By Amaechi Agbo
One undisputed fact about the president of Nigeria Football Federation, NFF Amaju Melvin Pinnick is that he is an ambitious man that always gets what he wants particularly politically.
Mr Amaju Pinnick’s emergence as a member of the FIFA Executive Council member on Friday in a hugely publicised CAF election in Rabat, Morocco would not have taken any keen observer by surprise.
Firstly, in the build up to the 2014 NFF election in Delta state, Amaju Pinnick showed dexterity, temerity and audacity as he dismantled the existing clique, cabals and allies to emerge NFF President.
Four years later, though adjudged not have performed well in his first four-year tenure, Mr Pinnick still schemed his way to beat other contenders to retain his seat.
And despite all founded and unfounded allegations of maladministration and misuse of public funds, as well as petitions against his candidacy from his country Nigeria to the world football governing body, FIFA as well as cases against him in courts, Pinnick was cleared by CAF and FIFA to stand for the election.
In the build up to the FIFA Council election, review committee cleared 13 to stand for election in January but ruled out current CAF interim president Constant Omari (pictured) from DR Congon (for reasons of an on-going FIFA Ethics investigation) and Algeria’s Khireddine Zetchi (for failure to disclose previous sanctions).
However, following immense politicking and support of the Nigeria’s President, Muhammadu Buhari, several candidates stepped down for Amaju Pinnick. As at the day of election, Amaju was left with Malawian FA President, Walter Nyamilandou who was an outgoing member of the FIFA Council to contend with. And not unexpectedly, Amaju beat him massively in a 43 to 8 votes mileage.
In a release announcing his victory Friday, the NFF couunication department said “President of the Nigeria Football Federation, Amaju Melvin Pinnick, was on Friday in Rabat, Morocco elected into the FIFA Council – the highest decision-making organ in world football. He attained the exalted seat after defeating his only rival, incumbent Walter Nyamilandu of Malawi by 43 votes to 8 at the Congress held inside the Royal Ballroom of the Sofitel Hotel in Morocco’s administrative capital.
“Four of Pinnick’s five rivals, Lamin Kaba Bajo (The Gambia), Wallace Karia (Tanzania), Nick Mwendwa (Kenya) and Andrew Kamanga (Zambia) threw in the towel before the vote and opted to back the Nigerian. General Secretary of Nigeria Football Federation, Dr Mohammed Sanusi casted Nigeria’s vote.
“It is a remarkable case of rapid global football boardroom upliftment for a man who, a little over six-and-half years ago, had no intention of contesting for even board membership of the Nigeria Football Federation, but has now been in the post for six-and-half years (becoming the first person to democratically secure a second term), won election as Member of the CAF Executive Committee, served as CAF’s 1st Vice President, still serving as Member of the Organizing Committee for FIFA Competitions, and now a revered member of the world’s highest decision-making organ for football.”
Pinnick’s entry into the 37-member FIFA Council came at the 43rd Ordinary and Elective General Assembly of CAF, and was accomplished hours after the man he supported for the CAF Presidency, Dr Patrice Motsepe of South Africa, mounted the ‘throne’ unchallenged. Motsepe’s challengers Augustine Senghor of Senegal, Ahmed Yahya of Mauritania and Jacques Anouma of Cote d’Ivoire had all withdrawn from the race before today’s poll.
The elevation is for a four-year term, and automatically makes Pinnick a Member of the Executive Committee of the Confederation of African Football.
A man who sets and pursues his vision doggedly, Pinnick thus becomes only the third Nigerian to serve in world football’s highest decision-making body, after the late Etubom Oyo Orok Oyo and Dr Amos Adamu.
The quest by the suave and effervescent football administrator for the seat was solidly backed by the Government of Nigeria, which delegation, led by the Permanent Secretary in the Federal Ministry of Youth and Sports Development, Nebolisa Anako was on ground in Morocco.
A mining billionaire who is also into banking and telecommunications and has businesses in 40 African countries, Dr Patrice Thlopane Motsepe is also the owner of top South African club, Mamelodi Sundowns.
In his acceptance speech, Motsepe expressed gratitude to the African football family for his attainment of the position, saying it is a huge honour to serve African football at the highest level. “All of us can and will work together,” he said, underscoring the need for team work, collaboration and sense of togetherness as he praised Senghor, Yahya and Anouma who withdrew from the race.
With FIFA Council seat quest captured, the next chapter will be election into the NFF Executive Committee board slated to hold next year. With Pinnick repeatedly ruling himself out to contest for a third term in office, it is believed that his FIFA Council membership will have overbearing influence on who succeeds him in office.
On Thursday last week, the federal government endorsed Mr Pinnick’s candidacy for the election and declared that his victory world be not just for Nigeria but for the development of the round leather game in the continent.
However, with issues of corruption allegations and maladministration that characterised his almost eight-year administration, will Nigerian’s go to bed, sleep with two eyes and trust Amaju Pinnick to deliver the dividends of football development in the country?
The next four years will justify or denigrate him.