Amaju Pinnick in CAF executive seat a crusade driven by destiny
Every epoch has its defining moments for men and women who shape history, either for good or for bad. This, perhaps, captures the story of President of the Nigeria Football Federation (NFF), Amaju Melvin Pinnick, who against all expectations ‘bulldozed’ his way into the executive committee of the Confederation of African Football (CAF) on Thursday in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.
For the 60 years of CAF’s existence, only two Nigerians – Etubom Oyo Orok Oyo (of blessed memory) and Dr. Amos Adamu – have sat on the CAF Executive Committee.
An attempt by former NFA President, Alhaji Aminu Maigari to join the club in 2013 ended in flames as some Nigerians allegedly worked against him, using their connections with the immediate past CAF President Issa Hayatou.
Before then, former NFA chairman, Alhaji Ibrahim Galadima made an attempt, but the ‘cabals’ in Nigerian football also killed his ambition. It was the same for another NFA Chairman, Alhaji Sani Lulu, whose ambition of making it into the CAF Executive Committee was equally blocked by some ‘cabals’.
But Pinnick made what has been termed mission impossible in some quarters possible on Thursday when he beat the incumbent, Anjorin Moucharafou of Benin Republic to gain a seat in the supreme club at the 39th Ordinary Congress of CAF in Addis Ababa. It was Anjorin who stopped Maigari in 2013.
Victory is sweet, but for Amaju Pinnick and his followers, the journey into the CAF Executive seat was not a smooth sail.
Pinnick is vice president of WAFU B, a member of the Organizing Committee for the Africa Cup of Nations, as well as a member of the Organizing Committee for FIFA Competitions.
The event leading to his emergence as President of the NFF in September 2014 generated so much heat, but through self-determination and relentless effort, Pinnick was able to weather the storm.
Sensing that his ambition of capturing a seat in CAF Executive Committee might be thwarted by a ‘cabal,’ Pinnick decided to take a different approach. His decision to declare support for Madagascar’s FA boss, Ahmad Ahmad, sparked trouble with the nine Nigerians occupying positions in CAF shooting arrows from different directions.
The group, which has former NFF presidents, General Dominic Oneya (Rtd), Alhaji Sani Lulu Abdullahi, Alhaji Aminu Maigari, Dr. Amos Adamu, Bolaji Ojo-Oba, Paul Bassey, Aisha Folade, Barrister Chris Green, and Amanze Uchegbulam did everything possible to frustrate Pinnick’s ambition, claiming that they were never consulted nor informed.
“We do not remember Mr. Ahmad visiting Nigeria to solicit or canvass for votes nor do we have any record of Mr. Ahmad’s pedigree in the running of football in Africa that would have led Pinnick to dangerously throw all of Nigeria’s eggs in his basket. We stand dangerously threatened.”
The dust raised by the ‘angry nine Nigerians in CAF’ was later followed by an order by the sports minister Solomon Dalung that Pinnick must throw his weight behind Hayatou.
To some Nigerians, such directive from the sports minister and the ‘wicked’ stand by the angry nine Nigerians in CAF was enough to truncate Pinnick’s ambition. But like a soldier heading for the battlefront, Pinnick continued with his crusade. “I am in Addis Ababa to do what I feel will be good for our nation,” he told The Guardian just before the commencement of voting on Thursday.
At the end of the exercise, Hayatou, who had spent 29 years as CAF President, was humiliated, losing 20-34 votes to Ahmad. Pinnick laughed last, beating Benin Republic’s Moucharafou Anjorin by 32 votes to 17 to emerge the third Nigerian to serve on the executive seat of CAF.
Failure is an orphan, while victory has many followers. Sports minister, Dalung, was the first to send a congratulatory message to Pinnick, expressing delight that a Nigerian has joined the inner caucus of CAF after many years.
“When I became Minister, I asked why there was no Nigerian representative in the Executive Committee of CAF. With a population of over 170 million people, there was no way the CAF Executive Committee will be constituted without Nigerians as stakeholders.
“I encouraged the Federation to try and ensure that they are represented hence our support for the President of the NFF. This is a big achievement for Nigeria and our re-entry into African football politics,” Dalung said.
He also congratulated the new CAF President, Ahmad, but maintained his support for regional interest. “Nigeria’s position remains in favour of our national interest but the will of the people has prevailed and we congratulate them all.”
Former Delta State Governor, Dr. Emmanuel Uduaghan, under whose administration Pinnick served as chairman of Delta Sports Commission, said: “You told me several years ago that your ambition in life was to be a football administrator. All you wanted from me was to assist you whenever I could. I appealed to Chief Solomon Ogba, then Delta State Commissioner for Sports, who with the approval of Chief James Onanefe Ibori, appointed you Vice Chairman of Delta State FA. Since then, you have moved on to being the Delta State FA Chairman, NFF President and today you have been elected CAF Executive Committee member, the third Nigerian to be so elected.
“Today, you are known world wide in the administration of football. The path has been very rough, but you have remained focused and prayerful. I know you have a lot to offer the world of football. My family and I will continue to pray to God for Mercy upon you, as you climb the ladder in the football world. Thanks for letting our youths know that if you are focused and work hard on your chosen career, God will always make a way for you. Congrats once again Amaju Pinnick,” Uduaghan said.