By Fred Edoreh
A recent statement released by Chris Giwa group on the NFF dispute as signed by Victor Iroele, its Media Officer, can only, at best, be described as a gabble of puerile distortions and illogic. It accused some Nigerians of instigating the world football governing body to ban Nigeria while it also insisted that FIFA must recognise the Nigerian laws and courts by which Chris Giwa is assuming the leadership of the Nigeria Football Federation. It also particularly berated a sports journalist, Kisu Sulola, for asking President Gianni Infantino his thoughts on the situation in Nigeria.
To start with, it is low and nonsensical to suggest that a journalist, in the course of her job, is instigating FIFA by merely asking the right question on a dispute affecting her country.
No matter the foolhardiness with which we spin technicalities to delude ourselves, it is common knowledge that FIFA governs international football through its universal statutes and Code of Ethics, that affiliation to FIFA is by the free volition of nations who sign to abide by the well known Statutes and codes before they are accepted as members, and no nation is forced into membership as, indeed, they are countries that are not members of FIFA.
The FIFA rules par democratic principles for elections, the unacceptability of government and third party interference in the administration of its member football federations, and the prohibition of recourse to regular courts of individual nations on football matters EXCEPT where so particularly approved by FIFA, are clear and universally applicable. FIFA Statutes provides FIFA Courts, Appeals Committee and the Court of Arbitration for Sports for stakeholders to seek redress.
Contravention of the provisions with the kind of arguments being canvassed by the Giwa group and the Minister of Sports, Solomon Dalung, amounts to sticking ones finger into the anus and asking the nose if it smells.
As Infantino stated in his response to Sulola, the provisions are clear and so are the consequences for violation. It is pitiably disingenuous therefore to suggest that FIFA has to be prodded to take action against the serial infraction of its statutes and codes.
From the onset of the dispute, FIFA made clear that it does not accept an election in which violence is wantonly done to its democratic processes as was obvious by the interference of the sports ministry and the DSS on the elective congress of August 26, 2014, from which Giwa is claiming victory.
On that day, while members of the congress gathered at Chida Hotel, Abuja, awaiting then President of the NFF, Aminu Maigari, to declare the congress open, the Directorate of State Security arrested him and the Secretary General, which action prevented Maigari who was re-contesting, from presenting himself for the election and also from performing his function as the Presiding Officer of the congress.
Under that circumstance, the congress members resolved to pull out but the Minister of Sports proceeded to supervise an election on his own terms with mostly non congress members who remained behind at Chida Hotel. It was from this violent process that Giwa emerged.
Of course, FIFA rejected that shamble and directed that the congress should reconvene to fix another date for a proper election. It was this second election held on September 30, 2014, supervised and endorsed by CAF and FIFA, that Amaju Pinnick emerged.
Seeing FIFA’s rejection of the shameful orchestration on August 26 and call for another election, the Giwa group went to the Federal High Court, Jos, to obtain an injunction to stop the September 30 election. It has been argued and established in court that the injunction was not properly served on the NFF leadership and the congress, and that they were in order to have proceeded.
Giwa has thenceforth been dragging the NFF through the regular courts and had, on the strength of that, attempted, severally, to forcefully take over the secretariat. FIFA has also always threatened ban on Nigeria on each such occasion until he vacated. When prevailed upon, they applied to withdraw the case from court and it was accordingly dismissed. He has approached FIFA for recognition but lost. He thereafter enrolled an appeal at the Court of Arbitration for Sports and also lost.
There was calm for about two years until the appointment of Solomon Dalung as Minister of Sports when the Giwa group returned to court to re-list the case, with Dalung encouraging him with the argument that Nigeria football is still regulated by Decree 101 and, therefore absolutely subject to Nigerian courts and the dictates of his ministry, as against FIFA statutes. This is how we arrived at the present situation in which Giwa is assuming control of the NFF through an exparte order of the Jos court.
Interestingly, in May 2018, Giwa wrote to FIFA praying again for recognition. FIFA, in its response in June, restated its position on the two elections: that it recognizes the September 30 elections which produced Pinnick; that the August 26 election which produced Giwa flouted its Statutes for government and third party interference; that Giwa has had his days in FIFA courts and Appeals Committee as well as at the CAS which are the only institutions recognized by it; that Giwa’s recourse to the regular courts violates its Statutes and Code of Ethics. FIFA also reminded Giwa that he is on extended ban for these infractions.
Clearly, this dispute is not strange to FIFA. From the onset, it has rejected the Giwa election, threatened ban on Nigeria should Giwa force his way into the NFF, and placed a ban on him for undermining its statutes and codes through recourse to regular courts. It is therefore a useless indulgence in self deceit to suggest that FIFA is being instigated, just as it remains self delusory to imagine that Giwa and Minister Dalung’s shadow-boxing at home here can intimidate FIFA to compromise its universal principles. If any thing, it is dangerously unpatriotic to knowingly want to bring Nigeria into odium by presenting the nation as an irresponsible member of the international community, as the present circumstance portray.
To make it clearer, FIFA has not said that Nigeria’s Minister of Sports with Giwa as his NFF President cannot purchase and distribute footballs through the 774 local governments and organise domestic competitions for citizens to play, nor that Nigeria cannot freely administer football through its own decrees nor adjudicate football matters through its regular courts, as it may please. What FIFA is saying is, as you freely do so, you seize to be its affiliate and a partaker in all its known competitions, activities and processes. This simple order of choice should not cause any argument. As you make your bed, so you lie on it, and…the world moves on.