The anxious wait for the appointment of the 44th President of the Nigeria Football Federation is finally over as the election holds Friday (today) in Benin City. The poll will go down as the most talked about, having been shrouded by a series of controversies, ranging from incumbent president Amaju Pinnick’s ‘hesitant decision’ to drop his bid for a third term, to a court injunction and uncertainty over the election holding today. However, the NFF, in a statement on Thursday, confirmed that the election would go on as scheduled. In this report EBENEZER BAJELA and JOHNNY EDWARD chronicle the events that took place leading to the election on Friday.
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 having over 40 candidates cleared for various positions on the new NFF board, there were concerns and apprehension over the possibility of the elections holding in Edo State. Issues ranging from court injunction to insecurity all threatened to hamper the NFF elections.
The much-anticipated elections into the board of arguably the biggest sports federation in Nigeria, suffered a legal setback when a group dragged the federation to the Federal High Court, Abuja on the ground that the NFF’s decision to choose September 30 for its Elective Congress was attempting to break the law.
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.
Two contestants vying for the NFF top job Marcellinus Anyanwu from Imo State and Paul Yusuf from Plateau State were disqualified Sept 12.
According to the document of screened candidates obtained, the pair was disqualified because of ‘Invalid Nomination’.
As contained in the electoral guidelines, respective state FAs must duly endorse all intending candidates before they can be allowed to contest. Shockingly, the duo learnt of their disqualification from social media saying no official of the NFF reached out to them on the reasons for their ban from the poll.
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 ruling by the Court of Appeal on Thursday morning ordered a stay-of-execution of an ex parte injunction secured a fortnight ago to stop the elections, meaning that the coast was clear for the contest for the NFF presidency by 10 individuals and dozen other notable persons jostling for seats on the federation’s Executive Committee.
Among the 10 persons jostling to succeed Amaju Pinnick as Nigeria football’s supremo are current vice presidents Seyi Akinwunmi and Mallam Shehu Dikko, as well as current Executive Committee members, Ibrahim Gusau and Suleiman Yahaya-Kwande.
Others cleared for the exalted post, to be vacated by Pinnick, are immediate past General Secretary, Musa Amadu and Head of Safety and Security of the Confederation of African Football, Christian Emeruwa, Mouktar Mohammed, former Nigeria international, Peterside Idah, Abba Yola and UK-based David-Buhari Doherty.