The controversy among the NFF, NPFL, GIWA FC and their principals is indeed the stuff of dramas. The entire unending episode has not failed to keep followers of Nigerian football bemused and, unfortunately, saddened. The tussle for leadership of the helm of affairs of the National Football body threatens to leave in tatters, the remainder of the clothings of the beautiful round leather game. This crisis has spiralled down to the NPFL and the current 2015/2016 season is in serious jeopardy, needing salvaging at this point.
Nigerian football, specifically the NPFL, has been faced with an integrity and identity crisis in the past and under the supervision of the League Management Company (LMC) led by Shehu Dikko, the league has been getting rave reviews and receiving lots of positive attention of recent. Now fans troop to stadia across the country to watch their darling teams play and away wins are now a possibility, albeit rare. Generally, the local league has been on a high.
It was however shocking to fans and stakeholders when on August 17, Giwa FC was reinstated back into the league. Giwa FC had been duly suspended from the league in May after they missed 3 consecutive games (against Wikki Tourists, Akwa United and Enyimba FC) without any tenable reason.
This was a clear violation of the NPFL Rules and Framework. For the LMC this was an apparent double standard regardless of the reason behind the shift. The only other club to be suspended from the league was Ocean Boys in 2012. Such double standards appear not to be far-fetched.
Low measures were seen at the start of the current season when clubs which had failed to fulfill their financial responsibilities (sign-on fees & salaries) to their players were still permitted to partake in the league, even after the LMC had threatened to prevent such teams from participating in the current season.
Ironically, Giwa FC, the team at the centre of the current NPFL imbroglio was the first among a handful of teams to complete all their payments to their players.
When FIFA threatened to ban Nigeria from international football if the order of the Jos Federal High Court nullifying the election of former Delta State FA Chairman Amaju Pinnick as NFF Chairman was followed, we assumed there was respite in sight for Nigerian football since the controversial NFF elections on 30th September 2014 in Warri.
However the warring parties claiming rights to the throne of the Glass House, viz Amaju Pinnick and Chris Giwa have refused to put down their swords. Their fight has unarguably thrown Nigeria’s entire footballing arena into disarray.
A ban from the Amaju Pinnick-led NFF on Chris Giwa and his 4 cohorts for 5 years from all footballing activities in the country, a subsequent upholding of the same ban by CAF, and a counter-ban by Chris Giwa on Amaju Pinnick and 7 others for 7 years, makes the entire series too comical a show to be real.
But it’s actually real!
Discordant court rulings have not helped matters as both sparring factions have one legal document or the other giving them the impetus to act the way they are. The decision by the LMC to reinstate Giwa FC was in-fact in compliance with a court order mandating the LMC to draft the team back into the league. This singular act has thrown several spanners into the wheels of the slowly grinding NPFL machine and several questions arise, requiring answers.
Seeing that Giwa FC might be made to play the outstanding 12 matches which they missed after the ill-fated match against Rangers in Jos on April 17, when will the league now end? Previous seasons had been fraught with disturbances and stoppages that meant the league concluded months after they were scheduled to end.
The 2015/2016 season itself began in February and was billed to come to an end in October. But, with the Giwa FC matter yet to subside, the conclusion of the league doesn’t seem to be in sight yet.
The reason Giwa FC refused playing their home matches in Ilorin after they were banished from Jos was because the owner of the club refused the club from abiding by the measures adopted by the NFF Disciplinary Committee, an arm of the NFF under the leadership of his fierce rival Pinnick, a man who he considered an illegal occupant of the NFF’s No. 1 position.
Pinnick is still in charge of the NFF that supervises the NPFL. Will Chris Giwa now allow his boys rejoin the league? Won’t this be a double-standard too, considering that it was basically for this same reason that Giwa FC was suspended from the league? This is left to be seen in the coming weeks.
If Giwa FC continue in the league, why did Chris Giwa, in the first place, allow his truancy affect the fortunes of a club that barely missed out on a continental ticket last season but now lies at the bottom of the league log? It’s a pity that the Plateau chief cannot separate his personal ambition from his business.
Giwa FC have secured the services of a new coach in anticipation of their return to the league. Gbenga Ogunbote, their former coach, has since joined the Oluyole Warriors (3SC) who are in a fair 13th place position, after 31 games (although Shooting Stars are a mere 3 points above the drop zone).
The players of the club, who were left without a club, were sent on loan to other clubs in the NPFL pending the completion of the season after which they would return to Giwa FC. But, no thanks to recent developments, the clubs have been ordered not to feature such players for the remainder of the season.
Most of these players are already on a contract with their new clubs and their exclusion from the teams might mean they wouldn’t get their salaries. With the current unsavoury state of players being owed months of salaries and sign-on fees, this new development doesn’t do any good to the image of the local league.
Is the NPFL in trouble?
Just when I thought the league was climbing up the ladder with those away wins that were recorded, some instances of violence still surfaced. The likes of Ifeanyi Uba FC, MFM & Kano Pillars had to be fined and banned heavily following crowd trouble.
Referees are still almost being intimidated by the shouting home fans, or the fear of a reprisal attack, into being favourable to the home teams. Away clubs are now more wary of securing wins for fear of irate home fans descending on them. Combined together, all these rob lovers of the game of the beauty of watching the game; live at the stadium or on television. Although security has improved in and around match venues in the country, the fact that such violence still occurs is a cause for concern.
For the NPFL adherents who desire the best for Nigerian football, all the shameful and disturbing appearances leave a bitter taste in their mouths. Compared to European leagues, our local league is still ages away from getting to the level of its international counterparts (regardless of the arguments in favour of Nigeria being a developing country, available for presentation).
With the LMC coming into an agreement with the Spanish La Liga on several developmental programmes for the NPFL, and the subsequent tour to Spain, it can only be hoped that this new strive portends great news for our football.
However the reinstatement of Giwa FC while the LMCNPFL was in Spain seems negatively ominous — perhaps we are taking 5 steps forward and 10 steps backward. The sooner Pinnick and Giwa end the tussle between them and come to a gentleman’s agreement, the better for our football, as it is the clash between these 2 juggernauts that threatens to sour our local football’s taste.
What we need is people with love and passion for the game and not selfish people playing politics with something as dear to Nigerians as football. Until we get the right pegs in the right holes, our football will keep going down the drain, moving around in circles, headed for no specific direction.
Photo Credits: Gossip Boyz
Tim Nwaobilo is a poet, writer, OAP, sports presenter and analyst on radio. He has an undying passion for Nigerian football. Tim has a degree in Mechanical Engineering.