DEAR stakeholders, I welcome you to this all-important meeting, which I do with subdued excitement. My excitement is subdued today not because we have not had a few successes in our football development, but because these successes have been diminished by recent losses and happenings in the world of football.
We have gone from a football-loving nation to a nation that needlessly squabbles over football. We now showcase more of our disagreements and discordant tunes in football than the talents and skills that should be displayed in this game. Nigerians and the world have taken note and tough questions that require urgent answers are being asked. There is no better place to provide these answers than here in this assembly, this morning.
My dear stakeholders of the once beautiful game in Nigeria, I will be shying away from the truth if I say everything is right with our football. Previous Annual General Meetings (AGM) have been too ordinary by simply accepting what the Federation thinks it has achieved. But, like a cancerous wound, the problems that the Board should have solved, keep festering so much so that our football is in a coma. Some have even taken the less optimistic stance of declaring that Nigeria’s football is dead. So, let us forget some of the pyrrhic feats we have achieved especially when they have not translated into growth.
The crux of this speech is to spur you into finding solutions that will grow this game to be in sync with what we have in other football-loving nations. I am confident that this is achievable because this Board had brought great initiatives to football administration: sponsorships, a robust domestic league and a promising football atmosphere. But these have not been sustained even though they are sustainable. What are the reasons? They are not far- fetched.
No country’s football can grow without a predictable and credible FOOTBALL CALENDAR that is binding on everyone. The essence of having a football calendar is to ensure that the corporate world can plan with it. No blue-chip firm operates based on hunches. Everything is planned with dates and milestones. No company will wait for NFF to wake up from its slumber to include them in their plans. Do not forget that firms have to account for investors’ money they use for business. Such firms will only do business with organizations that are accountable; not the ones that are bogged down in controversies. If we must tell ourselves the truth, ACCOUNTABLITY is the soul of any business concern.
The BAD IMAGE at all levels of our football, including the organizers of the domestic league cannot attract sponsorship, which is the biggest hub of business. In the eyes of the Nigerian public, the perception that NFF and Nigerian football is CORRUPT is rife. I have had cause in the past to speak on how perception is everything and the perception around the NFF is not one that will court new partners and sponsors for the Federation.
Even though many of the allegations have not been proven, the atmosphere around football is polluted on account of the negative perception of corruption and we must move quickly to sanitize this. Agreed, the stigma of corruption in NFF predates the present Board, hence the need for proper accountability and transparency going forward because we must move quickly to change this toxic perception.
Being the speech by the Minister of Youth and Sports Development, Sunday Dare, at the Annual General meeting of the Nigerian Football Federation in Benin City, Edo State on 17th December 2019.