a supermarket like NFA?

AMAN UCHEGBULAM: This is pay back time. After doing the dirty job of sending Galadima away, Uchegbulam will be rewarded with the post of Vice-chairman of the new board. His election is as certain as death. The chairman of stakeholder is the only person that was given form by the electoral committee to contest for the post of vice-chairman.

BOLAJI OJO-OBA: Immediately Lulu becomes the chairman, Adamu will be sent back to the sports ministry and Bolaji Ojo-Oba Adamu, right hand and a deputy director in ministry will be named the FA scribe.

This is the script that has been written by Adamu and other power that be in the ministry, so it will be next week.

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