By George Aluo
Sports Minister, Solomon Dalung will today play host to board members of the nation’s soccer governing body, NFF in an emergency meeting convened by the Sports minister.
The meeting will no doubt be a straight forward one point agenda gathering. Dalung has called the meeting to discuss “Nigeria’s position” on the forthcoming Confederation of African Football (CAF) election billed for next month in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.
Before calling today’s meeting, Dalung had made it clear that he and Nigeria by extension do not want leadership change in African football. Dalung wants ageing incumbent Cameroonian CAF President, Issa Hayatou to hang on and run African football for another five years.
Dalung unfortunately is not on the same page with the youthful NFF President, Amaju Pinnick as far as the CAF race is concerned. Pinnick alongside other African soccer progressives have since queued behind Madagascar’s Ahmed Ahmad who is challenging Hayatou.
That Pinnick and Dalung are not on the same page won’t come to anybody as a surprise, given the fact that the minister has never hidden the fact that he is not a fan of Pinnick and the present leadership of NFF. That the minister has not taken the radical step of sacking the NFF board is because he doesn’t want the country to incur the wrath of world soccer governing body, FIFA.
The CAF election as it affects Nigeria took another dramatic turn early this week, when some Nigerian football buffs in the continental soccer body, who are loyalists of Hayatou distanced themselves from Pinnick and in fact lampooned him for taking what they termed the dangerous part of declaring support for Hayatou’s opponent.
The Hayatou loyalists in a statement they jointly signed claimed that Pinnick’s position is not in Nigeria’s interest, even as they insisted that Ahmad who is challenging Hayatou has not visited the country to canvass for support. They further claimed that Hayatou has not only done well as CAF leader, but is a friend of Nigeria. They further claimed that Pinnick has not put national interest first, as he is fighting a personal battle in Nigeria’s name. This interestingly is also the position of Dalung, who in a statement said Nigeria will consider regional interest before supporting any candidate.
It would be noted that Pinnick beyond being against Hayatou is gunning to be on the executive board of CAF and he would be vying for that seat against Beninoise long time ally of Hayatou, Anjorin Musharaf. Interestingly, the Nigerian soccer buffs in CAF are against Pinnick’s candidacy ostensibly because they don’t want to incur Hayatou’s wrath.
Some of the questions to ask here are: One: The Nigerians in CAF who wants Hayatou to stay, are they queuing behind Hayatou in Nigeria’s interest or for selfish personal reason?
Two: Is it true that Nigeria has been benefitting from Hayatou’s leadership?
Three: Is it true that Hayatou has done well in the last 29 years as CAF president?
Four: Is it true that African football does not need a new lease of life?
Five: Is it proper to sacrifice Pinnick for a foreigner (Beninoise Musharaf) simply because Hayatou and his Nigerian allies want to hang on to power?
Even as these questions above beg for answers, one thing that is indisputable is the fact that African football can not afford to continue bleeding under Hayatou. Any genuine stakeholder, who truly wants African football to move to the next level can not afford to be rooting for the sleeping, ageing and docile 71-year old Hayatou who has clearly lost touch with modernity.
Africa in 2017 is still running a CAF champions league, where the winners pocket a paltry 2.5 million dollars. This informed why South African clubs prefer to concentrate on the PSL at home where they swim in cash. The quality of pitches we saw in Gabon at the recently concluded AFCON 2017 clearly shows that CAF is organizing analogue football tournaments.
Hayatou after 29 years in office needs to quit the stage for a more vibrant person to take over. African football needs electoral reforms as we have seen in FIFA. Africa cannot afford to have another Mugabe in charge of her football. Even Mugabe himself had at a meeting with FIFA President, Infantino in Harare last weekend endorsed the clamour for change in the leadership of African football.
Back home in Nigeria, Dalung must realize that the unnecessary war he is waging against the leadership of NFF is not doing the nation’s football any good. Dalung said he wants to see the private sector invest in Nigerian football. The minister must realize that he is the very person chasing away would-be investors by his actions. No investor would put his money in a business where there is unending controversy, the type which Dalung engineers every now and then.
One has not forgotten how he (Dalung) tried to bungle Dream Team’s Rio 2016 Olympics campaign only for the team to win the country’s only medal, a bronze at the Olympics. Those close to the minister should advise him to leave football alone and concentrate on other sports that are begging for attention.
If Dalung continues this way, Nigeria may not make it to the Russia 2018 World Cup and the ultimate loser would be Nigeria and not the present NFF board. What we suffered by not qualifying for the AFCON 2017 Nations Cup is enough pain.
Other Nigerian football stakeholders also need to respect themselves and stop this perennial Pull Him down (PHD) syndrome that has become the lot of our football. The tenure of the present leadership of NFF would not be for eternity. In another one year plus, the tenure of the present board would come to an end, those who want to take over the Glass House by fire by force and their backers, should tarry a while in the nation’s interest.
It is a shame that Nigerian football is always in the news for the wrong reason.