Day of Long Knives as Maigari Battles Pinnick for the Soul of NFF

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Duro Ikhazuagbe

Finally, the battle for the soul of Nigerian football will be decided Thursday in Katsina as incumbent Amaju Melvin Pinnick guns for a second term in office as president of the Nigeria Football Federation (NFF). Others in the race include, immediate past president, Aminu Maigari, a former General Secretary, Taiwo Ogunjobi and a dark horse amateur club proprietor, Chinedu Okoye.

Pinnick is aiming to break a jinx that has lasted over 50 years as none of the past presidents has ever succeeded in returning to office back-to-back. The former Delta FA chairman is banking on his achievements during his first term to swing victory in his favour. But football historians in the country know that winning the NFF presidency goes beyond performance in office. Extraneous factors bothering on the usual Nigerian ways of doing things take the lion share in who gets elected.

Ordinarily, Pinnick’s performance in this first spell ending today is enough to get him an automatic ticket for an encore on the job. Apart from raising the profile of the federation with multi-billion Naira sponsorship partnerships, he has succeeded in putting NFF on the path to self-sustainability! Instead of the previous beggarly disposition of the NFF, now, Nigerians are beginning to see semblance of corporate governance in the running of the affairs of the Glass house. And only a second term can consolidate all the gains recorded in the past four years

But Maigari whose secondary education certificate is under scrutiny going into today’s polls at the Kabir Aliyu Maska Conference Hall in Katsina, is a time-tested gladiator of the Nigerian football politics.

After high-wired conspiracy stopped him from getting re-elected shortly after the World Cup in Brazil where Super Eagles matched the country’s previous best achievement of a second-round finish, the Bauchi-born football administrator is banking on the structure he has been oiling since 2010 when he succeeded Sani Lulu Abdullahi to reclaim his mandate from Pinnick. He is also banking heavily on the previous block votes that come from the northern delegates who speak with one voice.

However, Maigari’s permutation may have been punctured by the young Turks led by Shehu Dikko, an alley of Pinnick and Ibrahim Gusau who are both gunning to return to the board as both 2nd Vice President and Chairman of Chairmen respectively. Dikko also doubles as chairman of the League Management Company (LMC). They both know their return to these two plum positions are tied to Pinnick’s fate today. Gusau has oil and gas magnate, Ifeanyi Ubah to contend with for the chairman of chairmen position.

As at last night, wheeling and dealings amongst the combatants stretched late into the night with the various camps crossing the ‘ts’ and dotting the ‘is’.

For the position of the 1st Vice President, two candidates from the South-west are at each others throats. Incumbent Lagos FA Chairman, Seyi Akinwunmi is aiming for return while a former member of the Pinnick camp, Otunba Sunday Dele-Ajayi wants the same position. Unless something gives in the last minute horse-trading that dove-tailed into today’s polls, the Lagos FA boss is as good as returned to the position.

An interesting scenario is also expected to play out in which candidate represents the South-east in the new board. While Chairman of Enyimba, Felix Anyasi-Agwu is plotting his return, Vice-chairman of Imo FA Emmanuel Ochiagha is insisting it is the turn of Imo to represent the zone on the NFF board. Another candidate from Abia, Emeka Inyama is likely to step down.