The 39th General Assembly of the Confederation of African Football (CAF) is scheduled to hold on the 16th of March, 2017. This year’s event enjoys the quadrennial significance of bringing another round of elections into the CAF Presidency and the Executive Committee.
From the Nigerian viewpoint, there seems little focus on whether or how the Nigeria Football Federation (NFF) President, Amaju Pinnick could wrest a CAF Executive Committee slot from incumbent member, and President of the football association of the Republic of Benin, Moucharafou Anjorin. Rather, much is being said about who will receive Nigeria’s backing for the CAF presidency.
In the last seven four-year terms for which he has been in office, incumbent CAF President, Issa Hayatou has faced opposition to his seat only twice, winning comfortably on both occasions. However, he currently appears to face stiff opposition from the President of the football association of Madagascar, Ahmad.
Following his revelation that the NFF would support Hayatou’s challenger, the NFF President has been criticized – by notable figures such as former NFF President, Sani Lulu and current NFF Executive Committee member, Chris Green – for showing his cards ahead of what is a secret ballot election and possibly placing Nigerian football in a precarious position in African football politics. It did not end there. The Nigeria Minister of Sport has recently also issued a press statement arguing that the position of the NFF President is a personal one and does not represent the position of the people and the government of Nigeria.
Meanwhile, the NFF’s Media and Publicity Committee Chairman, Suleiman Yahaya-Kwande, has disclosed that the NFF Board had given Pinnick the discretion over who the NFF would vote for in the CAF Presidential elections. According to him, during an NFF board meeting on February 7, 2017, Pinnick was unanimously mandated to vote for a candidate who will best serve Nigeria’s interest.
So, with the difference in interests or opinions within Nigeria regarding the CAF presidency, one wonders how and to what extent Nigeria will have a say at the election into the CAF presidency. Nigeria is only one of the 56 members of CAF, each of whom is entitled to a single vote at the election.
Although each national association is entitled to a maximum of 3 delegates at the General Assembly, only one of them can vote on behalf of the national association.
The interest of government in the administration of football in Nigeria is archetypal; however, it is the NFF – recognized under CAF and FIFA statutes as the managers of football within Nigeria – that is empowered to determine what the mind of the people of Nigeria is, as far as international football administration is concerned. It is important to note that technically, ‘Nigeria’ is not a member of FIFA/CAF; NFF is!
Given his grip on African football politics over the past three decades, the fear of Issa Hayatou is not illogical. While one may reckon with those who would rather keep their ballot secret, Amaju Pinnick has hardly ever been one to bottle his words. His choice to beat the drums as part of the “courageous” band intent on installing a new generation of leadership at CAF level seems inspired by the change mantra recently witnessed at FIFA and even in global secular politics. Even if this band fails to take-over the CAF seat, they may at least, according to Mr. Pinnick, get the African football authorities to listen to a larger audience, which is in line with democratic ideals. Whatever the case, it appears too much is being made of NFF’s solitary vote in the CAF presidential elections, whereas Nigerian football would could more directly be impacted by the Executive Committee slot, for which the NFF President is contending.