The Red Beret Minister, the Falcons and that Ewu Gambia

December 12, 2016 OPINION/NEWS


Prince Charles Dickson

Throughout last week, it was the usual one week, one problem, but really none could beat the saga between the Super Falcons (Nigeria’s female soccer team) and the nation’s sporting authorities. Let us review it together.

And do permit me to start the story from the middle…in Nigerian Nollywood style; The Minister of Youth and Sports, Mr. Solomon Dalung, last Thursday said the Federal Government DID NOT EXPECT THE SUPER FALCONS TO WIN THE JUST-CONCLUDED African Women’s Cup of Nations in Cameroon.

The red beret wearing Dalung spoke with State House correspondents at the Presidential Villa, Abuja, amid continued protests by the victorious Falcons over their unpaid allowances and bonuses.

The PLAYERS HAD SEIZED THE TROPHY THEY WON at the competition and said they would hold on to it until they were paid the N238.05m accumulated bonuses they are owed.

They had threatened that if President Muhammadu Buhari refused to address their grievances at the Federal Executive Council’s meeting on Wednesday, they would embark on a protest on the streets of Abuja.

But the Minister said the situation could have been avoided if the Nigerian Football Federation had envisaged the team would win and put in place the process of paying their entitlements.


“If we were confident they will emerge victorious, all the federation would have done is to plan for the process of participation and entitlement.

“The situation is highly unfortunate and I don’t like it. These girls have given confidence to women who want to embrace sports, so this will go a long way in killing this laudable achievement. It is unfortunate but we will make sure the right thing is done.”

The Minister admitted that the matter was not handled properly, regretting that there were also issues of outstanding payment of coaches.

“I think it is a complex situation but the entire governance of football deserves an urgent surgery. If that surgery is not done, we will always live with the embarrassment.

“Government has to do the surgery because they have been at the receiving end of the embarrassment.

“We must be prepared to do this to save the future of football in Nigeria. We must come together to find solutions to see how these issues can be tackled,” he said.

How did we really get to this point, where did these clowns really come from? While it is easy for public officials to state they were misquoted or quoted out of context or in cases out rightly deny their own voices, you cannot but ask, did we wait for six months to get a Minister such as this?

Let us go through it together, as of Monday; Players and officials of the victorious Super Falcons threatened to take their protest to the doorsteps of President Muhammad Buhari if the Sports Ministry and the Nigeria Football Federation (NFF) continued to withhold their allowances.

The team returned from Yaoundé on Sunday morning after winning their eighth African Women Nations Cup title by beating the hosts, Lionesses of Cameroon, 1-0 on Saturday.

The players claim they are being owned over N238.05 accumulated bonuses. Camp allowances and match bonuses for the 23 players, excluding coaches and other backroom officials throughout the duration of the 10th African Women Nations Cup in Cameroon is said to be in the range of $25,000 (about N11.25 million). In a simple sentence the players are owed emoluments, including camp allowances, winning bonuses and nine months’ salary for the coaches. NINE WHOLE MONTHS!

Hear this… “So, if by the close of work today (yesterday) nothing comes from them, we may take our action. I don’t know why this country always wants people to embarrass it before doing the needful. We may be forced to march to the Presidential Villa or the Senate to register our grievances. “Look at the way we were treated like orphans in Cameroon. None of us could buy anything for our loved ones back home just because there was no single kobo to do shopping. Is it fair?” the player asked.

Meanwhile NFF president, Amaju Pinnick, told The Guardian at the Murtala Mohammed Airport shortly after the Super Falcons arrived, that the federation was cash strapped, adding, however, that they would do everything possible to make the players and officials smile.

“You don’t give what you don’t have,” Pinnick answered when pressed to state exactly when the players and officials would get their emoluments.

YOU DON’T GIVE WHAT YOU DON’T HAVE…Tell me this is not true, and IF YOU THINK THAT THE ABOVE IS NOT TRUE…By Tuesday the following emerged; Players of the Super Falcons, yesterday rejected the Nigeria Football Federation’s (NFF) directives to vacate their Agura Hotel, Abuja camp, saying they would not leave the camp until all their emoluments were settled.

AND BY WEDNESDAY, the story was now; Members of the victorious Super Falcons held back their plan of taking their protest to the doorsteps of President Muhammadu Buhari yesterday, following the intervention of the Senate Committee on Sports. But for the fifth day, the players refused to vacate their rooms at Agura Hotel in Abuja in protest over non-payment of their camp allowances, match bonuses and nine months’ salaries for their coaches.

However, the players’ dream of getting any positive result from the Presidency was dashed yesterday when the Minister for Information, Alhaji Lai Muhammed, said the government has no money to pay the players and their officials.

By Friday…The following was the concluding script; Super Falcons stars and some of the coaches could lose their jobs as fallout from the standoff over unpaid entitlements.

Falcons striker Francisca Ordega will be among the stars to be axed after she said she regrets playing for the country. The USA-based star was later blasted by Nigeria Football Federation (NFF) president Amaju Pinnick for her comments.

“No less than ten of these players could be banned for life for ridiculing their fatherland before the international media and henceforth, the NFF may draw up a code of conduct to guide against future occurrences.”

“The coaches and officials are not left out as they could lose their jobs for not standing firm in support of the federation when it matters most.”


Let me end this musing by going all the way to Gambia; On 2 December, the President of the Independent Electoral Commission in Gambia had announced that opposition candidate Adama Barrow (Coalition 2016) won the election conducted in that nation, and President Yahya Jammeh (APRC – Alliance for Patriotic Reconstruction and Construction) accepted his defeat. However, on a recorded statement Jammeh announced he now rejects “in totality” and called for new elections to be held when resources allow.

The problem with us in Nigeria and Africa is that with all our exploits, with all our intellect, with our sporting, and literary achievements, include great men like Mendela, Nkrumah, Zik, Awo and others, the continent and particularly Nigeria is littered with Ewu Gambia.

We are cursed with terrible leadership, a followership that is at war with itself. When the likes of Lai Mohammed, Solomon Dalung, amongst many men and women are those in charge of governance, we keep delaying a much needed surgery on a system that is plagued by a cancerous failure, and dare I ask, for how long—Only time will tell.



(Ewu Gambia by direct translation means Gambian Goat, it is a popular and commonly used expression, and its origin unknown)










Prince Charles Dickson

Currently Prince Charles, is based out of Jos, Plateau State, and conducts field research and investigations in the Middle Belt Region of Nigeria with an extensive reach out to the entire North and other parts. Prince Charles worked on projects for UN Women, Search for Common Ground, and International Crisis Group, among others. He is an alumnus of the University of Jos and the prestigious Humanitarian Academy at Harvard and Knight Center For Journalism, University of Texas at Austin. A doctoral candidate of Georgetown University

Born in Lagos State (South West Nigeria), Prince Charles is proud of his Nigerian roots. He is a Henry Luce Fellow, Ford Foundation grantee and is proficient in English, French, Yoruba Ibo and Hausa. Married with two boys, and a few dogs and birds.


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