The just concluded elections into the board of the Nigeria Football Federation (NFF) which held on Thursday in Katsina must mean a lot for the present and future of Nigerian football. At the end of the highly anticipated election, Amaju Marvin Pinnick, incumbent president of the NFF, got the mandate to continue in office for another four years. He beat his closest rival, former president Aminu Maigari by 34 to 8 votes. Taiwo Ogunjobi, a former Secretary General of the football association scored two votes, while Chinedu Okoye, the fourth contestant for the office, got no votes.
The re-election of Pinnick was unprecedented, at least in recent times, and must represent an endorsement of what has been generally adjudged a relatively successful first term in office. The 44 member body of electors has apparently voted for continuity and the message should not be lost on any one. This last point is important, given the acrimony and often times deliberately contrived crises, that have attended our football at the end of every four-year cycle. Those, more than anything else, have undermined the growth of our football and stopped us from realizing our obvious potentials in the game.
Now, we hope we can have a clean break from our recent past. The newly elected 16-member executive committee has only two new members which says a lot for their performance in the previous administration and the need for continuity. Our expectation therefore is that they would settle down and get to work immediately on the areas that need reform. Our football, if the truth must be told, has real issues which have bedeviled it over the years. The first issues to consider are the statutes.
Our law books as they presently exist do not recognize our football as a ‘federation’. As far as the law knows, our football is a mere parastatal of the Sports ministry and lacking in the independence and financial autonomy it needs to realize its full potentials.
This is the present reality and we are glad that the NFF president has acknowledged the problem and committed to working to reverse it. Football, all over the world, has become a mega business and the potentials too huge to be tied to the apron strings of government bureaucracy and politics. FIFA, as the global apex body on football is very clear on this, and hence frowns at any attempts by governments to interfere in its affairs. The overall goal is to let football run on its own steam and develop to its fullest potentials in all of the associate bodies.
This is what our political leaders must quickly understand and lead the charge to free our football instead of constituting stumbling blocks. That Nigeria on the eve of the 1994 World Cup in the U.S. climbed as high as number 5 on the global football ranking and was voted the second most entertaining team after Brazil at the Mundial itself, should give an indication of what is possible here if only we would free our football to realize its full potentials. In this regard, the Amaju Pinnick board has its work cut out.
While it is working on its avowed goals of reconciliation and harmony in the football family, it would need the help of those in authority, and especially the executive and the national assembly to change the present ugly face of our football.
It is for this reason that we must send an appeal to the Sports Minister, Solomon Dalung. Having constituted enough obstruction to the growth of football, it is perhaps time to sheath his sword. He must now ask himself in whose interest is he working really? His reported quip that he does not know of the just concluded election in Katsina cannot be helpful to the cause of football in Nigeria.
We all know, in fact, that there are enough lacunas in the present laws governing our football for any mischief maker to exploit. But the ultimate aim should be to take our football to the next level and ultimately give it its full potentials.
For this cause, all good hands must be on deck, and as Maigari magnanimously noted while conceding defeat in the election, only football can be the winner. We wish Pinnick and his board a most successful second term in office, and hope that at the end, the needed progress would have been made in the running of our football.