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Hayatou’s men fight back, minister summons emergency NFF meeting

By Christian Okpara
27 February 2017   |   4:16 am
Perhaps, the Nigeria Football Federation’s (NFF) President, Amaju Pinnick, was too hasty in announcing the federation’s decision to team up with other young elements in African football...

Issa Hayatou

Perhaps, the Nigeria Football Federation’s (NFF) President, Amaju Pinnick, was too hasty in announcing the federation’s decision to team up with other young elements in African football to engineer a change in the leadership of the continental soccer governing body, CAF.

The incumbent CAF president, Issa Hayatou, a Camerounian, has been the boss of the body since 1988 when he took over from Ethiopia’s Yidnekatchew Tessema. But a group of young football administrators, including Nigeria’s Amaju Pinnick, recently decided to effect changes in the leadership of CAF and chose Madagascar’s Ahmad Ahmad as the preferred candidate in the forthcoming CAF polls.

A lot of football enthusiasts have applauded the move, especially now that the world body has a group of young men trying to reshape the global game. But the applause in Nigeria may have come too early as some officials holding certain CAF positions have come out to distance themselves from Pinnick’s alliance with the progressive administrators.

The first inkling that things might not be all well with the Nigerian position on the polls came at the weekend when Sports Minister, Solomon Dalung, tried to distance the country from the support for Ahmad’s candidature.

The minister, who said Nigeria would first consider regional interests before every other consideration, yesterday summoned an emergency meeting of the NFF where the issues would be thrashed out.

Also yesterday, Nigerian members of CAF, comprising those holding some positions in the continental body, distanced themselves from Pinnick’s support for Ahmad, saying they were never consulted before the decision was taken.

In a statement made available to The Guardian, the body said, “The attention of Nigerian members of CAF has been brought to bear on a publication purportedly issued by the President of the Nigeria Football Federation (NFF) Mr. Amaju Pinnick declaring support for Mr. Ahmad of Madagascar in the forthcoming CAF elections.

“Since that publication and the attendant ripples in the African continent, we have consulted widely within the executive of the NFF, the sports ministry and indeed football stakeholders in Nigeria and discovered to our dismay that there is no evidence where Mr. Pinnick was mandated to commit this country to supporting Mr. Ahmad.

“Mr. Pinnick as an individual has a right to declare support for whoever he pleases but when such support is made in the name of Nigeria then there is need for extreme caution given the political colouration of CAF elections of which we are well grounded and versed in.”

They pointed out that CAF polls were not about individuals and countries supported their candidates, financed such elections, set up various committees led by ministers, diplomats and football people to lobby and canvass across the continent in high level diplomatic sojourns armed with manifesto publications and letters of introduction etc.

“Regrettably, we cannot claim to have done any of the above, yet the election is less than a month away,” they said.

They listed ‘contributions’ of Issa Hayatou to Nigerian football as basis for their support for the Camerounian.

In this group are General Dominic Oneya (rtd), a FIFA/CAF Match Commissioner, former FIFA/CAF executive committee member, Amos Adamu, former NFF member, Amanze Uchegbulam, former NFF presidents, Sani Lulu Abdullahi and Aminu Maigari, as well as former NFF secretary, Bolaji Ojooba.

Also in the group are FIFA/CAF coordinator, match commissioner and licensing officer, Paul Bassey, Aisha Falode, who is a CAF Media Committee member and match commissioner and NFF Technical Committee Chairman, Chris Green.