Hail The New President

by Segun Odegbami © Segun Odegbami (October 2nd 

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Amaju Pinnick Steps into the Storm

I was in Ghana early this week when the elections for the Executive Committee of the Nigeria Football Federation took place. From what I gather there are still a few pending issues that must be resolved before final peace, if there will ever be such a thing in Nigerian football, can be achieved.

But first let me join Sepp Blatter and all other well wishers that have sent congratulatory messages to Amaju Pinnick in wishing him well in his reign as President of the Nigeria Football Association (Federation). It was no mean feat to emerge as President at the congress that was held on September 30 despite a court order that I am told directed it not to hold, as it was against a FIFA advise that the congress be held.

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The Cycle

The important thing for now is that, in spite of the faults of the electoral process that I pointed out previously, the elections came and went and a new Executive Committee has emerged. That ‘game’ is over. Despite the protestations, Amaju Pinnick will govern for the next 4 years.

After that, unless that term is used to right all the wrongs of the present, the crisis that almost consumed the country’s football will repeat itself again. You do not plant an orange and expect to reap an apple. I guarantee you, as I did in 2010, that in 4 years time, we shall go through this same cycle again, unless things change.

Without question, Pinnick deserves his victory considering his opponents. He was helped by a whole lot of other factors like where the congress was held: the political party the State belongs to, the previous zonal imbalance of power in Nigerian football and the influence of the Delta State governor and his relationship with the highest level of power in Nigeria. All were great influences on the final result.

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Without going into the details, all the other contestants should have known that for as long as the elections took place in Delta State – one of the contestants was from there – and the incumbent President was not contesting the elections this time, the chances of stopping the hurtling Amaju Pinnick train was almost impossible. That’s the nature of elections here in Nigeria. And there will be more to come.

Pinnick was the Chairman of the Football Association of Delta State – he now has to relinquish that position. That means there must be an election to determine his successor. There will also be an election for the position Executive Chairman of the Delta State Sports Commission – Pinnick must also give up tat position to remove any suggestion of ‘government interference’ that may haunt him in his relationship with FIFA. Nevertheless, Pinnick has added yet another feather to his already bulging portfolio of political achievements and offices. However, he faces huge challenges.

The Challenges Amaju Pinnick Must Conquer

At things now stand, Pinnick comes to office with his hands full of serious and, sometimes, complicated issues he has to deal with first. He will need all his wits: human relations and acute political, legal and administrative skills, to successfully manoeuvre through the minefields that lie ahead.

Somehow, he would have to find a way to stop the challenges still in court. Unless, there is a political intervention at a high level, and the courts agree to bend over backwards to allow disregard of their decisions to go unpunished, Pinnick will face a huge challenge. There is nothing new there, as it has happened previously and the last executive got away with it for the 4 years of their tenure. Pinnick may soon find that the simple decision of a high court judge in Jos, who may not even know anything about the game of football, could develop into a cancer that would make life extremely difficult for the new committee. But there are other problems too.

Besides Giwa – the football club in Jos at the centre of the problem with FIFA – there are still other aggrieved members of the last executive committee that appear to have now lost out in the battle of the last election. They are also stakeholders at different levels of Nigerian football and their grievances will just not disappear simply because Sepp Blatter has congratulated Amaju Pinnick. Far from it, he would have to appease them somehow and readmit them into the fold for him to be able to sleep with both eyes shut!

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Furthermore, he would have to take a firm stand, for good or for worse, on who has the rights to manage the affairs of the Nigerian Premier League – a situation that is confounding to everyone. The architects of that body, which is also known as the League Management Committee (LMC) and the NFF members appear to be on a collision course. Pinnick will have to resolve a situation that is unknown in the statutes of Nigerian football, while needing to hold on to the most priced possession of the members of the NFF – the Premier League. He will have to do this despite facing strong opposition. I foresee a grave crisis looming over this.

Even this is not all that Pinnick will face. There will be other issues too, including that of the future of the current coach of the Super-Eagles Stephen Keshi. I foresee a big battle of egos between Pinnick and Keshi, who will have to decide whether to fire the African Cup of Nations winning coach or retain him. The next set of matches will determine how that plays out in the beginning of what could be a turbulent relationship.

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Halting the Repetitive Cycle

Finally, I believe that unless the statutes of the Nigeria Football Federation are amended to accommodate all stakeholders on the basis of equal representation, as directed by FIFA years ago in their letter to the board headed by Sani Lulu, and are designed in such a way that every election is held with all contestants on a level playing field, and is not driven by vaulting ambition that introduces special rules from outside the statutes, the future is depressingly certain. In 4 years time Nigerians should expect a repeat of what we have all just experienced.

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Meanwhile, once again, I wish Amaju Pinnick and the rest of his Executive Committee members the best of luck in their future struggles. They will need it. Congratulations Amaju!

 

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