The elections were scheduled for March 3 and 4 and later shifted to March 10 and 11 in Abuja following the two court cases instituted by aggrieved members.
Even with the intervention of the National Sports Commission and the Nigeria Football Federation, the aggrieved persons refused to sheath their swords, preferring to stick to their judicial guns as a deciding factor.
Though the case filed by Barrister Ray Nnaji a former member of the NPL Board has been squashed by a Federal High Court in Enugu, the one filed by Dr. Sam Sam Jaja is still pending, and the former NFF Board member is not ready to heed to FIFA directives to withdraw a football matter from regular court.
Even before the court cases, there was high level scheming by contestants, interested parties, sponsors and others who were all out to clear the way for their candidates to win places in the new board.
The electioneering manipulation came to a head the electoral committee headed by Tony Rafua announced the shift of the election date to March 10 and 11 over what it says was due to the number of petitions received from aggrieved members.
The committee said in Abuja that one of the reasons for the shift was to make use of the services of the State Security Service (SSS) in the screening of candidates due to the gravity of the petitions at hand.
The political tension which was caused by the disqualification of two key contestants Dr. Sam Sam Jaja and Ray Nnaji has already polarized the ranks of stakeholders, who are divided into various groups and camps based on their interests, and in some cases along regional lines.
But the judgement of the Federal High Court in Enugu, which based its decision on the fact that a football matter needs not be taken to a regular court seems to have settled lessen the burden on the league governing body, as Jaja’s case is also expected to soon tow the same line.
Worried by the continued crisis in the NPL, world football governing body, FIFA also waded into the matter by directing that the issue be settled out of court, using internal mechanisms.
FIFA in a memo to the Nigeria Football Federation dated April 1 and signed by its Secretary General, Jerome Valcke empowered the NFF to sanction any member that refuses to settle disagreements out of court.
The memo followed to an earlier letter to it by the Nigeria Football Federation dated March 23, 2010.
Before FIFA’s memo, the NFF and NPL, who were helpless on what next line of action to take to resolve the matter, resorted to begging Barrister Nnaji to withdraw the case from court.
In a communiqués issued at the end of its Board meeting in Abuja, the NPL urged Nnaji to withdraw the case in the interest of the nation’s elite football league.
“The In the interest of the league family, the Board appeals to Barrister Ray Nnaji to withdraw the suit instituted against the Nigeria Premier League (NPL) and also resorts to the use Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) mechanism to resolve the matter once and for all”, the statement said.
The memo, addressed to NFF General Secretary Bolaji Ojo-Oba reads in parts: “As you are aware, according to FIFA Statutes any recourse to ordinary courts of law is prohibited (art 64, par. 2 of the FIFA Statutes) and that FIFA member associations must ensure that their own members comply with the Statutes (art. 13, par. 1 (d) of the FIFA Statutes. As a consequence, we request the Nigeria Football Federation (NFF) to ask for immediate withdrawal of the claims and in case of non compliance by claimants, to take sanctions against them.
“We remind you that if the NFF does not comply, FIFA could have act according to art. 13, part. 2 of the FIFA Statutes which states that violation of obligations by any member may lead to sanctions.
“We hope that the NFF will be able to solve the problem rapidly and we thank you to keep us informed about the development of the situation”.
But what could even worsen the satiation is the planned recalled of the past NPL Board led by Chief Oyuki Obaseki under a special arrangement that has no place in the statutes of the NPL.
High level consultations are currently going on to get the NPL Congress reverse its earlier decision to turn down the proposal by the Chief Oyuki-led Board for get three months extension and haul back the twelve-member Board in office.
But the fear is that such a decision could provoke a fresh round of litigations from family members who will be out to challenge the decision because of its lack of legal backing.
Meanwhile, one of the chairmanship candidates Davidson Owumi’s has received a major boost with a letter of endorsement from the Enugu State government, owners of Rangers Football Club.
Owumi’s candidacy had been called to question by former board member Ray Nnaji and Rangers Chief Executive Officer Paul Ozor Chibuzor, causing widely-publicised division within the Rangers Management Committee.
This prompted the RMC to write to the State Government seeking clarification, and on Monday, the government of Sullivan Chime responded to the club, with a ringing endorsement for Owumi.
The letter, signed by Martin Ilo, Secretary to the State Government stated unequivocally that “the state Government reserves no objection to the candidature of Rangers Board member Davidson Owumi for Chairmanship of the Nigeria Premier League (NPL), and hereby implore the Board and Management to mobilize support to ensure his victory; and they may approach government for any required support in this regard”.
The decision gives Owumi the decisive government backing he requires to pursue his ambition, putting him in pole position for the election as chairman of the NPL.