There is a sizable number of candidates jostling to succeed outgoing President of the Nigeria Football Federation (NFF) Amaju Pinnick and with elections due on 30th September in Benin, the Edo State capital, expectations are high among stakeholders. OLALEKAN OKUSAN and TUNDE LIADI write.
It is yet another cycle in the history of Nigerian football as stakeholders will converge in Benin, the Edo State capital , to elect the President of the Nigeria Football Federation (NFF) alongside other members of the board on 30th September.
There is no doubt that this would be one of the most keenly contested elections in the history of the Nigerian football with some members of the outgoing boards aiming to return while some are eyeing the coveted seat of the President.
All eyes are on the Presidency as some of the heavyweights will be going up against one another in what many agreed is the battle for the soul of Nigerian football.
The battle for the Presidency has again pitched the outgoing First and Second Vice Presidents of the football governing body, Barrister Seyi Akinwunmi and Malam Shehu Dikko against each other alongside the chairman of Chairmen, Alhaji Ibrahim Musa Gusau as well as former international player Idah Peterside, CAF’s Head of Safety and Security, Christian Emeruwa and respected technocrat and former Chairman of Kano Pillars, Abba Abdullahi Yola.
Others in the race for the coveted post include chairman of Imo State Football Association, Mazi Amanze Uchegbulam; former General Secretary of NFF, Barrister Musa Amadu; CEO of Team Nigeria UK David Doherty as well as the respected FCT FA Chairman, Abba Adam Mouktar.
With all eyes on who succeed Pinnick, football buffs within and outside the country are unanimous on the quality of leadership the football house needs at this crucial time when Nigeria failed to make it to the Qatar 2022 World Cup.
Chairman of Katsina Football Association, Aminu Balele Kurfi, said ethnicity should not be the yardstick in electing those that will take charge of NFF.
“We must ensure we bring the most credible candidate within the FA members, whoever is best from any region in the country-South-south, South-west, North-east, North-west or North-central let him be,” he said. “What is more important is for us to produce a leader who will offer quality leadership for Nigerian football.
“This habit of electing leaders based on tribalism, ethnicity, region and religion is drawing us back. We have to start looking beyond religious and ethnic considerations.
“Football knows no tribe or religion. My major concern is that the election should be held unfailingly. Whoever wants to contest should come out and contest,” Kurfi reportedly said. .
US-based former international, Dehinde Akinlotan, said the country needs a passionate and dedicated leader that will change the fortunes of football.
“The person that will be NFF President should be a sound and somebody that will carry along everyone in decision making,” Akinlotan who featured for defunct Abiola Babes in the 1980s, told NationSport.“He must be able to fix the league to a standard that will include our playing pattern from the league to the national team.
“He must be able to transform our youth academies to a world standard with guidelines.
“For the board member, we should have well notable and qualified former players that know the game and conversant in and around the development of the game.
“The board should be able to work together with the President in a transparent atmosphere and to translate that to the youth development in the country.”
He added: “The President and board should work hand in hand to make sure that the game of football has a new name to itself.”
A former Director of Sports, Abia Sports Council, Ejikeme Ikwunze popularly called Mr. Football, said the incoming president must give attention to youth development.
“The next dispensation of the NFF board should be focused on turning around the fortune of Nigerian football. We have won numerous titles in the age grade competitions but what stops the transformation of the laurels won to the senior national team at the World Cup?” Ikwunze queried.
He continued: “The problem of Nigerian football is not lack of talents but lack of leadership to put things in order.
“ If you want to become NFF President, tell the football fraternity what you have done to be deserving of the position. You also need to lay bare what you intend to achieve in your first year, second, third, and final year if you are elected to the exalted post.
“They should create a forum in which the contestants should be called up for a public debate for proper scrutiny. I would like to be there.
“All the contestants have intimidating credentials on paper. But do they possess the spirit of vision, accomplishments, competence and unsentimental leadership? That is where the problem lies. Who is that person that can be the beacon of hope?” added the former Special Adviser to Governor of Abia State Theodore Orji.
Meanwhile, the erstwhile coach of Plateau United and Niger Tornadoes, Bernard Ogbe said the federation need a knowledgeable individual to manage the sport.
“We need a president that is well grounded with the knowledge of football at all levels of administration and prudent financial management board which should have honest and people of integrity,” he said.”He should be a person that is well known by the Nigerian football family and stakeholders with rich and enviable antecedents in football circle.”
The former Bendel Insurance gaffer added that the incoming board should prioritize grassroots development, improvement of the Nigerian league at all levels, and securing sponsors for the growth of the sport.
“His priorities should include: grassroots football development, improve the standard of the Nigerian league to make it truly professional by wooing corporate organizations to be players in driving the growth of the game.”They should ensure that the rules and regulations of the game are strictly adhered to and be prepared at all times to punish offenders without bias.”
But a former board member of NFF, Fan Ndubuoke who served in the 1990s , said he was not comfortable with the hastiness with which the elections is being arranged when important issues to move football forward are yet to be addressed.
He advised that rather than go into the election, football stakeholders should seek ways to fix the numerous problems crippling football development.
“Nothing will change with the manner some stakeholders are clamouring for this election; he election won’t solve the numerous problems bedevilling Nigerian football,” explained the former Sports Writers Association of Nigeria (SWAN) President.”We have passed this route before, and nothing changed. Instead, it got worse.
“ Why the rush for an election when we know that it will compound our football woes. If the election goes ahead as scheduled, one of those responsible for our present woes is likely to emerge.
” Until we fix our domestic league, officiating, women football, secure sponsors for our league and various tiers of our national teams; until we stop owing players bonuses and allowances; until we fix the problem of clubs travelling from Maiduguri to Yenagoa for a league fixture by road.
“You don’t build a house from the roof. You start from the foundation. But sadly, the rush for election appears like we want to build our football from the roof.
“I am not suggesting that there shouldn’t be an election but I am saying that we should do the needful first then, the election will come naturally as a secondary need.
“Our primary need is to right the wrongs which keep crippling our football,” he concluded.
Current Imo state Sports Commissioner, Dan Chike Ogu, said the country deserves a NFF President that will help develop the Nigerian football at the grassroots:”We want a NFF President that will sit up because all is not well with our football. He may have succeeded in the politics of the game but in terms of grassroots development he was a colossal failure.
“He has to redress the imbalance in the appointment of coaches to the national teams. He should make all the geopolitical zones feel a sense of belonging and being part of the country. Right now, coaches from some parts of the country feel alienated.”
Former Golden Eaglets coach Alphonsus Dike on his part said Nigeria needed a NFF President that is up to date with football politics, administration and organisation in CAF and FIFA.
“Nigeria needs n NFF President that is well grounded in administration of Sports and exposed to CAF and FIFA sports politics, administration and organisation of football,” Dike, who also coached Nasarawa United and Heartland FC, stressed. “He must have played football in his days so as to appreciate what it takes to administer (sports) football. He must have integrity and not be a tribal bigot and should be objective in running the affairs of the Federation.”
“He must ensure that football is run as a business and enthrone accountability into the system.
“Review the status governing the administration of football and implement it without sentiments or bias. Develop facilities across the Federation and lay emphasis on grassroots sports,” he added.
Meanwhile, outgoing NFF President Pinnick has called for peaceful and decent campaigns devoid of rancour at a meeting attended by frontline candidates – Akinwunmi, Dikko and Gusau.
Pinnick urged them to seek votes in a most decent and respectable manner, and not invoke the spirit of do-or-die for the race.
He said: “I have called this meeting to assure you all that I do not have a candidate in this race. Each and every one of you is my candidate because we worked and walked together in the past eight years, seeking the best for Nigeria Football. I believe that you are all aiming for the position in order to be able to consolidate on the little gains that we were able to make and to preserve or even surpass our legacies.
“I urge you all to go about the campaigns with utmost decency, avoid any form of acerbic outpourings and remember that we are all belong to the same family that worked for the best interests of Nigeria Football for the past eight years. I wish each and every one of you the very best with the voting college.”
“The desire to serve should never be a do-or-die affair. We remain one indivisible family committed to the growth of Nigeria Football. I will still be there to provide support and encouragement to whoever wins. As a Member of FIFA and CAF’s highest bodies, I am still a principal stakeholder in Nigeria Football. Our football deserves the best candidate with the best programmes that will take the game to higher heights,” Pinnick added.
More than 30 persons from the six geo-political zones have expressed their interest to be in the Executive Committee of the NFF.
A member of the electoral committee said: “Over half of States FA Chairmen are contesting in the election to be on the executive committee of the NFF. This is unprecedented and it shows that there are people out there who want to contribute their knowledge and experience to the development of the game.”