By Kenny Odeworitse Okotie
Uneasy, they say, lies the head that wears the crown.
Amaju Melvin Pinnick’s first tenure as the President of the Nigerian Football Federation (NFF) in an election which he won convincingly in Warri, Delta State in 2014 was turbulent and immersed in needless controversy, blackmail and court injunctions. Nevertheless, he matched on.
Just when you think all has been settled, his second term which began on September 20, 2018, saw another bitter struggle between him and his erstwhile rival, Chris Giwa.
At the early stage of second tenure, his opponents supported by the Sports minister attempted to forcibly gain control of the NFF but after the intervention of the country’s Vice President Professor Yemi Osinbajo, Nigeria was spared a worldwide ban by FIFA.
Not satisfied, the opponents again wanted to use the retirement of the World Cup fund to cause more confusion but again the presidency stepped into the matter and a fresh crisis was averted.
Pinnick, in one of his reactions to the controversies said, “In four years, we’ve gone through rough and turbulent times, sleepless nights. Our coming back shows that football is the winner. We also need, as a matter of urgency, to carry out some reforms in terms of our statutes and the way forward for everybody.”
Pinnick described the allegation of misapplication of the World Cup money as unfortunate, saying that the Sports Minister was listening to too many people.
“I don’t know where this is coming from, but I pray to God to open our eyes for us to know who are our friends and enemies. I pray every day to God not to destroy our enemies but to let change them,” he said.
Reacting to insinuations that the allegation of misapplication of funds might make some of the federation’s sponsors to reconsider the partnership with the NFF, the CAF First Vice President
said, “There is nothing anyone can do to our sponsors that will discourage them from sponsoring us.
They conducted their own security and integrity test on the principals and management of NFF before doing business with us. If detractors think they are trying to discourage our sponsors by this innuendos, falsehood –it is unfortunate because there is nothing you will tell FIFA about Pinnick or Dikko on our integrity.”
Interestingly, under Pinnick, the NFF dependence on government for funding has reduced by 60 percent and according to the Delta-born administrator, his target before leaving office is to make the NFF self sufficient.
Against all odds, Pinnick has made in-roads to the Confederation of Africa Football. Apart from being Vice-President of CAF, he is also acommittee member of FIFA and also a trusted ally of the FIFA President, Gianni Infantino. No Nigerian football administrator in modern times have been able to achieve this feat.
For the first time the Super Eagles qualified for a World Cup (in 2018) without facing the usual problematic qualification campaign. It is the same for the Africa Cup of Nations. The Golden Eaglets and Flying Eagles also qualified for the CAF Africa Cup of Nations in their respective categories.
The NFF also set up machinery to take care of retired footballers who are distressed. An example is Wilson Oruma who lost his fortune, but he was assisted back to good health by Pinnick.
“The NFF recognizes and appreciates the great efforts of our footballers who have done well locally and internationally for the glory of our country. They are the most important aspect in the game because, without them, there will be no NFF, FIFA, sponsors, fans and others. The NFF will be putting in place the NFF Foundation principally to look into the welfare of players,” Pinnick once assured.
What most people, however, don’t know is that Amaju Pinnick made his money before venturing into the uneasy water of the NFF politics.