Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Less than a week after announcing a suspension of Nigeria’s football team, Nigeria’s President, Goodluck Jonathan, reversed the decision. Unfortunately, Jonathan’s reversal was announced on the very date FIFA had declared as the deadline for reversal. This now gives the impression that Jonathan bowed under pressure to an international sporting organization. That perception can be harmful for Jonathan who only has a few months in office before presidential elections. Additionally, the perception will weaken the office of the presidency and place pressure on whoever becomes president to restore the credibility and respect of the office. Furthermore, the snafu between Jonathan and FIFA raises questions about the behavior of the football agency, which challenged the decision of a sovereign leader in an avoidable way. 
After its disappointing performance at the 2010 World Cup, many Nigerians were saddened by the failure of the national team to win a single match despite its rank, as of May 2010, as a top 25 football team. President Jonathan reacted by ordering a two year suspension and
promising a shake up in the Nigerian Football Federation (NFF) which regulates football in the country and was in charge of the World Cup contingent. According to Ima Niboro, a presidential
Th[e] directive became necessary following Nigeria's poor performance in the ... FIFA World Cup...If any financial misappropriation is discovered, all officials responsible will be held accountable...The problem of Nigerian football is structural...We need to reorganize the structures and there is need to withdraw from all international football competition so that we can put our house in order."
However, FIFA reacted negatively to the suspension because of its policy against political interference in domestic football associations. The body soon demanded a reversal of the suspension giving July 5th as the deadline. On Sunday, July 4th, the NFF fired its President
and Vice President. It also promised to not only disband the team sent to the World Cup, but reorganize tit’s internal structure. After this, and on the very day of the FIFA deadline, a statement from Jonathan’s office announced the reversal of the suspension.

Jonathan became President during a period of political uncertainty. His predecessor, Umar Yar’Adua, died after months in a Saudi hospital and months more of questions about his health and capacity to lead the country. The fact that he came to power in elections deemed fraudulent meant that in addition to his health, his very mandate was in question. He was nicknamed “Baba Go Slow”, “Yawnadua” and other names that highlighted the lack of confidence in his ability to satisfy his role as President. Yar’Adua was even disrespected by his own emissary to Guinea after that nation’s 2009 military coup. Sent to inform the military junta that Nigeria would not support the subversion of democracy, Yar’Adua’s emissary, former military dictator now Presidential candidate, Ibrahim Babangida, returned to Nigeria with nothing but praise for the Guinean junta.

With Jonathan’s ascension to Aso Rock, many were glad that he would not be saddled with the problems of his predecessor. It was hoped that, unlike Yar’Adua, Jonathan would be able to take charge and handle many pressing issues. In a country used to military rulers and heavy handed leaders, the perception that Jonathan is weak will unfortunately, gain him no fans between now and elections which are to take place in 2011. If Jonathan is to accomplish even half of what he has promised - free and fair elections, better electricity generation and distribution via privatization, etc., there can be no further dents in his presidential ‘armor’. It will do Nigeria more harm than good if another leader is considered weak and ineffective.

As such, despite the fact that his decision to suspend the football team appeared rash and was questioned by many, it was unwise to ultimately give the appearance of succumbing to FIFA’s demands. Granted, it is good to have a president that appears to listen to the complaints of the people and is willing to consider opinions that differ from his or hers, however, the office of the Nigerian President is more important that any desire to be liked. This is especially the case because Jonathan and future presidents will have to rely on the importance of the office to get things done and as such should not whittle away at the credibility of the post. Assuming that Jonathan intended to rattle the nerves of the country’s football federation and players, he did not need to announce a suspension without considering that FIFA would call his bluff. Nevertheless, even after announcing the suspension and after FIFA’s demand, Jonathan should have held his ground. He could have announced some demands of his own, requiring that the NFF offer a public accounting of all monies spent and specific details on future reform to be announced by a date after July 5th. Then, the president should have informed FIFA that it had no right to challenge him and that it could wait until the nation, and not just he, had been convinced that the national federation had plans to shape up. In the background, the president could have worked with FIFA to have the body amend its announcement of a deadline in a way that would have saved face for all involved.

It is understandable that FIFA must deter governments from interfering in the workings of national football associations like NFF. In fact, the need for this approach is reasonable. However, for FIFA to publicly challenge the president of a nation in such a manner is rude and incorrigible. After Jonathan reversed the suspension, the international body even went as far as gloating in a statement that the Nigerian government “had backed off” instead of being graceful. It matters not what form of interference occurred particularly when the organization’s only public reaction was to implement a deadline within less than a week of the interference it was objecting to. There is no question that FIFA has its rules and must enforce them, but to do so in a manner that lacks decorum and any diplomacy is an insult not just to Nigeria’s president, but also to Nigerians themselves. The deadline placed by the sporting body could be interpreted as not caring if Nigeria eventually played in the next few years, a subtle “good riddance”. That suggests a disregard for football loving Nigerians, especially those who supported their President’s decision because they knew that their team and the NFF needed restructuring someway, somehow. This, plus confrontations with other countries begs the question of whether FIFA is engaged in regulating a sport that should bring people together
or something else.

Irregardless, most Nigerians are simply pleased that what could have been a nightmare has come to an end. Jonathan’ suspension could have caused FIFA to further ban play by all Nigeria’s football teams including the U-20 women’s team which was scheduled to participate in a tournament, and local champions, Enyimba, which were scheduled to participate in an upcoming African championship. Sadly, nobody comes out a winner in this incident. That is very unfortunate, given that a solution could have been created to benefit both Jonathan and the organization.

*Photo credit for FIFA logo -

From The Archives:
- Goodluck, Nigerian Football
- Jokes & Nigeria's Kaita (Video)
- Nigeria's 'Portrayal' & The Need To Be Proactive

14 Curiosities. Add Yours.:

Nma said...

Loved the "FIFA's cheeky behavior section."
Chxta excellently quipped that GJ's action was indicative of a "distinct lack of balls." While I appreciate GJ's decision to choose not to be stubborn in the face of common sense, the whole episode makes me question his judgment as a leader.

Most importantly, it makes me question the credibility of his proclamations such as his commitment to free and fair elections in 2011. Really? What if the "cabal" screams nay? What then?

Speaking of which, we haven't really discussed the famous cabal since the ascent of Good luck. Did they go a-hiding?

Nice one, SS!

NakedSha said...

I'm glad I left a comment on the first part of this issue.

But, IphyIgboGurl said it best:

'FACE fear FACE!'

LOL. I love you Nigeria, even though sometimes our relationship is tough love!!!


@ Nmachi: Thank you for starting the conversation and your point about the cabal is what I had to leave unsaid, but I'm so glad you raise it. If Jonathan cannot stare down FIFA, are we to expect him to stare down the very powerful interests who are set on maintaining Nigeria's status quo? Or, is this just an indication that he is one of that group?

Nobody won this battle, in my opinion, but Nigeria comes out the bigger loser in the long run, unfortunately. It will be interesting to see what if anything Jonathan does to rectify things.

Hope all is well.

@ Nakedsha: "Face fear face". Too true. Iphyigbourl should trademark that and slap it on tshirts. Naija folks will buy it up.

And as for the relationship with naija, I hear you. But what can we do? We can't turn our backs because that is what has led to much of the rot we see today.

How are things?

Anonymous said...

Thanks for this. Just seeing thru the politics of it

- Yosh from Twitter

Beauty said...

SOLOMONSYDELLE, truth or dare? Does this help the fact that Nigerian and African leaders make stupid announcements without follow through? But wait a minute. Did they think it through in the first place? Show me a strategy that is not work in progress in Africa? Fifa is already on the last phase of the next World Cup, now wonder why it will not be dragged into dirt by a daft President and his advisers. Fifa 1 Ngn -

Olufunke said...

This president Jonathan......I just wonder how much of his turf he can hold.

I remember your post on the budget for the celebration of Nigeria @50, the president as bowed once again to criticism, and has reduced the budget to about half of what he initially said they wanted to spend.

As for FIFA, they keep enjoying being 'the bully' which is not so good.

I learn a lot every time I come here.
Good work

Anonymous said...

Hey, good news from gullak. He has reviewed the ban on Super Eagles. Perhaps after realising he cant play himself.
Nigeria suffered the same fate with Ivory Coast: changing guards at the dying moments. What else does one expect from such a dastardly action?

DrAjao said...

"The NFF on Sunday fired its top two officials and offered an "unreserved apology" for the team's dismal performance in a last-minute bid to reverse Jonathan's directive."
Apparently, Jonathan did announce demands of his own. Nigerian football had fallen to the stage where a ban wasn't looking so bad.
Either way, this shouldn't make him weak. He changed his mind...big deal.

Specimen A said...

LMAO...There was Nothing Cheeky about FIFA Behaviour, FIFA is like a sovereign state on it's own, Nicolas Sarkozy Couldn't Messed with FIFA Let alone GoodLuck(No Insults intended but some countries are called 3rd class countries Cos they are). Goodluck chatting 'Dodo'like he Listened to the Voice of Nigerians all over the world and lifted the Ban...LMAO, Please, he should have Lifted the Ban One Day after the date and then He'll Realize FIFA is Beyond 9ja Politics,He would have seen real Power, Did He ask B4 Banning them??? Bonkers.
And I'm Not a Football Fan or Anything, I hardly Watch it, But no Way Can We Say Nobody Won, FIFA WON, Hands Down.
But it's Aight, I'm Sure GoodLuck has more pressing Issue to Attend too.

CodLiverOil said...

How did FIFA lose? They got what they wanted the president to rescind his declaration.

What you said is true, Jonathan should have demanded what specific steps the NFF would take to remedy the situation and to account for the money that had been channeled their way. You are right, he could then have turned round to FIFA and told them to not be too hasty, and then worked something out behind the scene. Saving face is very important, in
Asia great importance is attached to it.

Question is who is the presidential adviser(s) ? Why are they not doing their job properly? Or did Jonathan decide to not consult them in the first instance. Either way, questions are cast upon his decision making and his ability to think things through.

He was right to signal that things couldn't go on as before, but like many things the Nigerian government is involved with, it was mishandled. This mismanagement of issues, is a carry over from Yar'Adua's days, it seems Jonathan is determined to carry on this tradition.

tooth whitening said...

While I appreciate GJ's decision to choose not to be stubborn in the face of common sense, the whole episode makes me question his judgment as a leader.

tooth whitening said...

Did they think it through in the first place? Show me a strategy that is not work in progress in Africa? Fifa is already on the last phase of the next World Cup, now wonder why it will not be dragged into dirt by a daft President and his advisers.thanks..

tooth whitening said...

I agree with you and you are right, he could then have turned round to FIFA and told them to not be too hasty, and then worked something out behind the scene.thanks..

tooth whitening said...

I think your post is very nice and great thanks..

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