By Patrick Omorodion
I don’t really know how to address Amaju Melvin Pinnick. He is currently embattled, trying to retrieve his post as president of the Nigeria Football Federation, NFF after Chris Giwa stormed the football house in Abuja to claim his seat, citing a Supreme Court ruling which many stakeholders have given different interpretations, depending on which divide they stand.
Only on Friday, president of the world’s football governing body, FIFA, Gianni Infantino gave Pinnick some reprieve when he told the world that in the eyes of FIFA, Pinnick is the authentic NFF president they know having been duly elected by a genuinely constituted Congress of the NFF on September 30, 2014 in Warri, Delta state.
Though Giwa has been acting as president since the Sports Minister directed Pinnick and his board to obey the order of the Supreme Court, Pinnick has been working as Match Commissioner at the World Cup which comes to a close today after the final match between Croatia and France.
With the Sports Minister insisting that he did the right thing by directing the Pinnick-led board to obey the court ruling, it is not clear what will happen after Pinnick returns to the country after the World Cup ends.
Pinnick’s battle started shortly after his election in Warri. The NFF Congress had disregarded the order of a Jos High Court to stay action on the Warri election until after the determination of the suit brought before it by the Giwa group.
He was also stopped by security operatives at the Murtala Mohammed airport in Lagos on his way to the African Women’s Championship in Angola in 2014. Nobody knew on whose order. He was travelling with then sports minister, Dr Tammy Danagogo who couldn’t help his case.
From then on, it has been one trouble after another for Pinnick and his board. If he is not ‘fighting’ with some of his board members, it would be with the Nigeria Football Supporters Club. He equally had issues with the late Super Eagles coach, Stehpen Keshi, refusing to renew his contract to continue as Super Eagles coach.
It was alleged that his board connived to ensure Keshi failed by ensuring that logistics were either not provided or provided late. It was shocking when some board members allegedly hired fans to boo the Super Eagles at the Abuja National Stadium during a match they played against Sudan. Despite beating Sudan, Keshi and his technical crew members were pelted with urine filled plastic bottles and that was when the Ilah-born coach knew that they no longer needed him.
It was not surprising when Pinnick working alone, as it was alleged, brought in former Super Eagles captain, Sunday Oliseh as Keshi’s replacement, describing Oliseh as the ‘Pep Guardiola of Africa’. He did everything to justify Oliseh’s appointment but again, the romance never lasted for too long as Oliseh walked out of the job.
The search for another coach for the Super Eagles brought another war as some board members alleged that Pinnick was not carrying them along. While some wanted another Nigerian coach, Pinnick stuck to his gun, saying that it was either a foreign coach or nothing. He had his way and so Gernot Rohr was hired.
Another battle Pinnick fought was in the appointment of Head of the NFF technical committee. There was a battle whether to retain Chris Green, who was in the same position during the Aminu Maigari era or appoint a new person. They settled for Felix Anyansi-Agwu but that action almost rocked the federation until a change was made after some time, bringing back Barrister Green.
As a restless young man, Pinnick never allowed Barrister Green to last too long on the post. A cabinet reshufflement was effected which took away Green and brought in Yusuf Ahmed Fresh as his replacement.
As all these lasted, everyone thought the leadership tussle had fizzled out after Giwa withdrew into his cocoon. The arrival of Solomon Dalung, President Muhammadu Buhari’s appointee as the new sports minister, exhumed the crisis by calling for truce between Giwa and Pinnick.
The truce meeting ended in fiasco as both men threw caution to the wind and exchanged fisticuffs right inside the minister’s conference room at the Abuja National Stadium. Nigerians wouldn’t have known what transpired at the ill-tempered meeting if the minister’s aide hadn’t tweeted what happened there with photograps to buttress it.
While all these happened, Pinnick assumed the minister was neutral in his tussle with Giwa or pretended not to know, just to make the minister think he was loyal. His loyalty was however, called to question by Dalung when the CAF election was to hold.
Pinnick had teamed up with the ‘new kids on the block’ led by youthful FIFA president, Gianni Infantino who was on a mission to get the relics of the Blatter dynasty out of football. Their mission was to get the last man standing for Blatter, Issa Hayatou out of CAF.
Dalung wanted Hayatou to remain in office. He even dropped the name of the president, claiming that Nigeria was supporting Cameroon because they are our neighbours. Pinnick was not cowed and worked for the emergence of Ahmad from Madagascar.
He is still fighting battles. He has divided the Supporters Club by preferring one faction over another and the result was a divided house in Russia which robbed the Super Eagles quality support. Whether he will remain to unite the warring factions or be swept away by the tide of a second term like those before him is just a matter of time.