It is never to be justified of NFF’s insistent act of owing players their benefits. It is wrong, and by all standards, unprofessional and demotivating.

Those who argue in favour of NFF have made reference to their incapacity in funding projects due to some sponsorship issues like the recent ordeal with the Aiteo Group.

Despite this claim, a high level of responsibility is expected from the football administrators. I think the welfare of our women team should be prioritized above all.

It shouldn’t even be heard of that a federation would go to the extent of owing salaries of young girls for months, for that matter, girls who are about the same age as the daughters of their principals. However, this unspeakable abuse is the case in Nigeria. The worst of all is that when these girls speak out their dissatisfactions, they become a subject of victimization and harsh sanctions.

In all honesty, I pity the former Falcons captain, Desire Oparanozie who spoke out for her colleagues in protest of the ill-treatment from their employer but as we all know, it turned out that she was stripped off her ranks, dragged by her hair and thrown out of the gate into the dust like an outlaw.

I praise the courage of her colleagues who have returned to their duties despite bearing the hurt of an ill-treatment meted on their former captain. Personally I encourage them to continue in their obligation and stay focused on their goal until they are reunited in action with their former colleague.

One can’t help but ask, was Oparanozie right or wrong in her actions?

Was she careless or perhaps misinformed and uncalculated in her approach in managing the dispute that stood her way?

At what instance did Oparanozie overstep her boundaries?

It is common practice for the NFF to read out the riot act to the players but one must ask, what does the riot act really address beyond the prohibition of certain conducts that are termed as rebellious?

Does this act recommend appropriate channels of communication in conflict resolution and management? How sustainable are these recommendations?

Recent survey, conducted on various sport social media platforms showed that most sport stakeholders in Nigeria are not even aware of the employer-employee relationship that exist between NFF and her players on duty. One cannot help but imagine how widely spread is this state of ignorance that exist within the football sector of Nigeria and Africa at large.

It will wow you to know that many still believe a contract exist only when a correspondent has been physically signed, sealed and delivered and not just by implication. We think one is only bonded in employment with an organization when it is documented as such and re-echo during weekly staff meetings.

The big question is, how would our players and administrators operate within the province of their professional expectations and code of conduct when they don’t even know the type of professional relationship that exist amongst them?

So, the NFF owe players their benefits like they were doing the players a favor paying them their salaries and bonuses. In return, the plays march on the streets carrying placards like activists marching in demand for their rights during the industrial revolution.
(A case of two wrongs.)

One can’t help but admit that our national team players are not the only compatriots on national assignments. Men of the armed forces and paramilitary are as well engaged on such national duty, but unlike the national football team, you wouldn’t see them marching the street, holding placards in protest for their rights and benefits.

So what informs the behavioral differences among these compatriots of varying professions?

The words Orientation and Governance comes to mind, right?

It isn’t enough to read out some riot acts to these players who predominantly don’t even understand what you are reading, nor do they understand it’s relevance and purposes. All they deduce from the riot act you read is that they are not suppose to cry out even when being ill-treated by their employers.

I think it is the duty of NFF to ensure that all her employees and most especially their captain band bearers are well informed on the standard operating procedure, professional code of conduct and ethics in line with their profession and in exercising demand for their rights.

As for Opharanozie, I don’t think she truly understood the implications and extent of her actions before embarking on leading a protest, she probably read in the news paper how some Nigerian doctors, lecturers or Julius Berger employees ventured into a strike action in demand for their right and privileges.

She probably thought it okay to ply the same route in demand for the rights of her team mates without really understanding the provision of the employment act of employees in the aforementioned professions and how they are protected by such agencies and pressure groups like the National Joint Industry Council (NJIC), The Trade Union of Nigeria, Joint Health Workers Union of Nigeria etc as established by the constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.

With the kind of young and suckling player union that we have in Nigeria, whoever ventures into a public protest is on their own. You will dance to the music alone when the drum you started beating turns into a show of masquerades.

For a lady like Oparanozie who built her career on the field and grew by the dust to become a star that she is today, one can’t help but ask, what is her level of acumen and experience in public administration and people management?

How many training and seminar on leadership has she as a captain attended?

How many dead souls has her action resurrected? But who am I to judge one’s perspective?

For now, I think she should speak less to the media while her issue is referred for arbitration. NFF also need to note that her actions may be misguided but not solely her fault, it is expected of her chieftains to act like true leaders in resolving this conflict amicably with their employee without spilling the coffee.

Beyond the extra bonuses paid a team captain what other incentive and training are they provided?

NFF also need to note the importance of engaging field employees in capacity building programmes especially in emotional intelligence and employee-employer relationship management.

Oparanozie, just like every other player should be celebrated and not treated like a villain. It is not uncommon for conflicts to occur between employees and employers, let’s deal with it like professionals, that is the least we expect from the Nigeria Football Federation.

By Inyang Emmanuel Clifford
Sport Analyst and Management Consultant.

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