How Rudderless Leadership Is Killing NPFL

Action from the Nigeria Professional Football League

Lagos – People have tended to misunderstand what true leadership is all about. To majority of Nigerians, the ability to flaunt promises and back up same with real or imagined illustrations is all about aspiring for leadership positions, even with no defined and clear-cut ideas and political will to effect necessary changes.

Speaking on what constitutes effective leadership, Peter Ferdinand Drucker, an Austrian-born American management consultant, educator, and author, whose writings contributed to the philosophical and practical foundations of the modern business corporation, said:

“Leadership is not magnetic personality; that can just as well be a glib tongue. It is not ‘making friends and influencing people,’ that is flattery. Leadership is lifting a person or an organization beyond the level you met them; it is also the raising of an organisation’s performance to a higher standard, the building of a personality and institution beyond their normal limitations.”

This is what is noticeably lacking in the management of the Nigeria premier league, or how else can one describes a situation where active play in the nation’s topflight was last seen on the eve of the last FIFA World Cup in Russia in June.

Nigerian league has been sadly plagued by distorted calendar in recent times, with clubs and players, especially those campaigning in the continent bearing the brunt of such indecisiveness from the leadership or the organisers, the League Management Company (LMC).

The LMC under Shehu Dikko, on assumption of office, showed some glimmer of hopes in repositioning the domestic league with some reforms but suffice to say that like some other entities in the country, the leadership lacks the bite and courage to take decisive actions that will enhance reposition the NPFL and make it competitive.

For instance, the LMC completely shut the league and ‘relocated’ its headquarters to Russia during the World Cup. Consequently, the players were idle with only training the activities they engage in. But for the five major leagues in Europe and a couple of others, also mostly in Europe, all other lesser leagues, where the Nigeria Professional Football League belongs, were running during the World Cup.

While Dikko’s presence at the World Cup could be understood on his position as the vice president of the Nigeria Football Federation (NFF), what explanation could have been adduced for the retinue of LMC officials thronging Russia at the expense of the league?

Adegboye Onigbinde, the former coach of the Super Eagles, while chatting with DAILY INDEPENDENT during the World Cup, rhetorically asked the rationale for shutting down the league when only one player from the NPFL, Ikechukwu Ezenwa, who was not even Enyimba’s first choice goalie, made the trip to Russia.

“Why are they stopping the league and how many players from the league is among them in Russia for the World Cup? We should always consider the careers of these players before we take decisions that will affect them,” he told our correspondent.

Coming back from the Mundial, the LMC shut the league that was supposed to start after Nigeria crashed out of the World Cup, or after the end of events in Russia. The reason given was as flimsy as the one adduced during the World Cup.

The league was shut because of the seeming unending leadership crisis at the NFF. Yes, the NFF has supervisory role over the LMC but all over the world, football leagues have a measure of independence that can make them operational even when the Federation is embroiled in crisis. This is premised on several vested interests therein.

For instance, last year, the Italian Football Federation was enmeshed in leadership crisis with it running without a leader after three candidates that went head-to-head for the plum job, Cosimo Sibilia, Gabriele Gravina and Damiano Tommasi, having one issue or the other.

The leadership vacuum at the head of Italian Football extended into this year, but not even a single second of the Serie A scheduled calendar was postponed due to that. Of course, Serie A, as well as all other lesser divisions in the Italian Football, is run professionally with so many vested interests in television rights and adverts.

But the LMC rushed to further suspend the league after coming back from the World Cup due to issues bothering on who is the authentic NFF boss between president, Amaju Pinnick, and Chris Giwa, a lawyer and proprietor of the defunct FC Giwa. That led to the NPFL ending inconclusively with only 24 rounds of matches played as against 38 due to CAF’s deadline for submission of continental representatives.

The 2018/2019 season of the league, meanwhile, was scheduled to start on December 1, but has been put off indefinitely by the organisers, raising a huge question whether the LMC actually have the development of domestic football at heart.

Just like the Nigeria Professional Football League, the Nigeria National League (NNL) is also riddled with crisis, leading to the club owners and organisers, as earlier noted, clamouring that eight teams, as against the traditional four, be promoted to the topflight. The NNL organisers insisted that the same ‘grace’ of ‘no relegation’ granted the topflight should be extended to them.

There have been many issues plaguing the lower league. The issues range from paucity of funds to administrative laxity, then on-the-pitch subjective results, anchored on ‘poor’ refereeing.

The NNL club managers met in Abuja and clamoured for eight teams to gain promotion to the NPFL as against the standard four.  From the agreed position, eight NNL teams; first two from each of the four abridged groups were expected to play a Super 8 in the two Conferences.

SATURDAY INDEPENDENT gathered from a source in the lower league, who pleaded anonymity that since no team was relegated in the topflight, the same measure should be meted out to them. Their insistence led the club owners and LMC to put off the December 1 kickoff of the NPFL to the detriment of the domestic league development in the country.

The strength of any country’s football is not measured on the number of titles won by its national team, lest Brazil would have been rated as the best football nation in the world. But the domestic league of a country plays a huge part in advancing its football development. This is why South Africa’s Professional Soccer League (PSL) is so highly rated and has become a hub for footballers both within and outside the country.

Take leagues in the North Africa, for instance. Several Nigerians and other African countries are rushing there because they offer better professional prospect with far better entitlements that what is obtained over here.

SATURDAY INDEPENDENT research reveals that Meddie Kahere, was earning kes400,000, (Kenya Shillings) (N112,000) monthly at Simba FC of Kenya, making him the highest paid professional player in that country.

While the amount might have panned into insignificance considering that players like Gambo Mohammed of Kano Pillars, among other notable players in the NPFL, is ‘earning’ about N400,000, the difference is that Kahere was receiving the sum as at when due unlike players in the NPFL.

Instead of unnecessarily postponing the league, the LMC and the club owners should have busied themselves with what could improve the sorry condition of players in the domestic scene.

Speaking to our correspondent, a player with Enyimba, who pleaded not to be mentioned, while speaking on the recent postponement, said that the NPFL holds little or nothing for the players, arguing that what still hold some of them in the local because they had not been able to secure a better offer even within the continent.

“My brother, the league holds nothing for us because they don’t care about the players. Some of us are here because we have not found somewhere outside to go. It does not matter whether it is within the continent, as long as it will offer hope to us,” he said.

Meanwhile, the league is presently postponed indefinitely while the players are groaning under inactivity, even as we all expect Rangers and Lobi Stars to do magic and start the process of restoring Nigeria’s four continental slots.