By Carl Orakwue
During the National Sports festival, I saw Dr Sam Sam Jaja who I had not seen in a long time and he accused me of not asking after him and his case again. I laughed and asked, if the case was still ‘on’ and he replied ‘yes’ He further went on to say that not only was it on, but he was sure of victory because he was right. Well last weekend it turned out that he indeed was. A court ruled in his favor, in a case he instituted over his wrongful disqualification from partaking in the NPL elections. And that ruling seems to have thrown Nigerian football into another round of chaos. Today (24 January 2012) I spoke exclusively to Dr Jaja and here are excerpts from our recorded conversation.
Pointman: 2010 to 2012 and finally you’ve gotten a ruling from the courts. First of all we want your reaction to the ruling?
Jaja: It has strengthened my confidence in the judicial system in this country. You know it is not easy for you to institute an action for accelerated hearing got an injunction that the election should not hold and within a space of time that injunction was vacated and elections held. Of course you feel that you are not protected by the courts. But haven taken this length of time and eventually the truth prevailed and justice given me, it has re-strengthened my belief in the judicial system of this country.
Pointman: In the year 2011 there were lots of court cases, injunctions, rulings et al, which many a times ended up not holding any water for those involved so what makes you sure we might not return to status quo again?
Jaja: You should understand my own ruling is quite peculiar. I was the first to go to court in 2010 as early as March when people thought I was going to thread where angels dared and it was sacrosanct taking football maters to court. People were then using FIFA as a cover to do un-honorable things. They discouraged people from making a case. But now I got a ruling that has declared in the first instance, that I was wickedly and maliciously disqualified from contesting that election in 2003 and then I got a ruling that declared the Nigeria football Federation an illegal organization and that all actions they have taken since they became that federation is also null and void. I got a ruling that declared the Nigeria Premier League NPL, illegal. And all actions they have taken since they became the Nigeria Premier League were also declared null and void. And the ruling went further to say that if they parade themselves as representing those bodies, we should revert back to the court for contempt and that makes the ruling quite quite different from any other ruling. Maybe others were just at the periphery. They were completely different from mine and of course the execution of my ruling would be totally drastic.
Pointman: Aren’t you afraid that members of the NFF will report this court ruling to FIFA and that would attract sanctions?
Jaja: If you remember in 2010 when I went to court it’s this same kite that was flown. FIFA will ban Nigeria and pressure was put on me to withdraw my case and I told them that let FIFA go ahead and ban Nigeria, that it was not my business. What I wanted to do was set the records straight. Do they know the level of damage they did to my image, my personality, by disqualifying me from contesting a mere NPL election? It was in all the papers. People say these legal cases would destroy Nigerian football. I ask “are Nigerian administrators supposed to destroy citizens of this country because of selfish interest?” They went ahead and disqualified me, telling the people I’m not credible, I have no scruples am not supposed to be dealt with. It was wicked and malicious their doing that and all for selfish interest. Of course when this was done I had to show that there was plenty wrong in the system, so many skeletons in the cupboard. I did not say this to the public but that was I wanted to go in and clean up if I was elected. I have been in the system since 1978 and so knowing these things I wanted to come and clean up the system. Some of them were athletes and some had not even become athletes when I was into sports administration. And then they did not simply refuse me coming in by asking others not to vote for me, they refused me by disgracing me by disqualifying me, touching on my integrity and personality. And then was FIFA sleeping i ask. Anyway the court of law has told them that FIFA’s statutes are not domesticated in Nigeria and as thus has nothing to do with Nigeria. And of course, realize that FIFA doesn’t sniff into what is happening in Nigeria. It’s the rat at home that tells the rat outside that there is fish in the house. So if they like they can go to FIFA, it wouldn’t change anything. We must obey the rule of law in our country and it says they (NFF and NPL) are illegal and they should be disbanded and that stands. We would not be the first country that FIFA bans and if we do things right we can go back. (Goes on to explain how we could do things right) keeping it simple, FIFA or no FIFA, it cannot upturn the ruling of our country, if FIFA like let them ban us and then we plan properly and return. FIFA cannot do without Nigeria, which is absolute, it’s true.
Pointman: For a long period there was lots of chaos in Nigerian football, legal battles here and there and finally when it seems we had gotten some peace this court ruling comes and throws things upside down all over again. I must ask. Don’t you feel disturbed that you have shattered the reigning peace and how do you think you’ll be seen in the eyes of the ordinary Nigerian football lover as you are now being painted as the devil that wants to destroy Nigerian football.
Jaja: Let me let you know that you did not achieve any calm. It was the calm of the grave yard. You don’t sweep the dust under the carpet, for definitely when you raise the carpet it would all come out again. So what calm did they achieve? I was the first to go to court in 2010. And nobody turned my way to ask ‘what is happening to Sam Sam Jaja’. Or ask ‘Why can’t you call Sam Sam Jaja and talk with him’. Or are they saying it was right to have disqualified me and I should just go and sleep because its football. That would be destroying my person and my career. I’m a politician. I have been disqualified from contesting NPL elections, which can stand against me in another election tomorrow. And nobody was talking. From 2010 till 2012 when I got judgment no overture to discuss with me was made. They have had several meetings to discuss with those who went to court in 2011, there have been several arbitration and nobody looked my way. I was quietly following the issue with my God. And now God has given me victory and people are now shouting. But like I said before, all those talking are not more passionate about our football than me. I have a big stake.
Pointman: You did say no one approached you previously to talk of the situation. How about if you were approached this time by ‘well meaning’ Nigerians would you be willing to listen?
Jaja: You see the point is not me. There is nothing absolute that am fighting for that is selfish. What am asking is that proper things be done. Approaching me now I see as an afterthought but well why not. I’ll listen and then we’ll come to a compromise. But the important thing is that Nigerian football should be better for it, like I believe Nigerian football would be better for this judgment. The issue shouldn’t be personalized even though I had a personal axe to grind but it should not be totally looked at as if it’s a personal thing. If I am approached we’ll put all the cards on the table and begin to talk on how we can make Nigerian football better from the judgment. If they say they’ll go to court I am ready. From the beginning I had made up my mind I’ll get to the Supreme Court if need be. Even if I had lost the case I would have gone to appeal. So I am ready to match them any which way they decided we should go. If they say let’s talk, we will talk. Nigeria football should better for what we are doing. The important thing is that Nigerian football should stand on a solid rock. We wouldn’t want it to stand on a shaky and sandy soil. The holy books says if you build a house on sandy soil, when the winds blow the house must definitely collapse but when you build the house on a solid foundation, when the winds blow when there are changes in weather the house will stand.