The Nigeria Football Federation (NFF), has over the years cut an unenviable image for recording crises that have undermined the reputation of the soccer governing body of Africa’s most populous nation.
These crises usually stem from rows between players and officials; and or between national team coaches and football chiefs at the NFF Secretariat, popularly known as Glass House, over unpaid allowances and salaries. But one crisis that has continued unabated in the last four years is the battle for the control of the soul of Nigeria’s soccer ruling body between the incumbent, Amaju Pinnick and his rival, Ambassador Chris Giwa.
The two men as a result of circumstances on one hand, and administrative ineptitude on the other hand, are laying claim to the outcome of two different elections that were held shortly after the country’s participation at the Brazil 2014 World Cup Finals.
Two different congresses of the NFF emerged with Giwa elected by one congress the NFF organised in Abuja, while the second congress, which was held in Warri elected Pinnick. However, FIFA endorsed the second Congress that elected Pinnick, leaving Giwa to battle for redress in the courts. FIFA statutes however dictate that member states should “manage their affairs independently with no influence from third parties”. It has previously warned Nigeria that if implemented, court rulings would likely be considered to be interference in the NFF’s internal affairs, which could attract sanctions. Nigeria has previously been banned for what FIFA considered to be “government interference” in the running of the NFF.
The crisis again took a turn for the worse shortly after Nigeria crashed out of the Russia 2018 World Cup Finals in June. Giwa, armed with a Supreme Court verdict which voided Pinnick’s election, and supported by the Sports Ministry, took over the reins of power at the NFF Secretariat in Abuja. Pinnick’s fate appeared uncertain but with a cold silence from FIFA which was threatening to ban Nigeria, as it did in similar situations in the past. There was a log jam over the future of football in Nigeria as the nation stood precariously between implementing the Supreme Court’s verdict, and risking international isolation since FIFA would not take court verdicts from its member nations. With the FIFA ban looming, and uncertainty over who should lay legitimate claim to the governing of the country’s football, President Muhammadu Buhari directed that the status quo be maintained, with Pinnick ordered to take over the Glass House. As a result the DSS was called upon to clear the office for Pinnick and his team to take over once more. The action of the Federal Government brought relief to many Nigerians who were apprehensive of another FIFA ban.
As far reaching as President Buhari’s action may be, it has not brought about the desired lasting peace to the country’s football. Another case to press his claim to the leadership of the country’s football has been taken to a Jos High court by Giwa which was last Wednesday adjournrd to September 25 by the Federal High Court Jos. The verdict will come four days before the fresh elections into the new NFF board which will hold on September 29 in Katsina State. It remains to be seen what the actions of the two factions will be in the aftermath of the adjournment of the case to September 25.
But the Pinnick-led Board at its Congress in Benin City last week took some steps towards reconciling with the Giwa-led group. The measures taken by the Pinnick-led Board include reopening the electoral process to accommodate members of the embittered group as well as recommending to FIFA to unban Giwa and a number of his officials from football activities, as well as reinstating his football club, Giwa FC, in the national league.
We welcome the initiatives of the current board of the NFF to end the crisis in the football house, while appealing to Giwa and his supporters to give peace a chance for the overall development of the country’s football. With the Super Eagles’ disappointing outing in Russia 2018 World Cup Finals, all hands should be on deck for harmony and effective planning towards a glorious outing of the national team in Qatar 2022 World Cup Finals and other championships.