On Saturday 29 April Alhaji Sani Zubairu was elected as the President of the Nigeria (Football) Referees Association. He took over from Otunba Tade Azeez who bowed out after eight years in office.
The Bauchi born retired FIFA Referee’s election did not come on a platter of gold, as there were in tricks and political alignments to get him to the seat.
Though, reports had it that some power that are, never wanted him on the seat, they preferred another person to him. But, providence had designed that Zubairu will be the President this time, after he was compelled to step down in the last dispensation.
Before his election, Zubairu was the Deputy National President of the Association and the Secretary of the NFF Referees Committee.
Zubairu clinched the top job with a landslide 54-0 win over his challenger Elder Olokor.
At the election that brought Zubairu into office, apart from the office of President, Deputy President and Financial Secretary, other elective positions were returned un-opposed.
Those who were elected at the 2023 Election were
1. Welfare Officer – Bar. Ejiofor Ahamafuele
2. National Publicity Secretary – Chukwudi Ejimofor
3. Asst. National Training Officer – Aminu Shantali
4. National Training Officer – Olori Adebisi Odeniran
5. Deputy Fin. Sec. – Oduli
6. National Fine. Sec. – A. Banshil
7. National Treasurer – Isa Mohammed
8. Asst. Secretary General – Fabidun Fidelis
9. Deputy Secretary General – Col. Achikasim Nicholas
10. Secretary General – Suleman Omeza Usman
11. Vice President II – Umaru Fegge
12. Vice President 1 – Engr. Emmanuel Emiere
13. Deputy President – A. Kelechi Mejuobi
In his acceptance speech, the NRA helmsman thanked delegates for voting them into office pledging to use his experience having served as Deputy President in the previous regime to better the lot of Referees in Nigeria. Zubairu was the Secretary of the NFF Referees Committee.
The task before Sani Zubairu is enormous and goes beyond the acquisition of political position. He knows that the image of Nigerian referees are at the lowest web, and the public perception of a Nigerian Referee is a story for another. Refereeing which was supposed to be a hobby is gradually turning to profession where young unemployed men and women run into to raise fortune for themselves. It is not a gain saying, that Refereeing in Nigeria is assumed to be “buying and selling”. People believes that it is for the highest bidder. This ugly perception can be corrected, by consolidating on the gains of the 2023 League season.
The quality of Refereeing affects the quality of the game, and the standard of our league today, has a lot to do with the quality of the referees that handles the matches.
Zubairu with his experience, should endeavor to ensure we return our referees to the highest level in Africa and the World . He is not a novice in the political “chess game” that properly position referees for a long time, that makes them a force to be reckon with in the continent and the world. Also, this has a lot to do with the age of the referees. He can look at the possibility of recalling the idea of creating a REFEREEING ACADEMY at the society level, where more young referees can be recruited into the Association. Football Refereeing can be taken to the primary and junior secondary schools.
The return of the MA elite courses for referees should be returned to Nigeria. Our referees need to be trained and re-trained. Our referees should be up to the standards attainable elsewhere in the world. They should be able to communicate effectively both in spoken and written English. Computer literacy should be Compulsory for them.
The welfare and insurance policies for the referees should be paramount to Zubairu and his team. The lives of the referees is very important, and they should be properly taken care of before going for any match. Their indemnity for matches should be paid adequately, and should be reviewed regularly. Box 18 is a true believer of the referees once slogan of “BEAT A REFEREE, KILL NIGERIA FOOTBALL”. Teams that attack a referee for whatever reason should be expelled from the league. Until, we get to that stage, the lives and security of the referees would not be preserved.
Sani Zubairu has the political clout to influence sponsors to Refereeing. Our referees should be traveling to match venues by air. A situation where referees are seen jumping night buses make them vulnerable to desperate club officials.
Zubairu can do well, but he will need the support of all to get it done.