By Duro Ikhazuagbe
Despite Nigeria not fielding a candidate for the office of the President of Confederation of African Football (CAF) in the elections scheduled to hold on March 16 in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, gladiators in the country’s football administration are up in arms against one another.
Last Week’s endorsement of Madagascar’s FA President, Ahmad Ahmad, by NFF President, Amaju Pinnick, is at the centre of the furore tearing apart the hitherto bond existing among the football stakeholders here.
Yesterday, all 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 the only female in their midst, Aisha Falode, issued a statement insisting that Pinnick’s decision to dump incumbent Issa Hayatou who is seeking eighth term as CAF president for Ahmad was purely a personal matter.
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. Countries support their candidates, finance such elections, set up various committees led by ministers, diplomats and football people to lobby and canvass across the continent in high level diplomatic sojourns armed with manifesto publications and letters of introduction etc. Regrettably, we cannot claim to have done any of the above, yet the election is less than a month away,” observed the statement released yesterday by these eminent Nigerians in various CAF committees.
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.
“The CAF President, Issa Hayatou, who is a FIFA Senior Vice President, overtime has been a pillar of support and true friend of Nigerian football. His service to the round leather game cannot be disputed given the giant strides that football in the continent has taken especially in the areas of sponsorship and partnership, and the spread of the game to all nooks and corners of the continent.
“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 well as the resolution of sensitive issues involving our country at FIFA level in 2010 are some of the benefits accruing to us from his (Hayatou) reign.
“We, Nigerian members of CAF hereby declare our unalloyed support for President Hayatou and his leadership of CAF, one that has brought great development to the game in Africa, including the hosting of the FIFA World Cup on Africa soil for the first time,” stressed the nine CAF committee members.
But in a swift move, Chairman of Chairmen of the current NFF board, Ibrahim Gusau, countered those insisting Pinnick acted without the support of his board. 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.
“We have unanimously endorsed him to contest for the CAF Executive seat and also vote for any candidate of his choice whom he believes will benefit Nigeria,” Gusau insisted last night.
The Chairman of Chairmen accused those Nigerians in CAF committees drumming support for Hayatou as selfish people.
“Some of those criticizing Amaju (Pinnick) for supporting another candidate apart from Issa Hayatou are selfish because some of them have been in that system for decades and they believe that without Hayatou they cannot retain their seats.
“They don’t have the interest of Nigeria and besides, what has the country benefited from them since they have been there? So it is wrong for anybody to start criticizing Amaju for not supporting Hayatou,” Gusau fired back.
He insisted that it was the same Hayatou that stood vehemently that Africa was not going to support Infantino Presidency during the FIFA election.
“Infantino is the same President that appointed the first African as Secretary General of FIFA.
So I believe Amaju being Nigeria’s representative knows what is best for Nigeria and we have given him the mandate to contest a seat in CAF Executive and also vote for any presidential candidate that will benefit Nigeria.
“As NFF President, he is not going to the CAF position as an individual but as the country’s mouthpiece in the continental body,” he noted.
Meanwhile, the Minister of Youth and Sports, Solomon Dalung, has called for an emergency meeting with the executive board members of the NFF in Abuja tomorrow.
SA Media to the minister, Nneka Ikem Anibeze, said in a statement yesterday that the meeting would hold in the Minister’s conference room, National Stadium, Abuja at 11am.
The statement emphasised that attendance of all board members to the emergency meeting was mandatory.