By Godwin Bamigboye.

This year 2023 is an electioneering year. Nigeria’s general elections held recently and we have been enmeshed with the outcomes of the elections. It has come and gone but the effects of the elections are still palpable as post election litigations have become the order of the day. I guess the litigations are numerous because that is the next only legitimate option that the litigants have to seek redress and may also have been orchestrated by the electoral umpire’s (phrase), “Go to Court”.

In the Football circle, we are proudly a sector that is representative of Nigeria in terms of unity, positive youth engagement and empowerment, peace, prosperity and the instrument for our global image or perception. Let me not be too academic about the Football Family in Nigeria. As important as the Family is to Nigeria as a country, it is rather unfortunate that deliberately or ignorantly, most Managers of this all important sector (Football) have a myopic perception of the influence of this “Ordinary Round Leather” (⚽). Hmmmmmmm.

Do you know one unfortunate thing? Everybody seem to be gravitating towards the management of the game. “Money and popularity dey there ooo. O boy, make I go try my luck there oo. My luck fit shine”. I guess you all understand the quoted pidgin English. The game of Football in Nigeria has been invaded by opportunists, gate crashers, politicians without passion for the game and others. They have become like foxes that destroy the vineyard. They are like locusts that wastes the crops in the farmlands. They are like cogs in the wheels of progress and development. I guess I am not sounding angry? If it looks like that, let me pause and focus on the topical issue. It is no longer news that the Nigeria (Football) Referees Association (NRA) are set for the election of their national leaders this weekend. The Societies and Councils held their elections earlier. Let me not forget to inform us that other affiliates of the Football Family especially the Nigeria Football Coaches Association (NFCA) are working towards the election of their national officers soon. We have heard about election of leaders of Coaches holding at Societies, Councils and State Associations, all geared towards the national elections. My regret is for the MOST important arm of the Football Family, the Player’s Union who have been riddled with crises created, magnified and orchestrated both INTERNALLY and EXTERNALLY. Invariably, with the situation of things, the Player’s Union has no election to hold. What should be paramount in their agenda is Peace and Conflict Resolution. I believe they will get there. They will come to agreement, consolidate and build a more virile body.

The Referees are getting set or set for their national elections. As will be expected, the “gladiators” (contenders) will traverse the length and breadth, nooks and crannies of the geographical space called Nigeria to get their endorsements for the positions they are vying for. We shall witness intrigues in various sizes and shapes. However it goes, let the leadership emerge credibly. I expect the arbiters of the game of Football to uphold fairness, credibility and fair play which are cardinal principles for the whistle handlers. I expect nothing less from their leadership recruitment process.

Recently, the media was rife with an allegation that the President of the Nigeria Football Federation (NFF), Ibrahim Musa Gusau had summoned a meeting of the Referees Northern caucus or representatives for a meeting in Kano for the purpose of adoption of a preferred candidate for the office of President of the Nigeria (Football) Referees Association (NRA). I was quite disturbed by this development and I wanted to reach out to the NFF President to advise him to avoid direct involvement in the elections of any of the affiliate bodies. While I was contemplating this action, I read another story from the NFF President debunking his involvement in the purported meeting in Kano. I heaved a sigh of relief. I also read that the meeting was at the instance of a board member who might have used the name of the NFF President as a bait for Referees of Northern Nigeria extraction to gravitate towards the adoption of a “preferred” candidate. If at this stage, a member of the Nigeria Football Family can call an affiliate body and dictate to them, it is most unfortunate. I am aware that the NRA have highly cerebral and professional individuals answering different nomenclature like Professor, Doctor, Barrister, Colonel, Rev. Father, etc. If, for example, my ordinary self called Godwin Bamigboye see myself in a position where I can easily reach out to members of the Football Family with the intent to influence them to do a thing that is not within my constitutional or statutory responsibility, I am indeed an interloper and opportunist with negative tendencies. If the calibre of people in the NRA will allow their consciences to be swayed against their collective resolve, they should do an assessment of themselves. Whatever, the Referees collectively agree upon should therefore be immutable.

Elder Daniel Oloko, Sani Zubairu, FIFA rtd and Suleiman Usman Omeiza, Phd are contenders for the exalted office of President, Nigeria (Football) Referees Association (NRA). The three contenders are eminently qualified to occupy that office. Let the collective will of the Referees prevail. That’s Fair Play.

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