Sunday, November 8, 2009
Dear Honorable Minister, Prof.(Mrs) Dora Akunyili (OFR),
Let me start by expressing my gratitude to God for making it possible for someone of your moral leaning to have a place in our government.At NAFDAC you risked your life to cleanse our society of the menace of fake drugs, and when you were elevated to the status of Minister,you immediately started the noble campaign of changing the image of our country for good through rebranding: The pay off "Good People, Great Nation" can hardly be better phrased.Unfortunately, some segments of our society do not seem to be working in tandem with your vision - as events in our football sector,for instance, would suggest.
Last week,a Nigerian Mr Adokiye Amiesimaka wrote in a national daily that the captain of our current Under-17 team,the Golden Eaglets, was a player in his team Sharks Football Club of Port-Harcourt (feeder team) as far back as 2003 and at that time had given his age as 18.The player even featured in a match against our national Under-20 team the Flying Eagles at that time.This implies that the player cannot possibly be an under 17 boy in 2009.Many other people who do not have the courage of Adokiye to go public have made similar insinuations on some other members of the Eaglets team.
Honorable Minister,this allegation was made right in the course of the current FIFA Under-17 tournament which Nigeria is hosting.This means all the participating countries are aware of it,and consequently our dear country is now under the spotlight. The whole world is watching to see what the response of our authorities will be. Madam, your noble rebranding effort is, on account of this case, under the scrutiny of the entire international community! It therefore cannot be swept under the carpet.
I can hear you say that the Nigeria Football Federation (NFF) is there to deal with it, and I agree. Only that the initial response from the Federation's head of technical department Mr Taiwo Ogunjobi got me even more worried.He completely ignored the very specific allegations made by Adokiye, preferring rather to pour invectives on the former Chief Justice of Rivers State, while hiding under the alibi of FIFA's MRI test. I fervently pray that this does not mirror the official position of the Federation.
For the avoidance of doubt Ma', the primary responsibility of ensuring that players used in this and other age-grade tournaments is not FIFA's, but that of the home FAs (in the case the NFF). FIFA only conducts secondary tests to try and ensure that the home FA has done her job well. The MRI is therefore not an excuse for the NFF to abandon her responsibilities.The Nigerian government voted over N8 billion of taxpayers' money for this tournament aimed at exposing the best kid footballers under the age of 17,and the NFF had the responsibility of picking Nigeria's best kids to benefit from this exposure.
Secondly Ma', I have realised that some of our compatriots either do not understand what patriotism is, or deliberately twist its meaning to suit their selfish ends (you may wish to refer to the various arguements on the CBN's cleansing of the Banking sector as an example). I affirm that the point of patriotism in this case is not whether Adokiye made his revelations while the FIFA tournament was ongoing or not, but whether it is indeed true that we are using overaged players and causing public funds to be wasted on the wrong targets.
And thirdly,I wish to remind you Ma' that the suspected widespread use of overaged players in this competition in the past has denied Nigeria the benefits of the huge financial investments that government has made since 1985: We continue to win and win at under 17 level,yet less than 1% of these players ever progress to make a lasting impact in our senior National Team.The true under 17 boys continue to be denied their rightful opportunities year after year, while our senior National Team is today constantly struggling (remember that Adokiye combined football with academics and excelled in both with flying colours - which means genuine under-17s can excel if given the opportunity).
Good People do not cheat, and a Nation of liers cannot be Great.
The NFF is therefore duty-bound to speedily investigate Adokiye's allegations, and follow up with either of two actions: Admit that they (NFF) were incompetent and apologise to Nigerians and the whole world, or sue Adokiye for tarnishing the image of this country if his allegations were found to be false. If within the next two weeks,there is no visible action by the NFF, I will have to count on you Madam, to defend the Nigeria brand by doing everything within your powers to get the NFF to do the right thing.
Thank you, and God Bless Nigeria.
I remain the,
cc: Hon.Minister of Youth and Sports