It is no more news that Nigeria is not part of the ongoing Africa Cup of Nations, tagged Equatorial Guinea 2015. However, some Nigerians are still wondering how the Super Eagles failed to pick a ticket to the continental showpiece despite having a chance to do so. One of those people is the outgoing chairman of the Oyo State Football Association Barrister Leye Adepoju who described as shameful and shocking, watching the ongoing tournament without the involvement of the defending champion. In this interview with Tosin Omojola, the former board member of the Nigeria Football Federation (NFF), speaks on the disappointment of Nigeria’s absence in Equatorial Guinea, the issue of coach Stephen Keshi, leadership tussle in the NFF as well as his tenure as the head of the OYSFA.
You have declared that you are not interested in returning to office as the chairman of OYSFA, why?
Well, I believe I have paid my dues in football administration particularly as the chairman of the Oyo State Football Association. Having served as a selected and later as an elected chairman, I think I have been able to contribute my own quota to the development of football in the state.
Having played the game up to the academical levels and the administering it, I can boldly say that God has helped me to achieve a lot without any regret.
You just inaugurated the Election and Appeals Committees for the election, what are your expectations?
My expectations as far as the forthcoming election of the Oyo State Football Association are concerned are that the exercise should be conducted without any hitch, that the best candidate emerge to make up the incoming board and that every qualified candidate be given equal rights by the electoral and appeals committee.
I am looking forward to an exercise that would be devoid of any rancor and that was why carefully and painstaking arrived at the choice of members that made up both committees. They are personalities with integrity, highly respected and straightforward. We expect them to bring all these traits into bear while conducting the exercise.
How would you describe your reign as the Oyo State FA Chairman
I would say it was a successful reign going by the fact that I was able to pilot the affairs of the association thus far.
Within those periods, there were ups and downs, which is natural. We had very good days. We were lucky to have two teams from Oyo State participating in the elite league at one time. We were also fortunate to have some of our clubs gaining promotion from the lower division to various top divisions.
However, the other side of the coin is there too. In the course of the tenure, we had teams being relegated from the elite cadre to the lower cadre, though some of those instances were due to crises within the stakeholders and when there is disharmony like that, you can hardly have success. But all in all, it has been a rewarding tenure, and I give thanks and glory to the Almighty God.
Now, that you are not re-contesting, what next?
Well, football has always being my number one and it will always be my number one. I may be withdrawing from football administration for now, I can always keep fit. At my age the essence of playing football is to keep fit not for competitive reasons again and to keep fit I can always dabble into tennis, I can play football, do something that can always put my soul and spirit together, that’s all.
What’s your view on the crisis rocking the NFF?
The main problem is the fact that partisan politics has eroded and it has made the football family completely disjointed as at now. You see that the election we had in 2014 at Warri could not have been done by members of the football family, the input of external forces was enormous and that is the reason whatever happens thereafter is the consequences of that election.
Be that as it may, I believe that what has happened has happened and if we need to move forward, we should not be looking back, we should look ahead, see what has happened as a thing of the past and forge ahead for the good of Nigerian football.
As a Nigerian, how do you see the ongoing Nations Cup without Nigeria?
Shameful, let me put it in a word like that, it is very shameful. This is a completion we should be participating in as a birthright if things had been ok, if disharmony has not there. You know as at the time the qualifiers were going on we took so many things for granted and that was why Congo was able to come here and defeat us.
That was the beginning of the collapse, how can Congo come here and beat us at home and that we were very very lucky to have equalized against South Africa in Uyo.
We even had the opportunity to make it, all we needed to do was to beat South Africa here at home but we had to struggle from two goals down to force them to a draw.
I remember what happened in 2010 when Samson Siasia was in charge, we only needed to beat Guinea and qualify for the 2012 Nations Cup but the game ended in 2-2 draw. Let me tell you, as a member of the NFF then, do you know that for about 30 minutes after that match, I was thinking that we have not played that game.
By our standard, our qualification ought to be automatic but this is a lesson, I hope we can learn from it.
But do you think we have leant our lesson, going by the way the case of coach Stephen Keshi is being handled?
You know I was in the immediate past board of the NFF until its dissolution in September or thereabout so I don’t know the thinking of the present line of thinking, but personally, I think it depends on the terms of employment and strictly speaking, a national team coach has no business with the President of Nigeria or the minister because he is an employee of the NFF and the NFF should be in the best position to appoint or dismiss an employee.
Being a national team coach does not give any coach special privileges that will give him direct access to President of a country, it is not done.
So all these things we need to put right, once a coach have a direct access to the President then your immediate employer becomes irrelevant to you.