By Amaechi Ggbo
Rewind the clock to this time 2017 and you will recall that Nigeria Football Federation NFF, President, Amaju Pinnick was busy, along with the then Confederation of Africa Football CAF presidential candidate, Ahmad Ahmad (who became CAF President after the March 15 General Assembly Election) as they combined swiftly in a political audacity to oust former CAF President, Mr Issa Hayatou from office after 29 years.
While their “collaboration” worked out well as Ahmad Ahmad thereafter emerged CAF President, the beautiful ‘romance’ ended abruptly than it started.
In the build up to the 2021 CAF elections, Pinnick again, has thrown his weight behind another candidate, this time around, South African billionaire, Patrice Motsepe who is the presumed ‘anointed’ candidate to replaced embattled Ahmad.
The Nigeria number on football man have however explained why he aligned with the South Africa for the CAF presidency.
Pinnick has campaigned for Motsepe in the Mamelodi Sundowns owner’s candidacy against Jacques Anouma of Ivory Coast‚ Augustin Senghor of Senegal and Mauritanian Ahmed Yahya‚ to be decided in CAF’s elective congress in Rabat‚ Morrocco next week
Pinnick and Cosafa (Council of Southern Africa Football Associations) president Philip Chiyangwa attended Motsepe’s launch of his 10-point plan to heal CAF at Sandton Convention Centre on Thursday.
Both were influential‚ along with SA Football Association (SAFA) and CAF vice-president Danny Jordaan‚ in Madagascan Ahmad Ahmad unseating 29-year incumbent Issa Hayatou in the CAF elections of March 2017 in Addis Ababa‚ Ethiopia.
Ahmad was banned from football for five years by FIFA for ethics violations in November.
Chiyangwa‚ a panellist at Motsepe’s launch‚ restated Cosafa’s decision to vote as a block of the 14 Southern African FAs for the South African mining magnate‚ which was confirmed at their annual general meeting (AGM) in Johannesburg on Sunday.
Chiyangwa then called Pinnick to the podium‚ asking him to state the “numbers we are looking at” regarding votes expected for Motsepe’s candidacy.
“The truth is you can see me in South Africa very regularly. I’m super-excited because for the first time in football in the continent‚ Africa is about to get it right‚” Pinnick said.
“I’m happy because two faces I’m seeing here today‚ either of them would have been the perfect fit for the president of CAF – my brother Moise Katumbi (owner of TP Mazembe in Democratic Republic of Congo) and Patrice Motsepe.
“ … And that’s the excitement of everybody in Nigeria‚ and it’s the same excitement of everybody on the West African coast.
“So when you say you (Cosafa) are giving 14 votes – and I said this during Ahmad’s campaign where he got 35 votes – that by God’s grace we are looking at 40 votes for Motsepe.
“I travel every day campaigning for my president (Motsepe) ‚ and they say‚ ‘But you are not campaigning for yourself’. I say‚ ‘Let him get in there’.
“So I can assure you‚ between 35‚ 38 and 40 votes.”
The Nigerian FA’s declaration suggested that West Africa was behind Motsepe’s bid. Chiyangwa declared confidence in Pinnick’s estimate.
“When I’m working with him the number he gives is what we aspire to achieve‚” the Cosafa boss said.
“The last time we had Ahmad we had 35 – for sure that was what we predicted in Harare.”
FG Endorses Amaju
Meanwhile, Amaju Pinnick’s quest to be in the exalted FIFA Council got a huge boost Thursday as the federal government has endorsed his ambition.
In a press briefing at the minister conference room Abuja, Amaju Pinnick, who was absent during the briefing but was represented by his second Vice President in the Nigeria Football Federation, NFF received the federal government’s backing less than seven days to the election scheduled to hold on March 12 in Morocco.
At a press conference addressed by the Permanent Secretary in the Federal Ministry of Youth and Sports, Engineer Nebolisa Anako on behalf of the Hon. Minister Mr Sunday Dare in Abuja on Thursday, the Government stated unequivocally that “Mr Amaju’s ambition would further reposition Nigeria in the global football map where we have made remarkable inroads” and indicated that his triumph would follow in the glorious steps of illustrious compatriots Dr Akinwunmi Adesina (re-elected as President of Africa Development Bank) and Dr Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala (first female/ first African Director-General of the World Trade Organization) in recent times.
“If the NFF President wins the position, it would not be a victory for the Federal Government and all Nigerians alone, but the African continent. He would be a great ambassador of our great country if elected into the FIFA Council. As a member of the CAF Executive, Pinnick is aware of the task ahead and the Federal Government’s support to the actualization of his dream,” Anako said.
He added: “On behalf of the President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, Muhammadu Buhari GCFR, and all Nigerians, we hereby pledge our unflinching support to Mr Pinnick because his victory would be our collective victory.
“(Sports Minister) Mr Dare believes Amaju can use his position and connections in CAF and FIFA to help promote and develop Nigeria and African football in all ramifications. Let us be resolute and firm in our support…This is no time to stand on the fence, but to be partakers in the scheme of things.”
NFF’s 2nd Vice President, Mallam Shehu Dikko, who stood in for Pinnick (who is already in Morocco), thanked President Muhammadu Buhari for his usual strong support for the NFF and Nigerian Football generally since coming into office, and assured that once victorious, Pinnick would continue in his usual way of influencing the appointment of Nigerians into FIFA and CAF committees and administrations, as he did while he was 1st Vice President of CAF and has been doing as Member, CAF Executive Committee and Member, Organizing Committee for FIFA Competitions.
“As a FIFA Council Member, Mr Pinnick will also be automatically a Member of the CAF Executive, which gives Nigeria a voice at both global and continental levels. This is not a Pinnick project, but a Nigeria project. If countries like Guinea and Madagascar can have people in the FIFA Council, there is no reason why a big football –playing nation like Nigeria should not.”
President of the Nigeria Olympic Committee, Enginner Habu Ahmed Gumel, gave a thumbs-up to Pinnick’s candidacy, saying “the FIFA Council seat is important to us, Nigeria and Africa, and we enjoin all Nigerian football stakeholders to be loud in their support for Mr Pinnick.”
NFF General Secretary, Dr Mohammed Sanusi enjoined all football stakeholders to join hands with the Federal Government, the Federal Ministry of Youth and Sports and the NFF to give Mr Pinnick strong support in his bid for the FIFA Council seat.
Also at the event were NFF Executive Member Aisha Falode, Dr Simon Ebhojiaye (Director of Federations and Elite Athletes Department), Mr Ademola Olajire (Director of Communications, NFF), Ms Blessing Lere-Adams (Director of Press in the Ministry) and Mr John Joshua Akanji (SA Media to the Hon. Minister).