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Gusau must be wary of Pinnick and his antics

Before I am misunderstood, let me make it categorically clear that I have nothing personal against the immediate past president of the Nigerian Football Federation…

Before I am misunderstood, let me make it categorically clear that I have nothing personal against the immediate past president of the Nigerian Football Federation (NFF) and FIFA Executive Council member, Amaju Melvin Pinnick. In fact, he deserves respect and the history of Nigerian football will be incomplete without a mention of his name.

However, I was one of those who vehemently opposed his third term ambition. Many of us opposed him not out of hatred but because he was a monumental failure in the eight years that he presided over Nigerian football. Nobody can convince me that Nigerian football witnessed the much needed transformation when Pinnick held sway. Of course, he and his close associates, used the platform provided by Nigeria to feather their nests while the game suffered.

 As a matter of fact, Pinnick is only the third Nigerian to be elected FIFA Executive Council member after late Orok Oyo Orok and Dr. Amos Adamu. It is no mean achievement getting to this exalted position in global football administration but Nigeria made it possible for him to become one of the most powerful football administrators in the world.

But the big question remains, where is Nigeria presently in the comity of football playing nations? Our football has nosedived so much that in a few days time, the best footballing nations in the world would assemble in Qatar for the 2022 World Cup but the Super Eagles will be conspicuously absent. Even as Nigerian football won’t be on display in Qatar, by virtue of their positions in FIFA, Pinnick and a few of his friends will be there to savour the matches and wine and dine with the most powerful people in world football.

One may not like to hold Pinnick entirely responsible for the failure of the Super Eagles to land safely in Qatar but because he was the man in charge when the sporting disaster befell the nation, he must be held responsible. 

It was, therefore, shocking that following the 2022 World Cup mishap, Pinnick’s popularity among Nigerians, especially the football fraternity diminished considerably, yet he wanted a third term in office. However, we must all thank God that he eventually bowed to pressure and reluctantly dumped his selfish ambition. 

But, as it is typical of people with over-bloated egos usually fed by foolish pride, he still attempted to hoodwink Nigerians to think that our football would be doomed without him. When that didn’t work for him, he changed the narrative as he boasted that by virtue of his position in CAF and FIFA, he does not need to be NFF president to control Nigerian football. Pinnick even claimed that once he is not the NFF president, those corporate sponsors he had brought into Nigerian football would vamoose. 

However, as we all know, on September 30, the 78th NFF Annual General Assembly and elective congress was held in Benin City, where Zamfara State born football administrator, Alhaji Ibrahim Musa Gusau, was elected the new president of the NFF. The new NFF boss and other board members were sworn in the same day which effectively ended the inglorious reign of Pinnick.

Gusau is now in charge. Although it took longer than necessary for the new board to hold its inaugural meeting, it held eventually and ‘far-reaching decisions’ were said to be taken. Gusau and his board members are trying their best to steady the once sinking ship. They also appear to be enjoying the support of other stakeholders who either believe in them or are weary of fighting. 

So, even as there are pockets of issues here and there, Gusau is surely not going to be distracted or weighed down by the high number of court cases his former boss, Alhaji Aminu Maigari, faced when he became the president of the NFF in 2010.

Apparently, Gusau is destined to succeed in his onerous task but he must be wary of his predecessor who had vowed to remain in charge of Nigerian football. Pinnick is obsessed with power. He can’t do without it for too long. 

In fact, not long ago, some of us became more apprehensive when Gusau himself announced that Pinnick had led him by the hand to meet with some of NFF’s corporate sponsors. Without any doubt, the so called familiarisation visit was initiated by Pinnick who wants to be seen to be the man in charge of Nigerian football.

On the surface, his gesture may appear noble and well-intended but beneath it, there may be a dangerous plan to undermine Gusau’s authority or question his capacity to lead the new board.

I have not stopped asking why it was so easy for an intelligent man like Gusau to fall into Pinnick’s trap. Does it mean if Pinnick drops dead today, those corporate organisations will automatically withdraw their sponsorship of Nigerian football? Are they doing what is at best their corporate social responsibility because of Pinnick? Are they sponsoring Pinnick or Nigerian football? What on earth is making Pinnick to feel that without him, these companies will dump Nigerian football? Did Maigari take Pinnick on such a tour when he relinquished power to him? The questions ringing in my head are indeed endless.

I am, therefore, surprised that nobody close to Gusau advised him against allowing himself to be used by someone who is desperate for power. I want to make it clear to Gusau that even before Pinnick, there were corporate sponsors for Nigerian football and now that Pinnick, whose handling of sponsors’ monies was shrouded in secrecy, is out of office, many organisations will be willing to come on board. Once there is transparency, accountability and results on the field of play, corporate organisations will fall over one another to sponsor Nigerian football.

I, therefore, want Gusau to pause a while and ask why he has inherited huge debts said to be over N3b, if Pinnick indeed succeeded in marketing Nigerian football? How judicious was Pinnick in utilizing the monies that came into the NFF coffers from the Federal Government, CAF, FIFA and over 16 corporate sponsors he constantly brandished about? In fact, how much money did he leave in NFF accounts? 

 It may not be possible for Gusau to completely detach himself from Pinnick immediately but he should be ready to use the special spoon we’ve been told to always use when dining with the devil. A word is enough for the wise.

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