The President of the Nigeria Football Federation, Amaju Pinnick
• Minister, Federation meet today
Stakeholders in Nigerian football have advised the country to thread carefully in its pronouncements on the forthcoming CAF general polls, saying that backing the wrong candidate could be disastrous for the nation.
Last week, the Nigeria Football Federation (NFF) after an executive committee meeting gave its president, Amaju Pinnick, the right to back any of the two candidates in next month’s general polls. The candidates are the incumbent Issa Hayatou of Cameroon and Ahmad Ahmad of Madagascar. Pinnick promptly declared his support for Ahmad.
But on Sunday, a group of Nigerians working in CAF committees in a statement distanced themselves from the support for Ahmad. They said Hayatou would serve the country’s interests better.
Sports Minister, Solomon Dalung, also warned the federation to avoid anything that would work against the country’s interests, inferring that Hayatou’s continued stay, as CAF president would be of better benefit to the country.
Dalung is expected to meet with the NFF today in Abuja, where analysts say he could try to force the federation to change its stance on the candidates.
Yesterday, the NFF reaffirmed its mandate on Pinnick to vote for the candidate of his choice, saying he is familiar with the candidates and knows the best horse to back.
Affirming the NFF board’s stance on the issue, a board member, Ibrahim Gusau, accused those criticising Pinnick for supporting another candidate apart from Hayatou as selfish, saying some of them have been in that system for decades and believe that without Hayatou, they will not retain their seats in CAF.
Backing Gusau’s position, sports consultant, Sab Ikewuaku, advised Nigeria to join the progressive group, adding that it would be an anomaly to give a 71-year-old Hayatou another mandate when every other continent is turning to their youths for leadership.
“FIFA president, Gianni Infantino is 46 years old. All the other confederations have relinquished power to their younger generation and here is Africa still fighting over Hayatou, who is closer to 80 years than the 70 he claims.
“We should not send anybody to FIFA, who will be sleeping during meetings. We saw how he performed as acting FIFA president and I plead we should not make Africa the laughing stock in world football.”
He also advised Sports Minister, Solomon Dalung, against trying to force the NFF to change its stance, saying such action could be counter-productive.
Former NFF President, Sani Lulu Abdullahi, has a contrary view. He believes the NFF’s position should reflect the country’s foreign policy and take into cognizance, who her true friends are.
Lulu in an interview published by a local website pointed out how key government’s role was in running football in country. He, however, admitted that by Fifa’s statutes, the NFF should operate without any interference.
He maintained that the “government must be consulted as a third-party because international football is akin to international politics, hence, the matter of alliances and policy directions of the FA must align with the Federal government’s.”
Meanwhile, FIFA President, Gianni Infantino, who has been on consultative meetings with Africa’s regional powers, says he will put the continent as a priority in his plans going forward.
Observers believe Infantino is disposed to having a younger CAF president and has been meeting with African football leaders to actualise that dream.