HOW LULU SURVIVED SENATE'S FIRE
After two days of public hearing packaged by the Senate Committee on Sports to review Nigeria’s dismal outing at the last Africa Cup of Nations in Ghana and other shortfalls in the country’s sports, some revelations came to light and Nigerians now know better.
The Senate Committee, headed by Senator Heineken Lokpobiri, comprised of Osita Izunaso, Saminu Turaki, Abba Bukar Ibrahim, Joel Danlami and T.O. Wada, took turns to drill the principal actors of the Nigerian sports industry.
Director-General of the National Sports Commission (NSC), Dr Amos Adamu, Sports Writers Association of Nigeria (SWAN) President, Olu Amadasun, Nigeria Football League (NFL) and Nigeria Football Association (NFA) bosses, Oyuki Obaseki and Sani Lulu Abdullahi respectively, the Sports Minister, Hassan Gimba and some other stakeholders took turn to present their papers.
One of the highlights of the proceedings was when the Senate Committee almost issued a warrant of arrest on the Sports Minister, Hon. Gimba, for not taking his seat at the public hearing. He was given a period of 30 minutes to appear before the Committee or face being arrested, but his aids did their best and brought him to the hot seat before the expiration of the stipulated time of grace. However, the minister was unrepentant even as he argued his points.
The hearing came alive when the NFA boss, Sani Lulu Abdullahi, took the centre stage to explain why Nigeria failed to fly at the Ghana 2008 Nations Cup early in the year. He started with the preamble of why the national team failed, but was cut short by the Committee Chairman, Lokpobiri, who directed him to go straight to the point.
That point of order to hit the nail on the head obviously unsettled Lulu, and from that point, the NFA chairman was never himself again. He struggled and tried to no avail to present what he perceived was the reason that made the Super Eagles fail in Ghana.
At a point, the Igala-born administrator asked for protection from the Committee’s chairman. Protection from what - the salvoes that were coming from the Committee members or from the audience, who were bemused by Lulu’s inability to answer questions properly?
"I am confused and I am rattled. I need some protection," Lulu said at a point when Senator Joel Danlami bombarded him with questions. He, however, responded to some issues.
Lulu explained that Nigerians wanted a world-class coach and Berti Vogts by his Curriculum Vitae (CV), was in that category, hence the German was employed. This explanation did not go down well with the Committee members, who demanded that he should read the contractual agreement the FA signed with the German.
The contract paper revealed that Vogts was permitted to domicile in Germany and stay for only 10 days in Nigeria whenever there was a friendly game, a championship or was invited by the NFA.
Not satisfied with the way Lulu was repeating issues, the infuriated Senator Lokpobiri shouted at him and said if he were to award him a score on his performance, he would only give him five out of 100 per cent.
Lulu stated that Decree 101 was still in operation alongside the NFA Statute, adding that the government still funds the FA and as such, still have a say on what goes on at the football house. He pointed out that the government being the main sponsor of our football, has remained the bane of our football development. According to him, the negative side of that arrangement manifested at the Ghana 2008 outing, where the NFA made a budget of N500million, government approved N300million, but only N200million was eventually released.
WHY WE FAILED IN GHANA
Lulu blamed Coach Vogts and his Nigerian assistants, who he said did not work as a team for Super Eagles’ failure in Ghana. He stated that the players had a sort of distrust for the system and were not ready to risk their lives for the country.
On the issue of projecting himself on a billboard at the Eagles’ hotel in Secondi/Takoradi, Ghana during the Nations Cup, Lulu explained that his well-wishers in solidarity, did the action for the Super Eagles. He explained that the NFA printed T-shirts, flags and others to support the national team, adding that the Eagles’ failure in Ghana was not NFA’s fault.
Lulu went further to appeal for adequate funding of football in the country, maintaining that the game had remained the passion of Nigerians.
The NFA boss also denied that there was crisis between the NFA and NFL. He, however, was admonished by the Committee members, who reminded him that he was on oath and so, should say the whole truth irrespective of what he might feel the minister or the DG would say.
At the end, the NFA chairman came out crest-fallen having played into the hands of the Senate Committee members, who he felt were against him, hence the public hearing to ridicule him. He presented himself to be slaughtered and was torn apart by the lawmakers.
Lulu believed that he was the target of the hearing. He tried to protect the Super Eagles by not apportioning any blame to them for the country’s failure in Ghana. He wanted to keep many things away, but in the process, he ended up being humiliated by the members of the Committee.
Lulu must have learnt that he should not have gone for the hearing with the notion that he was the target. Again, he must have learnt that he must do his homework well before facing politicians, who are vast in the tricks of the ‘game’.
For the Committee, the conclusion was that Lulu did not provide answers to their questions and that he did not point the way forward for Nigerian football. They, therefore, chided Lulu for not accepting that he made a tactical blunder by contracting Vogts and did not apologise to Nigerians for failing the country in Ghana.