Triumph of due process

By IAfrica
In Nigeria
Jul 22nd, 2014
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• That is what FIFA’s lifting of its suspension on Nigeria is 

Just as well FIFA, the global football governing body, on July  18 lifted the ban it imposed on Nigeria, for attempting to torpedo the Aminu Maigari-led Nigerian Football Federation (NFF), despite the country’s knowledge of the provisions of Article 12 of the FIFA Statutes.

This latest Nigerian comeuppance might be in football. But the attempt to pull down a legally constituted body is an unsavoury metaphor for the overwhelming executive lawlessness in the local polity. The big difference here was that FIFA was there to insist on the sanctity of its own laws; and took effective action to defend and preserve it.

On the local plane, however, it is arch-guardians of the law that do not think twice before subverting it for immediate political — or even partisan — expediency. It is the Achilles heel of Nigerian delicate democracy — if what is ongoing could be so called, especially when the sanctity of laws is the subject.

Just as the attempted dissolution of the Maigari-led NFF Board is a piquant metaphor for executive lawlessness, the sudden hero-turned-villain odyssey of the board is another metaphor for the quicksand transition from heroism to villainy, that is well and truly Nigerian.

The Maigari board won the FIFA U-17 World Cup, took a pack of near-rookies to South Africa to win the African Cup of Nations (AFCON), qualified Nigeria for the Brazil World Cup, all in 2013; and made a respectable third placing in the Championship of African Nations (CHAN) in the same South Africa in 2014.

Yet, it took perhaps a change of minister — and, of course, brouhaha over money in Brazil — to demonise the same hitherto high flying board, to merit instant dissolution, even if what, in the public space, are nothing but allegations, with no guilt proven in a court of competent jurisdiction.

This line of argument does not, in any way, justify or tolerate sleaze, if any case of such is proven. If the Maigari board is guilty of sleaze, by all means let the hammer fall.

But no serious nation tries its best NFF board for many seasons on the basis of allegations; and on the emotive basis of such allegations, go ahead to find it guilty, dissolve the board, and threaten its members with prosecution.

In serious climes, prosecution ought to come first, solid case proved, conviction safe in the bag, before dissolution follows. Indeed, even before that process runs its course, the guilty party would have honourably quit.

That brings the matter to the FIFA intervention and comeuppance. It is tribute to Nigeria’s penchant for impunity that the National Sports Commission (NSC) would feel FIFA is obliged to wave its rules, accept its NFF roasting as manifest goodness and put the Maigari board to the sword — even if Nigeria is only one of the 209 FIFA member-countries; and the other 208 members are expected to play by FIFA rules! It is good that FIFA, with no less devastation, has woken the NSC up from its reverie.

There is, of course, the emotive argument that since NSC funds NFF, it has a right of life and death over it. But the little discomfort is that NSC freely subscribed to the FIFA statutes, the moment its proxy, NFF, opted to join the FIFA family. Besides, NSC does not exist in the FIFA radar. So, if you are no member of a club, how can you, in all good conscience, badger the laws of that club and expect to have your way?

If NSC has a strong case against the Maigari NFF, let it marshal its case; and present such before the NFF congress. If the evidence is sound and the case is overwhelming, the congress would do the needful, without disrupting an already unstable football governing environment.

Let this be the last time the Nigerian government would embarrass Nigeria in FIFA court only to back down. Such all-muscle-no-brain tactics contribute nothing to the progress of the game, or earn Nigeria the respect it deserves in the global football community.

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