Minister of youth and sports development, Sunday Dare
By Raphael Ekpang
On Tuesday, the Review Committee of the world apex football governing body FIFA declared the President of the Nigeria Football Federation (NFF), Mr. Amaju Melvin Pinnick eligible to contest FIFA council seat election billed for March this year in Morocco.
The announcement however has divided stakeholders in the country; hence the supervisory ministry of youth and sports development headed by Mr. Sunday Dare has remained silent over it.
Pinnick was among the candidates that were cleared on Tuesday by FIFA to participate in the upcoming elections.
The chairman of the FIFA Review Committee, Mukul Mudga in a letter on Tuesday said, “We refer to our correspondence dated November 18, 2020 regarding the subject matter. In this regard, we kindly inform you that the Review Committee has declared you eligible for the position of member of the FIFA Council,” the letter read in part.
Shortly after the news of FIFA’s clearance of Pinnick’s candidature for the upcoming FIFA council seat election, stakeholders in Nigeria are of divergent views whether to support his candidature or not.
Firstly, a board member of the NFF, Barr. Christopher Green who at some points became an ardent critic of Pinnick has boldly thrown his weight behind Pinnick’s ambition, thereby calling on all Nigerians to do the same.
Green pointed out that if Pinnick eventually won the seat, he would become a part of the decision making body and stand to benefit not only Nigeria but Africa in general.
According to him, “I think Nigeria will gain very much if you ask me because whatever FIFA is doing now they will continue to do but that we have representation in the Council is an added advantage for us.
Green stated that if he wins, Amaju will be the second Nigerian to be on the seat and Nigeria Football will benefit immensely from it.
“It’s a Nigeria project as far as I am concerned because he is not going there as Amaju Pinnick but he’s going there as representative of Nigeria and we should give him all the support.
“He has a brighter chance than any other person; Nigeria is a big football country so other Africa countries must respect us,” Green opined.
In the same vein, the founder and CEO of the FAME Foundation, Ronke Bello has also reluctantly called for support to the embattled president of the NFF Amaju Pinnick whose six years in office as the head of the nation football had witnessed several court cases as a result election matters and corruption allegations.
She said, “I have my reservations about Pinnick but if he has chosen to vie for a role at Fifa as a Nigerian, I think it is right to support him.
“He will be flying the Nigerian flag afterall. That doesn’t change the fact that he is an arrogant, selfish and incompetent football administrator. Winning will not make me his fan either. But he should win.
“But, if he is truly contesting at fifa, let’s put him in our prayers. If he means well, if he has good intentions, may he win and vice versa. Best wishes uncle Amaju”, she prayed.
Also, Authentic Nigeria Football Supporters Club is drumming support for Pinnick, while describing him as a technocrat and a stabilizer.
It’s National President, Prince Abayomi Ogunjimi on behalf of the association said they have thrown their weight behind Pinnick because he is a successful administrator.
However the former Chairman, Gombe State Football Association, Shuaibu Ahmed Gara Gombe, has said that he would not support Pinnick on his bid to get elected into FIFA Council.
The controversial Gara Gombe, who recently resigned from NFF Reform Committee on integrity ground, said he has had many past dealings with Pinnick that didn’t end well, because Pinnick didn’t keep his word.
Gara accused Pinnick of not being a straightforward person who deserves support from others. He noted that Pinnick has failed to keep to their terms of agreement on several occasions therefore, he doesn’t see him as a serious person to be supported again.
According to him, “When he was contesting for the NFF Presidency, I supported him because I saw it as a tenure that could help Nigeria Football. After his election, he invited me to Warri and I was there with some other stakeholders. We agreed on a road map for better Nigerian football. Immediately he got there he abandoned the project, he started another thing entirely, listening to the wrong people. He became so desperate, and corruption and lack of accountability has been synonymous with his tenure.
Gara alleged that Pinnck is too overly ambitious, the reason he was kicked out in CAF.
“I was invited to Abidjan for a meeting to work against Amaju’s candidature for CAF presidency. I refused to go and told them I would never fight a fellow Nigerian against a foreigner no matter our differences at home. I informed Dr Sanusi about it and he told Amaju. I still have the air ticket sent to me. Amaju changed his mind about contesting CAF Presidency without telling me or most of us who believed in the Nigerian Project. I made some preliminary plans in Morocco for his tenure, which I did not even tell him. But his tenure has been characterised by corruption and lack of transparency and accountability.
“For Amaju to ask for my or our support is a mirage. Dr Sanusi is just wasting his time. Amaju cannot be trusted. Someone may ask who is Gara Gombe? Yes, I know who I am, but Amaju knows better who Gara Gombe is. Amaju is going to FIFA? Okay! Good! Let us see. But to ask for my support? Never!
“He must purge himself of deceitfulness and start being a man of his word. He lies a lot and cannot keep confidential matters away from the public,” Gara alleged.
Meanwhile, despite arguments for and against Pinnick Fifa council election, the supervisory ministry of youth and sports development, is yet to make official comment on whether it is supporting his candidacy or not.
The Minister of youth and sports development, Mr. Sunday Dare, at this juncture is expected to break the silence to enable other stakeholders to know the mind of the federal government over Pinnick’s candidacy.