It is no longer news that the President of the Nigeria Football Federation, Amaju Pinnick is gunning for a seat in the next Executive Council of FIFA, the world’s football governing body.
What is news, however, is as the Elective Congress of the Confederation of Africa Football, CAF, scheduled for March 21, 2021 in Rabat, Morocco approaches, the Delta State football administrator is also intensifying his efforts to ensure he achieves his ambition.
While declaring his ambition, Pinnick said “I have decided to be a candidate for the FIFA Council at the next Elective Congress of the Confederation of African Football scheduled for March 21, 2021 in Rabat, Morocco.
“For me, it has never been a matter of personal ambition. Always, it has been the passion for service and desire to change the old ways of things and embrace wholeheartedly the new and exciting, and more innovative and impactful ways.”
Hate him or like him, Pinnick’s rising profile in world football is not in doubt. He has used his position as president of one of the most powerful affiliates of FIFA to build bridges across the continent of Africa and the world in general.
However, it cannot be denied that in doing so, Pinnick has also made not a few enemies who may not hesitate to scuttle his political ambition, if given the opportunity to do so. His frosty relationship with a former close ally, Ahmad Ahmad who recently returned as president of the Confederation of African Football, CAF, is a good example.
Even at home, it is not all clear for Pinnick as some dissenting voices have continued to kick against his ambition to occupy the position held previously by only two Nigerians, Oyo Orok Oyo and Dr. Amos Adamu.
It is not a secret that many are not happy with how he has handled football in the country just as some still make reference to allegations of corruption against him. However, he is yet to be convicted of corruption in any law court.
Obviously aware of the huge task ahead of him, the NFF president is not resting on his efforts as he continues to search for local and international support for him to clinch the single available slot for Anglo-phone at next month’s congress.
Only recently, he visited the Minister of Sports, Sunday Dare where he presented a letter expressing his intention to run for the FIFA Executive Council seat and a pledge to be a worthy ambassador, if elected.
He also used the opportunity to thank President Muhammadu Buhari and all Nigerians for the support he has enjoyed since he became NFF president in 2014.
On his part, the minister gave his support as he said such aspiration is the only way through which Nigerian can have a strong voice in the committee of football playing countries.
That is no doubt government support which Pinnick needs to pursue his ambition. However, like earlier stated, some Nigerians who feel he has not done enough to be supported are vehemently opposed to his aspiration.
The Chairman, Professional Footballers Association of Nigeria (PFAN) Board of Trustees, Jalla Harrison has categorically said Pinnick is not fit to be in the FIFA Executive Council.
“He is not fit for the seat. He is a tainted fellow. He will bring disgrace like he did in CAF. What value did he bring to Nigerian football in the last 7 years? I have written to FIFA challenging his position but they still cleared him. He is not the only Nigerian that we have.
“He still has corruption cases but I was shocked when he was cleared despite not appearing in court. Why would he seek court injunctions to stop ICPC from prosecuting him? He should go and clear his name and that was the basis of my letter to FIFA,” he said.
In addition, a former chairman of Gombe State Football Association, Alhaji Ahmed Shuaibu Gara-Gombe said supporting Pinnick will not be in the best interest of the country.
He also condemned the minister of sports for making it appear as if the federal government had endorsed the candidature of Pinnick.
“First and foremost, Pinnick does not deserve to be in the FIFA council.
“If it is a Nigerian project, by now the FG would have issued a statement not through the minister of sports but by any of the presidential spokespersons. The statement from the minister simply says it is Amaju Pinnick’s personal project.
“But if it is a Nigerian project, then Pinnick is not the best candidate. Sending Pinnick to FIFA is like exporting corruption. There is no agency today that is not investigating him. He doesn’t have Nigeria interest at heart,” he asserted.
However, other prominent football administrators took a different path as they said the NFF president should be supported since he is the only one flying Nigeria’s flag.
A former chairman of the then Nigeria Football Association, NFA, Alhaji Ibrahim Galadima said despite his shortcomings, the government should support Pinnick, if he is found worthy enough to be the country’s ambassador in FIFA.
“Let me speak as someone who had gone through a similar journey where some people worked against me. Being ambitious is part of our lives and therefore, it’s not wrong for someone to aspire to be somewhere.
“I think what is important is for the government of the day to protect the interest of Nigeria as he will be our ambassador. If he gets there, I hope he will make amends and get back people’s attention,” he said.
In the same vein, a former NFF presidential candidate, Hon. Lumumba Dah Adeh said he is supporting Pinnick because Nigeria needs to be part of the decision making at the world level.
“Some people may not be satisfied with his performance at the NFF but for whatever it is worth, for a Nigerian to be at the world stage, the better for us. If the opportunity is there for him to move on, I support him totally because it will be at an advantage for Nigeria,” he said.
Adeh, however, advised Pinnick to “conduct himself in a manner that he will not bring shame and disgrace to Nigeria because these are bodies that demand high integrity and transparency.”
Also speaking with Barrister Ikye Leo Igbokwe, a former official of the defunct Gabros FC said Pinnick should not be blamed for the failure in the NFF but should be supported to clinch the seat.
“He is the only Nigerian that is coming out. We don’t have any choice than to support him. If he doesn’t get there, I think Nigeria will be the biggest loser.
“At this point in time, we should not concentrate more on his performance but what he can bring to the table at that level. There is no other alternative so we should go for him but his performance has not been satisfactory,” he said.