‘Nigeria parades players’ agents as eagles coaches’

Chief Gabriel Chukwuma.

Chief Gabriel Chukwuma.

For four years, Chief Gabriel Chukwuma was the First Vice President of the Nigeria Football Federation (NFF) under the Alhaji Ibrahim Galadima’s regime. But the proprietor of Gabros Football Club of Nnewi elected to quit the federation during the NFF leadership crisis that eventually brought in Alhaji Sani Lulu as the board’s president in 2006. Fielding questions on the current NFF crisis and the poor state of Nigerian football, Chukwuma suggests how the country’s game would get out of the doldrums. CHRISTIAN OKPARA writes. Excerpts:

What do you think is the problem with Nigerian football, especially, the Super Eagles?
The greatest problem we have is that we don’t have coaches. What we parade are players’ agents in the name of coaches. We need super coaches like we have in other countries of Africa and Europe. We have good coaches in Nigeria, but because of the corrupt system, we cannot make headway. The NFF prefers to appoint those who can do their bidding as coaches, instead of going for people with the right credential.

We have some of the best players in Africa, but the problem is that only those recommended by godfathers or those who can pay their way, get the chance to play for Nigeria. Gabros was successful, because we went for good players and good coaches.

Between 2000 and 2004, some of our players were in the national team and others helped Enyimba to win the CAF Champions League on two occasions. Obinna Nwaneri and Joetex Frimpong were in that Enyimba team. This shows that when you go for the best players you will get good results. We have to do things the right way to succeed.

What do you make of Sunday Oliseh’s complaints against the NFF and his eventual resignation as Super Eagles’ coach?
A failed person has the right to complain. All about his engagement was done out of sentiment. Engaging him in the first place as Super Eagles’ coach was one of the things that brought us to this level. He had no business being in charge of the team in the first place.
Given the opportunity to pick a coach for the Eagles, how will you go about it?

I will first of all get a super coach, who will develop a two-year programme aimed at changing the face of the national team. He will get a four-year contract to do his job without interference.

The two years will be used to build the team and I will help the coach to assemble a young team that will stand any opposition in the world. The players will be selected based solely on their skills.

What is your assessment of the Nigerian League, especially the impact of The League Management Company (LMC) on the competition?
The league has improved tremendously, but there is still room for growth. We need to work on the officiating and the security of officials and fans. But I must commend the leadership of the League Management Company (LMC), because they have done well so far. I believe that with time, they will build an enviable league.

What do you make of the lingering NFF Leadership crisis and how can we get out of it?
The problem is political. I must say that Chris Giwa is right! What he is fighting for is his right. He is a Nigerian, and so, should not be treated like an outcast. He is not my friend, but I stand by the truth. Amaju Pinnick had a good opportunity to resolve the issues, but he ignored it, because of politics. He failed to know that politics is a different ball game when it comes to football management. For example, Giwa had an order from the Federal High Court that the election that brought in Pinnick should not hold, but they quickly organised the election and Pinnick won. They should have dialogued with Giwa and settled out of court. But they did not do that despite the intervention of former President Goodluck Jonathan. He depended on Jonathan’s intervention without bothering to dialogue with Giwa and that is the cause of the problem.

But some people think the issue should have been laid to rest, because Pinnick has done well so far. Moreover, the current NFF leadership has less than two years of its tenure left 
Pinnick has performed well, but unfortunately, a big country like Nigeria, the giant of Africa for that matter, has lost the chance to participate in Africa’s most glamorous competition, the African Nations Cup, on two occasions. And nobody is sure we will make the World Cup.

Enyimba’s Ayalogu (right) challenges Abey Sunday of Sunshine Stars during their recent NPFL match in Akure. Chukwuma says the LMC has done a good job on the league.            PHOTO: LMC.

Enyimba’s Ayalogu (right) challenges Abey Sunday of Sunshine Stars during their recent NPFL match in Akure. Chukwuma says the LMC has done a good job on the league. PHOTO: LMC.

What achievement are we talking about when we could not participate in two Nations’ Cup competitions? The issue is that we don’t know what we are doing. If all Nigerians can face the truth, things will get better. When Pinnick emerged as NFF president, we thought we had gotten what we were looking for. But politics has not allowed him to forge ahead.

Now that FIFA has warned that it would ban Nigeria for dragging the game to an ordinary court, what do we do?
FIFA does not have the right to tell us who will govern our football. They cannot change the law of the land. In Nigeria, nobody, not even the president, is above the law. We cannot use FIFA’s law to run Nigeria. I don’t like this fear that FIFA creates in us every time we have issues in our football. If they ban us, we will accept it and then prepare very well for the future. We have lost the opportunity to participate in two Nations’ Cup competitions and so, what are you saying?

Are you saying that Giwa has what it takes to move Nigerian Football Forward?
What I am saying is that Giwa has a good football club. Anybody who can manage a club successfully is a major stakeholder in Nigerian football. He has something at stake. We have so many experienced people, but unfortunately, for political reasons, they are not allowed to contribute to the development of the game.

Let’s look at the last FIFA Presidential Election. Are you not surprised that no African made it eventually?
I am not surprised. Even at the CAF level, are we doing it well? CAF has been static for 20 years. No new thing is happening there, no progress. How can you go to FIFA? The CAF president is old. So, How can you do new things? African football needs a new direction.

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