Without doubt, apart from the recent terrorists’ attack on an Abuja-Kaduna train which left scores dead and many others abducted, the most topical issue in Nigeria presently is the failure of the Super Eagles to qualify for the 2022 FIFA World Cup and the clamour for the president of the Nigeria Football Federation (NFF), Amaju Pinnick, and his board to resign.
On Tuesday, March 29, Nigerians were left heartbroken after the Black Stars of Ghana came to Abuja and picked the ticket to the 2022 World Cup on away goal rule after they were forced to a 1-1 draw by the hosts.
It will be recalled that the first leg of the CAF third round qualifiers in Kumasi, Ghana, had ended in a barren draw which left the Super Eagles with their backs to the wall.
Consequently, it was expected that they would get the job done in Abuja but that was not to be as the Super Eagles allowed their more hungry opponents to score that decisive goal.
Although they fought back to equalise through a VAR assisted penalty, the Super Eagles, who needed another goal to turn the tide in their favour, were simply lackadaisical in their approach to the task before them. Eventually, the match ended 1-1 so the three-time African champions won’t be part of the party in Qatar in November.
Apart from the Super Eagles, four other African countries that reached the final round of the qualifiers – Algeria, DR Congo, Mali and Egypt – also failed to qualify for the World Cup. It was indeed a double tragedy for the Pharaohs of Egypt who lost to the Terranga Lions of Senegal in the 2021 AFCON finals and the 2022 World Cup playoff.
Being men of integrity and conscience, the technical advisers of the Pharaohs of Egypt and Algeria didn’t wait for anyone to put pressure on them to vacate their positions. As a matter of fact, the president of the Algerian Football Federation, Charafeddine Emara, also resigned from his position. They honourably relinquished their positions for failing to deliver on their mandates.
Considering the honourable deeds mentioned above, the persistent calls by aggrieved Nigerians who feel strongly that Pinnick, in his nearly eight years as NFF president has continued to lead Nigerian football by the nose and should resign immediately, can’t be said to be misplaced.
However, what many people are yet to understand is that public office holders in Nigeria don’t resign no matter how poorly they perform. They sit tight till the day they die or are chased out, if they become too unpopular.
So, those demanding for Pinnick’s resignation should remember that this is not the first time they are calling on him to throw in the towel and walk away with what is left of his integrity and reputation.
Few instances of past failures that required instant resignation of the NFF boss will suffice here. Nigeria football under Pinnick beginning from 2014 had been on a steady decline and this culminated into the failure of almost all the national teams to qualify for international competitions at one time or another.
Back to back, in 2015 and 2017, the Super Eagles failed to qualify for the Africa Cup of Nations but Pinnick didn’t resign. The male and female national teams couldn’t qualify for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics football event but Pinnick didn’t bat an eyelid.
Before then, the junior national teams, the Flying Eagles and the Golden Eaglets, had failed to qualify for their respective World championships.
It is, therefore, correct to say that on more than one occasion, Nigerians expected Pinnick to resign but he continued as if nothing had happened. As a matter of fact, the more Nigerian football nose-dives, the more the Warri-born sports administrator tightens his iron grip on it.
Sadly, even as Nigerian football has made Pinnick, apart from his cronies, the game itself has not benefited from his rising profile. It is hard to see in what ways Nigerian football has benefitted from his membership of the Executive Committee of FIFA, the world’s football governing body.
At the moment, Nigerians are mourning the failure of the Super Eagles to qualify for the 2022 World Cup but there are so many other failures right under the nose of Pinnick that they seem to have forgotten.
For instance, only one Nigerian referee made a brief appearance at the 2021 AFCON in Cameroon. And no Nigerian referee will be at the 2022 World Cup. But Pinnick and his loyalists will be in Qatar to work for FIFA as committee members. Isn’t this selfishness of the highest degree?
Well, the pressure is on for the man that many prefer to refer to as ‘NFF sole administrator’ due to his leadership style, to resign but those who want a breath of fresh air in the NFF may have to wait a little longer.
The heat is on but resignation may not be on the cards for Pinnick because having enmeshed himself in the erroneous belief that he is the best and most successful football administrator in the history of Nigeria, I don’t think he will discard his hidden third-term ambition so easily.
However, the latest failure of the Super Eagles has not done his ambition any good.
It could be recalled that those who desperately wanted Alhaji Ibrahim Galadima out of the then Nigeria Football Association (NFA) used Nigeria’s failure to qualify for the 2006 World Cup to oust him.
Had the Super Eagles qualified for Qatar 2022, Pinnick would have used the ticket as a campaign tool for the 2022 NFF elections. But with the recent football calamity, only his close allies will still listen to him talk about another term as NFF president.
However, anyone who is thinking Pinnick will resign before the expiration of his tenure is definitely attempting to fetch water using a basket. The NFF ‘sole administrator’ is like any other average Nigerian public office holder. They don’t resign voluntarily.