When I saw the headlines “Uneasy calm as Dare fraternizes NFF chiefs under investigation” I knew what to expect even before reading the story itself.

I read with utmost disbelief a story published in one of the “respected “ national newspapers. A story that wreaked of vendetta and every bit of a hatchet job. In the said news story, I was confronted with a plot to use the media to conclude the trial of the executives of the NFF that are under investigation by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission. The authors clearly had no regard for rule of law and the institutions charged with corruption. They had constituted their own court and rendered judgement and everyone should bow.
In civilized climes, things are not done that way. The rule of the mob is destructive.

I won’t condemn the news report in its entirety, but there is a red flag for me when the bulk of those interviewed are known to be a part of the rot in the entire sports sector, so to get an objective analysis from such individuals might be a herculean task. My challenge is the fact that the media has been turned into a willing tool for the conduct of trials and conviction. I say this because the Said publication has indeed convicted the NFF executives under investigation and as such the honourable Minister of Youths and Sports, Sunday Dare should not be seen near these individuals.

If the trust must be told, the fact that these individuals have not been convicted by any court, the Minister must continually engage them on crucial matters as it concerns their operations. Mind you, he is the Minister and as such his meetings with top NFF executives is not and would not be out of place as it stands.

This is the starkness of the reality that we are confronted with in this country. People cry wolf where none exists. People are quick to conclude to heat the polity unnecessarily, especially in instances where they have hidden interests to protect. Make no mistakes I am not in any way giving the NFF executives a clean bill, what I am saying is that those individuals with vexed interest in the NFF issues, should either wait for the outcome of the investigations or explore other ways to drive home their grievances, instead of dragging the Minister of Sports into their controversies by questioning his right to meeting with executives of agencies under his supervision.

I am also dismayed with the fact that the media has transformed into that willing tool with which some individuals use to settle personal or political scores not minding the implication of such. Such disposition by the media would always be counter-productive. This is on the heels that being under investigation is not same as being convicted.

This much the media should know and must desist from misleading members of the unsuspecting general public. The honourable Minister, in my opinion, has not in any way taken sides with any of the investigated parties. This much was highlighted recently when he directed the NFF management to clean up their acts and that he won’t interfere with the ongoing corruption probe.

I recall that the Minister expressly stated that “The executive board (of NFF) should learn to do things differently because he would not interfere with EFCC or ICPC investiogations since it is important to allow these organizations follow their due processes.” And he has stayed true to those words, in my opinion.

I also recall that the first meeting the Minister had with the NFF executives, he pointed out that the perception of corruption and seriousness is hurting the sport and that the federation must chart a new course in conducting its affairs transparently. He also advocated for the need to reset the perception by embracing transparency and accountability.

Given the above statement of facts as regards the outcomes of the first and second meetings the Minister had with the NFF executives, I cannot place the sense in the story as published by the newspaper. And I cannot place either what they aimed to achieve by highlighting the fact that the Minister has met twice with the executives of the NFF since he assumed office.

It must be stated that not until the NFF executives in question are indicted and convicted, the honourable Minister has no option but to constantly interface where NFF matters are concerned. It thefore behoves on the media to be objective rather than playing into the hands of some individuals whose stock in trade is to stir up unnecessary controversies to suit their selfish interest.

I must also state that some of us know the issues in the sports sector in the country, but I am convinced that with the way the Minister has carried on since assumption of office, his tenure would bring about the required leadership that the sector deserves. We might just be entering an era where there would be accountability and transparency. I would also want to suggest that this posture of the Minister is what is unsettling some individuals that have benefitted from the rot in the sports industry.

As we all know, and for those advocating for the Minister to take drastic decisions on the NFF executives without a conviction must realize that such actions will ultimately attract FIFA’s sanction. And that would be a much bigger issue for the country. I must commend the Minister for the way and manner he has carried on in the running of the ministry. By his actions, he has indeed shown that the era of impunity and recklessness in governance in the sports industry is over. Those insinuating that the Minister is tilting towards football at the detriment of other sectors also need to have a rethink because I am more than convinced that all the federations in the sports sector would receive equal attention.

It consequently behoves all well-meaning Nigerians to lend their support to the ongoing reforms in the sports sector in the country. They should not constitute themselves as clogs in the wheel of progress. Also, the media must play that objective role in its reportage of issues in the sports sector in the country. This is my take.

By. Ignatius Anthony.

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