Thursday, November 21, 2013

I am disgusted!

This afternoon, I read, with a profound sense of disappointment, a news story which claimed that Nigeria’s Minister of Sports and Chairman of the National Sports Commission (NSC), Bolaji Abdullahi, “queried national soccer coach, Stephen Keshi for going to the media” after working for seven months without being paid his monthly salary. This salary arrears situation also applies to the other members of the coaching crew of the Super Eagles, the national football team.

The news report ( quoted the minister as also saying that "it is unfortunate that Keshi has to bring out the issue of his salary and make it a media issue, because it is something that can be addressed internally." The minister was reported as blaming what he described as a “systemic failure” for the lack of payment of the salaries of the national senior team’s coaches. Why did the minister allow this so-called internal systemic failure to persist for seven months and beyond? A contract is what it is: a binding document. Only a mal-functioning organization would not feel a sense of shame at failing to honor the obligations of a salary contract.

My first instinct was to wish that the minister was mis-quoted by the news report. On second thought, however, I decided to register my disgust at the statements attributed to the honorable minister. I found it shocking that the minister would take a path of apparently making light of the fact that Nigeria’s Football Federation (NFF) failed to pay the salaries of the coaching crew of the national team despite the team’s track record of monumental successes during the affected period. The successes include Nigeria’s winning of the much-coveted Africa Cup of Nations in February, 2013, Nigeria’s winning of the Nelson Mandela Challenge Cup in August, 2013, and the most recent triumph of the national team over its Ethiopian counterpart in order to qualify for the 2014 World Cup Soccer finals in Brazil.

As the officer who has overall charge of sports at the federal level, the minister, in the statements credited to him, did not come across as an appreciative and sensitive manager of human resources. I expected the minister to publicly rebuke NFF for dereliction of duty in its failure to pay the salaries of the coaches. As a matter of fact, the NFF is reportedly notorious for not being punctual with payment of the salaries of certain coaches that have worked for that association ( As should be expected of a sensitive and responsible manager, the minister should have condemned this pattern of conduct in no uncertain terms. What sort of axiological code guides this minister's sense of fairness?

While the fans of the Super Eagles rejoiced over its spate of victories, little did they know that the coaching team that made all this possible was not being paid its richly-earned salaries! The nation’s leadership has also been busily touting the successes of this golden set of Super Eagles as indicative of the effectiveness of its transformational agenda—without apparently feeling any sense of guilt that the crew that hatched these eggs has been working without pay for seven months. How does President Goodluck Ebele Jonathan feel about these contradictions? As the chief executive of the Nigerian nation, the buck stops at his desk!

A good manager worries about the morale of his/her employees. Does this minister of sports want us to take him seriously when he was reported as saying that an employee that goes public with a problem of non-payment of his salaries for seven months acted impatiently? Has the minister not been receiving his own salaries from the federal government of Nigeria during the same period? How would he have reacted if President Jonathan, his boss, stood-by and looked the other way, if he, the minister, found himself in a position in which he was not paid his earned salaries for seven months? What is the honorable minister’s prescription for how long an employee should go without pay before complaining publicly about it? In fact, when news broke last week or so that Coach Keshi has not been paid his contractual salaries for seven months, it came across as a bitter bill, as a shameful disclosure, as an incredible act of ingratitude by the NFF to a coaching crew that has proven itself to be one of the most successful in Nigeria’s national footballing history.

One can’t help seeing a glaring irony in the fact that while on the one hand, the NFF failed to live up to its salary obligations to a set of hardworking national football coaches for alleged insolvency, the supervising minister apparently could still count on an available resource with which to “oblige Keshi additional technical support in form of foreign technical assistant, if he so requests” ( He reportedly went on to add as follows: "We played two matches in the last couple of weeks one in Calabar and the one in London against the Italian national team. If you look at the two games, you can see that the profiles are different. Of course, the competitions are different, but also the games are different in terms of approaches. We have received reports from outsiders but we are going to sit down with the coaches to review all these.”

The preceding statements—particularly their implicit questioning of Keshi’s capacity for effective coaching for world-stage competitions despite his status as demonstrably the most effective coach of a national soccer team in Africa and his repertoire of world cup qualifying victories—that a second news report  attributed to the minister, point to what I had suspected, all along, to be the subtext for the seeming disrespect and ingratitude that the NFF and other officialdom associated with it have been openly showing to Keshi and his crew, as demonstrated clearly by the association’s failure to pay the crew’s earned salaries for months on end and not feel any qualms about it. Instead of giving the victorious coach of the senior team and his crew all the encouragement that they deserve by at least taking speedy steps to see that they are paid their salary arrears and by also putting in place measures to prevent a reoccurrence, the minister is apparently busy scheming for some ill-defined objective—as the preceding media reports would suggest.

Readers of my blog would recall a pertinent commentary that I posted on 2/12/2013 ( on a reported threat by Coach Keshi to resign after winning the Africa Cup of Nations in February, this year. Below is an excerpt from that commentary, which I deem applicable to pronouncements now coming out of the mouth of the honorable national minister.

As a football management entity, the NFF appears to be in a suffocating, unrelenting and unholy grip of a bureaucratic cabal which has a notoriety for meting out indignity to Nigerian coaches, and it's high time that someone put those bureaucrats in their proper place! It's apropos to recall, for instance, the humiliation that ex-national coach, Christian Chukwu suffered at the hands of this bureaucratic cabal that seems to be so well-entrenched that it survives successive federal administrations. I also recall how another ex-national coach, Shaibu Amodu was displaced by this same crop of alleged foreign-estacode sniffing NFF bureaucrats after he succeeded in qualifying the Nigerian national team for the summer 2010 World Cup soccer finals. Applying a questionable logic and a dose of disparaging media propaganda against the coach about his alleged deficiencies in technical expertise, the NFF got rid of the goose that laid the golden egg--that is, the man who performed the feat of qualifying his national squad for participation in the elite world cup finals at a time that many other African nations failed to make it into the list of six African countries that were featured in that global final contest in South Africa.

The NFF and its supporting officialdom should be careful not to act or speak in ways or not to continue to act or speak in ways--no matter how barely disguised--that may foment or nourish a crystallizing public impression that a successful national football coaching team constitutes a nuisance, nay an annoying barrier, one that must be frustrated, to a potential foreign exchange extravaganza (yet another means of milking a dehydrated Nigeria in the name of "technical assistance"). Each time the Super Eagles qualify for yet another World Cup Soccer Finals competition, NFF's officialdom should see it, and rightly so, as a feat, as a justifiable accomplishment for an increase in the incentivization package for the coaching crew and qualifying team--and never as an opportunity for a self-serving foreign exchange adventure.

An example of a constructive leadership response to the national team's recent qualification for the 2014 World Cup Finals in Brazil came a few days ago from the Speaker of the Federal House of Representatives, Hon Aminu Waziri Tambuwal, who, in a statement reported to have been issued by his Special Adviser on Media and Public Affairs, Malam Imam Imam, "charged soccer administrators in the country to ensure that the team prepares for the global event early so as to make the necessary impact" ( Yah, I, myself, had entertained the same thought, namely that the Super Eagles should be given an opportunity for a protracted training regimen in preparation for Brazil, 2014. Such a pre-Brazil protracted training regimen could enhance the team's sense of cohesion.

In any case, given emerging news reports about Nigeria’s minister of sports, it seems that those who should be listening, did not pay attention to my advice in that blog of 2/12/13. In conclusion, I beg to say that if not that sometimes, Nigeria’s officialdom appears to allow itself to be perceived as an anything goes establishment, the statements that the news media recently attributed to the sports minister should earn him a rebuke—at the very least—from all parties that are concerned about the future of Nigeria’s Super Eagles.