The most topical issue in Nigerian football at the moment is no doubt the raging battle between some Chairmen of State Football Associations and the president of the Nigerian Football Federation (NFF), Amaju Pinnick, over the latter’s third ambition.
At least 28 state FA chairmen are leading the fight to stop the member of FIFA Executive Committee from retaining his position as president of the NFF when his tenure eventually expires in September.
To achieve this, the chairmen had issued an ultimatum to the Executive Committee of the NFF board to immediately initiate the process to vacate the Exparte Order from the Bayelsa State High Court restraining the federation from holding any congress or Annual General Assembly.
The first notice which expired on May 15, 2022 was followed by another which elapsed again on June 14. None of the two notices has produced the needed action from the NFF executive committee.
It is imperative to note that early this year, a football stakeholder had approached the Bayelsa State High Court that the 2022 elections shouldn’t be held until the federation reviews its present statutes to provide a level playing field for all would want to contest elections to become members of the Executive Committee.
Consequently, the court gave the exparte order on January 10 that has barred the NFF from convening its congress, from where it can derive the power to constitute an electoral committee for the 2022 elections.
This means, without vacating the court order, it will be practically impossible for the NFF to organise the next elections. It is for this reason that the ‘rebel chairmen’ have moved to put pressure on Pinnick to immediately vacate the exparte order for a general congress to be held.
Meanwhile, Pinnick who appears to have something up his sleeves is playing hide and seek game with the NFF congressmen, a development that has led to strong speculations that he has reneged on his earlier decision to jettison his third term ambition.
It will be recalled that after he came under intense pressure from Nigerians who demanded his resignation over the failure of the Super Eagles to qualify for the World Cup, the NFF president granted an interview in which he categorically said he was done with the ‘thankless job’.
However, the 28 congressmen are not comfortable with his present body language because he appears to be unwilling to vacate the High Court Order. They are of the opinion that he is deliberately buying time in order to benefit from the normalisation committee that will be set up by FIFA, in case no fresh election is held before the expiration of his tenure.
Although his present tenure expires in September, for now, the NFF statutes has not limited the number of times one can contest elections. This is no doubt a loophole which any greedy incumbent can easily exploit as many times as he wants. It is also for this obvious gap that Pinnick said in the interview with Arise TV that he is still eligible to contest again. Yes, he can contest again and again because the law appears too weak to stop him.
Moreover, if there was any iota of doubt as to whether or not Pinick will run for a third term, that was substantially reduced when his right hand man, Mr Motsepe Patrice, the president of the Confederation of African Football (CAF) eulogised him recently.
The South African billionaire tactically threw his weight behind his friend when he suggested that Pinnick is ‘indispensable’ to football in Africa. So, if African football as a whole can’t do without Pinnick, is it ordinary Nigeria that can survive without him? That no doubt, is the implication of Mr. Patrice’s perception of the man who helped him to oust Ahmad Ahmad.
However, the 28 congressmen are said to be determined to ensure that Pinnick does not retain his exalted position in the NFF. Curiously, they are presently exploring all avenues to scuttle the alleged third term ambition of their partner in crime.
Yes, they are partners in crime because until recently, they never saw anything wrong with Pinnick’s administration and his style of leadership. Like hallelujah men, they were ‘yes men’ who consistently passed a vote of confidence on him. Even when it became crystal clear that he had failed, their loyalty never wavered.
Well, from information available, the former ‘yes men’ are looking at the possibility of impeaching their man, if he refuses to vacate the court order for a General Congress that will usher in the 2022 NFF elections.
However, considering the complex nature of Nigerian politics, getting Pinnick out of the NFF will be an uphill task for the congressmen. They will first have to contend with and overcome Pinnick’s die-hard loyalists among them.
It is an open secret that some of the FA chairmen have benefitted immensely from Pinnick’s visibility in both CAF and FIFA. Based on his recommendations, some of them have been appointed into the CAF and FIFA sub-committee. Such men who are being liberated from poverty may not like to bite the finger that is feeding them.
Moreover, before they can impeach Pinnick, the ‘rebels’ must first convene an Extraordinary Congress. This will be a tricky one for them because they will need the NFF General Secretary to call for the important gathering. This is because Congress convened by any other person other than the president or General Secretary won’t be recognised by FIFA.
The question is, will Dr. Mohammed Sanusi, a known Pinnick loyalist join forces with the ‘rebellious gang’ to impeach him? This is doubtful because he may choose to swim or sink with his boss since their tenures will expire at the same time.
Retrospectively, it was easy for Alhaji Sani Lulu to be impeached in 2010 because the congressmen had the support of the then General Secretary, Bolaji Ojo-Oba, who was a civil servant and had to dance to the tune of his superiors in government.
However, similar attempts to impeach Alhaji Aminu Maigari failed woefully because the General Secretary, Barrister Musa Amadu, stood firmly behind him because he wasn’t a civil servant. There was no amount of pressure or intimidation that could make him throw his boss under the bus.
So, impeaching Pinnick may not be easy but is not mission impossible because he is daily losing his popularity among Nigerians and those spearheading the fight against him are said to be powerful congressmen who believe, and rightly so, that it is the turn of north to produce the next president of the NFF.