Amaju Pinnick is on the loose. The NFF a Nigerian institution that he has turned into farmland is about to be taken away from him and like a child whose ice cream is taken away by the parents. Amaju is throwing tantrums and recruiting hands to attack anyone he thinks conspired to deny him a third time.
The day of reckoning cometh soon and no amount of orchestrated attacks can stop that. The garrulous Amaju has come unhinged: arrogant, rude, cocky, egoistic and a narcissist. Many of his associates have abandoned him because of his selfish nature. Now he has chosen to confront Nigeria and he is sparing no one from President Muhammadu Buhari, to the Sports Minister Sunday Dare and all those he thinks denied him a third term in office.
He has found in Fred Edoreh a vermin posturing as a reformer. An individual with a lurid past. Through Fred we proverbial hand and voice of Esau and Jacob. Remember how that biblical encounter ended? It shall be no different.
Back to Fred Edoreh. A Yoruba adage says ona ofun, ona orun ni which loosely translates to mean the way of the throat is the way to heaven and on that premise, it is difficult to come too hard on Fred Edoreh for conjuring his latest diatribe which he titled ‘Sunday Dare And The Facade Of Nigeria Football Reforms’. While his bileful tirade has understandably evoked irritability and vexation from stakeholders who genuinely desire reforms in Nigerian football, for those who know him, this has deepened their sense of pity for a man who has sunk irredeemably into treachery for the survival of his lungs.
Honestly, Edoreh is such an inconsequential figure to attract rejoinder from anyone that is close to the personalities he attacked in his concoction but it is apparent that this is a question of the voice of Jacob, the hands of Esau. We have shattered the veil and see through the identities of drowning individuals who contracted the writer to do for them a hatchet job. Because of their treacherous minds, they will be nodding their heads in affirmation of ‘a good job’ their errand boy has delivered again.
The resort to insults and name-calling as well as a patent disregard for the truth seemed to indicate desperation on the part of the errand boy and his principals rather than a desire for objective critical analysis as a contribution to our quest for development in the sports sector.
It is nauseating the way he opened his infantile article with descriptions of Nigerian football icons including legendary Segun Odegbami ‘as a few retired functionaries of our sports who have been unable to get on to different life.’
If not selective amnesia what do we call what Edoreh is suffering from when he garbed Odegbami with such insolent description?
Edoreh cannot claim to be oblivious of the fact that it is hard to see a retired footballer who has had an incredible post-career life as much as Odebami who has continued to break the ceiling not only in sports administration but media, international relations and even politics.
You are referring to an individual who made a success of TV production and presentation and as a columnist of repute with works appearing in major newspapers in Nigeria; he has continued to shape the narratives of the sector in the country with informed commentaries stemming from a genuine interest in the growth of the sector he sacrificed his youth for.
Edoreh, in a desperate bid to satisfy his paymasters, carpeted an icon who has had his hands on many pies including running for the Governorship of his Ogun State and who has been an employer of labour through the establishment of a football academy and now a sports radio station. It is needless to recap the sojourn of this legendary icon on the football pitch, he remains arguably the best ever player to wear the green white jersey of Nigeria.
Edoreh raised a number of issues in his toxic concoction but before those matters are decisively dealt with, it will be a disservice to this piece if the purveyor of such bile is not dissected at least a bit. Bird of a feather flock together, so, it is not surprising he is hobnobbing with individuals who have been accused of milking our football dry with the penchant for embezzlement and misappropriation of funds because as the secretary and later Chairman of the Sports Writers Association of Nigeria, Lagos State chapter Edoreh’s reign was marked by lack of transparency in financial dealings.
He was accused of not tendering records of accounts on rents he collected on offices and halls in the association’s building located at the National Stadium, Lagos just as he couldn’t be washed clean of allegations of collecting monies from sponsors and collaborators without accountability. Rents were reportedly paid into his personal accounts with no traces up till now.
He fell out with his successor Debo Oshundun who came with reforms and stopped to stop the leakages within the system. Edoreh is today at the heart of the crisis currently rocking the state chapter of SWAN. He is being used by the National President of SWAN Honour Sirawo to perpetrate confusion within the ranks of the association. It is hard to blame him; he has no verifiable means of livelihood, for more than one decade now, Edoreh does not have a particular media organisation he works for, he lives on SWAN and his own ‘blackmail business’. He is a typical example of what Yoruba call “arije nibi madaru’ which means the one who feeds from confusion.
It is needless to listen to the vituperation of a drowning man but when his message is conveyed by a frustrated vessel this comes with a double tragedy.
The trigger for Edoreh’s latest jibe was the decision of the ministry of sports headed by Sunday Dare to withdraw its recognition of the League Management Company as a body with the responsibility to run the Nigerian league. Relying on the pronouncement of a competent court and intense perusal of legal documents granting the LMC the perpetual right to run the property, the Federal Government discovered infractions which necessitated it to compel the Nigeria Football Federation to set up an Interim Management Committee to run the affairs of the league pending the composition of a proper league body.
It’s been nine years since the incorporation of the LMC to oversee the running of the Nigeria Professional Football League but there is no gainsaying the fact that it has grossly failed to live up to its fullest potential and remains mired in incompetence and uncertainty. Concerns like stadium violence, poor welfare for players and match officials, an arbitrary football calendar, and fiscal corruption have not only stripped the league of colour and value but have over time driven away sponsors and investors.
Edoreh mentioned some of the problems bedevilling the league and he instead blamed everyone except his paymasters whose jobs are to steer the game back to the process of growth and profitability.
Instead of solving the problems, they have compounded the woes with crass incompetence and more dangerously financial malfeasance.
He was trying to defend his paymasters for his inability to have the league matches shown on television, Edoreh did not only direct accusing fingers at the minister, but he also lampooned even all the broadcast stations in the country when in actual fact his principal inherited a league with TV right holder. Is it compulsory for TV’s right owner to be an indigenous company, even though both Bundesliga and La Liga do not have wholly indigenous companies as the official broadcasters of their property? DAZN is a company founded in London, the United Kingdom but it is a joint owner of the rights for these two elite leagues.
In 2013, the league signed a five-year deal with Supersport to show two NPFL matches every weekend. The five-year deal, which was to kickstart at the commencement of the 2015 season, amounted to a reported $8.5 million annually.
That deal was supposed to be the start of the new dawn of the league, with the television package expected to increase visibility and attractiveness. This continued for years until 2017 when the naira’s fortunes took a downturn. Consequently, Supersport resolved to renegotiate the terms of the contract, so as to pay in naira. Failing to reach a compromise, the deal suffered premature death.
To legally pull out of the deal, Supersport cited breach of contract on the part of LMC and pulled out of the deal following allegations of funds mismanagement, embezzlement and lack of accountability.
Despite receiving millions of dollars annually from Supersports between 2015 and 2017, the LMC was unable to adequately develop and standardize the NPFL so as to make it attractive to fans and brands. The unattractiveness of the league and poor governance culture also ensured that the league is without a title sponsor today despite the fact that Shehu Dikko-led LMC inherited one. They fraternised with the idea of unbundling the sponsorship and got some companies on board including the Nigerian Breweries but ran away before the ink on the signed contract paper dried having realize that there were hawks running the LMC.
Attempts by the LMC to seal the TV deal was also frustrated by allegation and counter-allegation of breach of contract and embezzlement.
Two years after the collapse of the Supersport deal, the LMC in 2019 entered into a commercial rights agreement with Next Digital Broadcasting. The deal, said to be worth $225 million, b less than a year into the five-year deal that commenced in November 2019, the rights were sold to Redstrike Media Nigeria in the most controversial manner which prompted Next Digital, which had already issued the payment of $300,000 to the LMC as signature fee and negotiation guarantee, to institute a legal suit against NPFL for a breach of contract and seeking N7 billion in damages.
It is important to underline that despite attracting some sizeable sponsorships the effect is not felt by the clubs as they were not given a dime by the LMC for a long period of time. For instance, no winners of the league have received any prize money since 2016, when Rangers International won the NPFL.
It is pertinent to ask Edoreh and his ilks if truly a responsible government should fold its hand and watch some unscrupulous elements to completely wreck a national treasure like football without doing anything.
Edoreh was correct when he said both Tobi Amusan and Ese Brume were elite athletes before the ascension of Dare to office in 2019 and he also alluded to the fact that they were not the world beaters we know them to be today. Expectedly, he didn’t underline the effort of the government to push these athletes to the point where they can fully realise their potential. Just very few people can bet against the fact that the result we have seen today is a product of the Adopt-A-Talent programme vigorously pursued by Minister Dare. In what is unprecedented in the country, the ministry under the stewardship of Dare came up with a model that saw the ministry going out to make a pitch on behalf of the athletes. A governor adopted almost 10 of them, and companies who have regained confidence in the system adopted teams and spirited individuals also bought into the scheme.
It is such a successful scheme because the athletes do not need to be worried about how to secure funds to run their daily lives, they are getting a huge chunk to support themselves through this scheme and it meant they dedicated more time to training and less period for other engagements. The result of that is what we have seen with Amusan, Brume, Blessing Oborodudu and the rest of the champions.
Challenges inherited by this government are enormous as enumerated by Edoreh; infrastructural gap, acute lack of equipment, and the rest but the challenge with him is that he decided to blind his eyes to the concerted efforts made by the current administration to address these issues. He is very well aware of the ongoing attempt to revamp the National Stadium, Lagos which had been abandoned for more than 19 years and the new look the Moshood Abiola Stadium is wearing as a result of recent intervention through the minister.
It is also on record that for the first time, the President reclassified sports as a business under the National Development Plan, the 2021 – 2025 National Development Plan approved last year. A whopping N88billion was allocated for sports, and N60billion for youths in the next four years under the scheme.
Edoreh, you may not know, apart from the recently-launched 10-Year Football Master Plan, the ministry has concluded a plan to submit a new draft for the National Sports Industry Policy that has a business model built into our sports with three triggers namely Infrastructure, Investment and Incentive. This model is geared towards galvanising the infrastructure base through the renovation of the existing ones and the building of new structures. The scheme is to also stimulate investment that will guarantee incentives which will attract investors to the sector. The minister, with the same zeal and commitment he has shown in the delivery of other schemes, will ensure he lays the solid foundation for the policy so as to secure the future of the generations unborn.
The minister has continually demonstrated his capacity not to quake under undue existential pressure and blackmail from the likes of Edoreh and his masters; I trust he will be resolute in his desire not only to rid our sports of vultures who are hell-bent on milking it dry but put the sector on the trajectory that will lead to its survival and ultimately make it the envy of the world in the foreseeable future.
. Bello Makarfi is a lawyer and football stakeholder.