The Nigeria football polity has been in the news over the past week following NFF’s President Amaju Pinnick’s open support for Madagascar’s FA chairman Ahmad Ahmad who is the lone rival to incumbent Issa Hayatou of Cameroon in the upcoming CAF elections.
The Minister of Sports Solomon Dalung issued a statement late last week disassociating the country from Amaju Pinnick’s support and has gone ahead to schedule an emergency meeting with top FA members and stakeholders for 11am on Tuesday in Abuja.
Background of the Elections:
Through a constitutional assembly after several attempts, the Confederation of African Football came to life in February 1957 and has since grown over the years into a formidable organization in World football affairs. In 1988, after being endorsed by the then incumbent CAF President, Issa Hayatou emerged as the new man at the helms of affair defeating his Togolese challenger by 22 votes to 18, the 72 years old has been President for 29 years and is seeking re-election for his eight term in office come March 16 in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, when the elections take place.
In past elections, Hayatou has gone unchallenged but this year, with the strong wave of change blowing across various political settings in the world which also saw FIFA electing a new president in Gianni Infantino, Madagascar FA Chairman Ahmad Ahmad is leading a strong resistance to the Hayatou reign. The 57 year old is the Chairman of the Madagascar FA, elected in 2003, he is also a member of CAF executive committee and was once named in corruption allegations surrounding the award of the hosting of the 2022 World Cup in Qatar, he did admit to requesting for financial aid for his FA but insists it was not in exchange for votes.
The Nigerian Dilemma:
The NFF President who was recently in Zimbabwe and South Africa with Ahmad Ahmad for a three day FIFA council meeting with President Infantino last week openly endorsed the Madagascar’s FA President as Nigeria’s choice in the upcoming elections, harping on the need for a change in how football affairs should be run on the continent. The NFF President who is also seeking a place on the executive seat claimed that the decision was one discussed and agreed upon during an NFF executive meeting.
However, the declaration has opened a can of worms to which there seems no end, 9 Nigerians in CAF’s committees including Dr Amos Adamu, Brig-General Dominic Oneya (rtd), Alh. Sani Lulu, Alh. Aminu Maigari, Mr Amanze Uchegbulam, Dr. Bolaji Ojo-Oba, Mr Paul Bassey, Mr Chris Green and Aisha Falode, issued a statement insisting that Pinnick’s decision to dump incumbent Issa Hayatou was purely a personal matter and not a national decision as they were not consulted before the endorsement was made.
They insisted that no Nigerian in CAF or the supervising Federal Ministry of Youth and Sports was consulted before the NFF chief decided to announce the country’s support for the candidate from the Southern African football sub-region (COSAFA).
“Mr Pinnick as an individual has a right to declare support for whoever he pleases but when such support is made in the name of Nigeria then there is need for extreme caution given the political colouration of CAF elections of which we are well grounded and versed in.
“CAF Elections are not about individuals… They insisted that while Hayatou remains a friend of the country having previously supported most of the football fiestas hosted by the country as well as helping Nigerians into various CAF positions, Ahmad has not been here to canvass support and listed the hosting of the FIFA Under-17 Competition in 2009, the election of Nigerians into the CAF and FIFA Executive Committees, (Etubom Oyo Orok Oyo and Dr. Amos Adamu) as some of the benefits accruing to the nation under Hayatou’s reign.
But in a swift move, Chairman of Chairmen of the current NFF board, Ibrahim Gusau, countered this statement, he revealed that Pinnick was given the go-ahead to act in whatever possible way to advance the interest of Nigeria in the CAF elections.
“In a nutshell, we all agreed unanimously at the board meeting of NFF to support NFF President, Amaju Pinnick to contest for a CAF Executive seat in the forthcoming CAF elections in Addis Ababa. We also gave him a mandate to use his discretion to vote for any presidential candidate that has genuine vision that will benefit Nigeria. We believe Amaju as the President of NFF is not going to CAF as an individual but he is going there to represent the interest of Nigeria and we believe as a leader he understand the politics in CAF”.
Just so we clear, Amaju Pinnick getting on the executive committee of CAF is more to his benefit than to Nigeria’s benefit, there is really no gain that comes to the nation from him being on the board. I am fully in support that Issa Hayatou’s time is up and he needs to go but two things worry me, are we not jumping from the proverbial ‘fry pan to fire’ in seeking change just for the sake of change without due diligence on Ahmad Ahmad and why is Pinnick going all about his support like an amateur politician, forgetting that in politics, nothing is certain.
Issa Hayatou came in as an unknown, a breath of fresh air and grew into a behemoth that we all want out of the door. Ahmad Ahmad has been Chairman of his FA for 14 years (anything to read from that?), he is also the deputy Senate leader in his country and having listened to him on several platforms, I am yet to be convinced about his plans for football on the continent outside the leading chant that Hayatou just needs to leave. I have also learnt following the Nigerian Presidential elections, that all politicians are from the same side of the coin.
For Pinnick, who is Nigeria’s representative on the board and gets to vote, he seems fully confident that Ahmad Ahmad will win following FIFA President Infantino’s veiled support, COSAFA’s endorsement and some West African nations also supporting the challenger, but maybe he needs to take a cue from the likes of South Africa who have been careful in putting their necks on the line despite pressures from both side.
A total of 28 votes are required to unseat Hayatou, Ahmad Ahmad claims to have secured 15 already, will today’s meeting with the Minister witness any change in Nigeria’s stance, whatever the outcome of today’s meeting, football and not politics should be the winner.