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    Nigeria: Presidency – Who Will Play Blatter for Ndigbo?

    Despite the wind of corruption accusations blowing across the football world and which consumed Swiss-born suspended president of world’s football governing body, FIFA Joseph Sepp Blatter, when his name is mentioned in Africa, football buffs will still doff their hats for him.

    For them, the accusation notwithstanding, Blatter who succeeded Brazilian Joao Havelange in 1998 after serving as General Secretary of the same organization for several years, remains a hero for the continental for he really made Africa a part of the football world after many years of neglect by Europe and the Americas.

    From 1930 when the World Cup began and hosted by Uruguay without a vote from member countries after withdrawal of bids by Italy, Spain, Sweden, the Netherlands and Hungary, the global football festival has rotated between Europe and the two Americas of North and South.

    The Italians who withdrew for Uruguay in 1930 got the right in 1934 and in 1938, France hosted, making it the first time Europe hosted it back to back. Following the outbreak of the World War, the World Cup went into limbo for 12 years but instead of Europe, the football buffs voted to take it back to South America’s Brazil in 1950.

    From then on it has been Europe to the Americas and back to Europe except in 1958 when Sweden hosted after another European country, Switzerland had hosted in 1954. In 1962 Chile hosted, followed by England in 1966, Mexico in 1970, then West Germany in 1974, Argentina in 1978, Spain in 1982, Mexico again in 1986, Italy again in 1990, USA in 1994 and second time for France in 1998.

    The turning point for world football started in 1998 after Havelange stepped down. He tipped Blatter to succeed him but the powerful Europe thought that he could not choose for them who should rule the all powerful organization and worked for another candidate.

    Having served as General Secretary all the 24 years his boss, Havelange was president, Blatter had built a strong tie around the world especially among the Asians and Africans. With the solid support from these two confederations, Blatter floored his own Europe to emerge Havelange’s successor in France in 1998.

    From then he never minced words that both Asia and Africa were uppermost in his mind, talking development of the game. He then began his plans to break the stranglehold of Europe and the Americas on the World Cup hosting right. He lobbied and got South Korea and Japan to host the 2002 edition.

    After Asia took its turn, Blatter felt that for the World Cup to truly live to its name, it was expedient the event was taken to Africa. Europe as usual battled to resist it but Blatter worked hard and just when he thought that South Africa would nick the 2006 event when the FIFA egg heads gathered in Zurich in 2000, a spanner was thrown into the process.

    The voting that day could have tied at 12 apiece for Germany and South Africa according to the permutations after the first ballot and Blatter was getting set to break the ice in that instance with his own vote, which was waiting in case of a tie. It was not to be as one Charles Dempsey representing Oceania voted against the instruction of his Confederation, according to him, “to clear my conscience”.

    Blatter was a very sad man. He wanted not only to compensate Africa like he did for Asia in the 2002 edition but to “make the World Cup a true World Cup” where every continent would have a sense of belonging. After that disappointment the suave administrator never slept and hatched a plan which he sold to most of the Executive Committee member, including our own Dr. Amos Adamu who had become his loyalists.

    And what was the plan? That the 2010 World Cup must go to Africa and nowhere else. Europe especially, kicked against it. After South Africa got the nod ahead of Morocco, the powerful European media went to work, planting many unsavoury stories to back their warped idea that Africa was not yet ripe to host the event. But Blatter was adamant, insisting that FIFA had three options in the kitty. That was how the famous “Plan A is South Africa, Plan B is South Africa and Plan C is South Africa.”

    He almost became the supervisor of all the projects the South Africans were putting in place for the global event, visiting the former Apartheid enclave almost every other month to ensure he was not put to shame. It was not in doubt therefore when Africa stuck out its neck, preferring to swim or sink with Blatter during the last election before the corruption allegations that have swept him aside now.

    Bring this scenario back home in Nigeria in the face of the growing protests by a group or two for the actualisation of the state of Biafra. Even though Africa never protested its denial of the hosting right for the World Cup, there were a few grumbles here and there which may have touched Blatter and which he used to stabilise his tenure as the FIFA boss.

    Revered Nobel Laurette, Prof. Wole Soyinka added his voice recently on the agitation of a group of South Easterners for the actualisation of Biafra. He said during a television interview that the agitators for the state of Biafra could be muffled but the idea will never die, adding that the only solution was for the government to dialogue with them and find out what their grouse is or were and what they really need.

    This, for me, is where the Blatter solution comes in. The grouse of Ndigbo is that they are marginalised in the entity called Nigeria and are not wanted. You don’t need a soothsayer to know that this marginalisation they cry about is the presidency in Nigeria.

    Apart from Dr. Nnamdi Azikiwe who was a ceremonial president in the Parliamentary system of government here in the 1960s and the brief reign of the crocodile man, General Johnson Thomas Umanakwe Aguiyi Ironsi, who emerged as Head of State after the foiled 1966 coup, Ndigbo have never tested power at the top in Nigeria. That is the crux of the matter.

    The North has had more than a fair share in the presidency of this country while the South West also have had their time through General Olusegun Obasanjo both as a stop-gap Head of State after General Murtala Mohammed, and again for another two terms as a civilian president from 1999 to 2007. His second coming was by another doctrine of necessity.

    In like manner, for the agitation of Biafra and the constant cry of marginalisation to stop and for Ndigbo to really have a sense of belonging and think themselves as real stakeholders in the project called Nigeria, the Blatter option is a way out and the time to begin it is now.

    Someone or decision makers in the APC must stand up today to state categorically that after the two terms of President Muhammadu Buhari, if he can go second term that is, the presidency must go to the South East.

    Likewise, the PDP which hurriedly said they will zone the presidency to the north in 2019 because they felt they lost 2015 election to the APC should let the idea die and think of allowing the South East have a shot at the presidency.

    Mr. Omorodion, a social crusader, wrote from Lagos.

    Despite the wind of corruption accusations blowing across the football world and which consumed Swiss-born suspended president of world's football governing body, FIFA Joseph Sepp Blatter, when his name is mentioned in Africa, football buffs will still doff their hats for him.

    [See the full post at: Nigeria: Presidency – Who Will Play Blatter for Ndigbo?]

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