According to reports, the election for the 44th President of the Nigeria Football Federation took place on Friday (today), ending the long wait for the appointment. The election will be remembered as being the most contentious because of the controversy surrounding it, which included the incumbent president Amaju Pinnick’s “hesitant decision” to abandon his candidacy for a third term as well as a court order and concerns about the election’s conduct today. The NFF, however, declared on Thursday that the election would proceed as planned. EBENEZER BAJELA and JOHNNY EDWARD describe the events that led up to the election on Friday in this report.
Pinnick withdraws his third-term bid
Prior to the 77th General Assembly of the NFF’s Executive Committee, which took place on Thursday, August 18 at the Best Western Hotel, Victoria Island, Lagos, Pinnick had on several occasions said he would not be running for the third term, having served two terms. While he may have come out to say he won’t be contesting for the presidential position, there were claims that he still had the intention of staying on as the NFF boss for a third term.
However, at the AGA, Pinnick confirmed that he would not run for a third term, thus putting an end to his reign as the president of the Nigeria football governing body after eight years.
Despite the fact that over 40 candidates had been approved for various seats on the new NFF board, there were worries and trepidation regarding the likelihood that the elections in Edo State would go place. The NFF elections were in danger of being interfered with by everything from a court order to security concerns.
A group sued the NFF in Abuja’s Federal High Court, claiming that the federation’s choice of September 30 for its Elective Congress was an attempt to flout the law, delaying the eagerly awaited elections into the board of what is likely Nigeria’s largest sports federation.
Presiding over the suit filed by the Professional Footballers Association of Nigeria against the NFF, Pinnick, Minister of Youth and Sports, Hon. Justice Inyang Ekwo of the Federal High Court ordered that the elections be put on hold and that parties should maintain the status-quo and adjourned further proceedings to October 31.
Not until Thursday, it remained uncertain whether the election would hold or not.
Marcellinus Anyanwu from Imo State and Paul Yusuf from Plateau State, two candidates for the NFF’s top position, were eliminated on September 12.
The pair was eliminated due to “Invalid Nomination,” according to the paperwork of candidates who underwent screening.
The electoral criteria stipulate that all aspiring candidates must receive the proper state FA endorsement before they are permitted to run. Surprisingly, the pair learned about their rejection through social media, claiming that no NFF representative contacted them regarding the grounds for their exclusion from the election.
Unrest prior to the elections
No doubt, today’s NFF election will go down as one of the most contentious in the history of Nigerian football but matters worsened when a group, under the name Nigeria Football Stakeholders, threatened to bomb the Benin City venue of the election, if it was not canceled adding that “blood will flow.” The group accused the Amaju Pinnick-led board of embezzlement and fraud.
A decision by the Court of Appeal on Thursday morning ordered a stay-of-execution of an ex parte injunction obtained a fortnight ago to stop the elections, clearing the way for the competition between ten candidates for the NFF presidency and a dozen other well-known people vying for seats on the federation’s Executive Committee.
Seyi Akinwunmi and Mallam Shehu Dikko, who are currently vice presidents, as well as Ibrahim Gusau and Suleiman Yahaya-Kwande, who are currently members of the Executive Committee, are among the ten candidates vying to succeed Amaju Pinnick as the head of Nigerian football.
Pinnick’s immediate predecessor Musa Amadu, the Confederation of African Football’s Head of Safety and Security Christian Emeruwa, Mouktar Mohammed, former Nigerian international Peterside Idah, Abba Yola, and UK-based David-Buhari Doherty have also been approved for the prestigious position.