Since the days of Alhaji Umaru Dikko who was said to be the most powerful minister during the second Republic under President Shehu Shagari between 1979 and 1983, Nigeria has never experienced any minister who can be said to be an untouchable like we are seeing today. Dikko was minister of transport but he was incharge of virtually everything the NPN government of Shagari got to do, including the importation of rice, most of which found its way into private warehouses. The commodity became so scarce that Nigerians were queuing to buy the little released at exorbitant prices.
That madness however, stopped after the NPN government was overthrown in a bloodless coup by a military junta led by the duo of Muhammadu Buhari and Tunde Idiagbon. Ironically Buhari who championed that crusade is at the head of a civilian government today which has another minister, Solomon Dalung, this one in charge of sports, who seems untouchable despite ruining a major sector of the Nigerian life. Despite the maladministration of Dalung right from the very day he was appointed, and the outcry of public spirited Nigerians who see sports as the only thing helping to cushion the effect of the harsh economy, President Buhari has ignored their call to disengaged Dalung before he finally buries the sports sector. The worst for sports started last year during the federations elections where Dalung, despite the insistence of the International Olympic Committee (IOC) Charter which says that sports federations should be run independent of government (which was however, to support them by provision of annual grants), by way of administration and election, organised a fraudulent election and imposed administrators on them in most cases. Since after the elections last June, most of the sports federations have been engulfed by in-fighting among members and their activities scuttled and future of their athletes put in jeopardy. One of such federations is basketball which is still trying to recover from the insentivity of Dalung. However, in the case of football, which Nigerians follow passionately like religion and rely on to soothe their nerves, it is now seriously threatened because of the mishandling of issues by Dalung unless President Buhari calls him to order. It is like everybody in Nigeria except Dalung and his cohorts knows that Nigeria willingly got affiliated to FIFA and accepted to run her football by the statutes of the world body which abhors government interference in its administration, including election of its officers. When government wanted to intefer in the election of the NFF in 2014, FIFA frowned at it and threatened the country with a ban but the government of Goodluck Jonathan quickly recanted and allowed the NFF to elect its officials by itself. However, the process was truncated by the action of men of the State Security who arrested two key officials of the football house on the day of the Congress. This prompted a mass protest by majority of members of the elective Congress along the streets in Wuse district of Abuja, the federal capital. In their absence, an election was said to have been held which threw up one of the disputing leaders in the lingering crisis, Chris Giwa. FIFA could not take this and handed Nigeria a temporary suspension until an acceptable Congress to elect new officers was held. That was how another Congress was held in Warri, Delta state and Amaju Pinnick was elected. However, before the election, Giwa had go to court to stop the election, despite the position of FIFA on the matter, again after the government had asked him to withdraw the case from the court to allow for an amicable settlement of the dispute. That court order, which was ignored has remained a bone in the neck of the Pinnick led Board which first term expires in a matter of four weeks. Shockingly, Giwa had kept a low profile on the matter until the arrival of Dalung as the sports minister. He, a fellow Plateau man like Giwa, surprisingly resurrected the matter in one of his very first public pronouncements. That was why Giwa had to go back to the Jos High Court for a re-listing of the case. It has remained a ding dong affair between the Pinnick group and Giwa group from the Jos High Court to the Appeal and then Supreme Courts. The interpretation of the various judgments makes Giwa the NFF president sometimes and Pinnick the president at other times. The sports minister believes Giwa is the NFF president while FIFA says it only recognises Pinnick and his group. Variously we have been told how President Buhari told Dalung to stay clear of the NFF crisis or how the acting president, Prof Yemi Osinbajo gave the Pinnick board the go ahead to continue as the recognised NFF. Dalung has, till date, refused to obey any of the instructions, including that passed through the Attorney General and Minister of Justice.
He says he will obey only what the court says because he doesn’t want to go to jail. However, his effort to travel with a motley crowd of 17 persons to talk matters over with FIFA , at the expense of government, was rebuffed by the world body which told him not to bother because they won’t receive him, how much more discuss the issue with him. FIFA has told Nigeria in clear terms that it has given the country up till noon tomorrow to put its house in order or face a worldwide ban. The good thing though, is that the ban will not come immediately. FIFA still needs to meet at a committee level to see how to sanction Nigeria. And that may take a few more days. Before the hammer finally falls however, we are left with no alternative than to appeal to President Buhari to save the country from the embarrassment by stopping the sports minister now.