That is the big poser, a million-Dollar question.
I have tried to consult my crystal ball. It is unusually blurred and fuzzy. I asked some colleagues in the business of football. The blank looks on their faces spoke louder than their silence.
No one is even willing to hazard a guess and name the next president of the Nigeria Football Federation when the elections into the Executive Committee takes place next month. What many Nigerians seem to agree about is who would NOT be the president.
Immediately, names start tumbling out, most of them top guns in the current board, integral members of what is generally considered a ‘failed’ tenure.
In terms of results – the qualification of national teams for international competitions, and international trophies won (yardsticks that were used in the past to determine the fate of boards) – the scorecard of the outgoing board is not the best advertisement for the incumbent leadership, more so, as they operated as a triumvirate for most of the 8 years tenure of the board. Things seem to have fallen apart between them now and the centre no longer holds. Each person has retired to their narrow cocoons, fighting for survival by distancing themselves from the Amaju-scorecard.
It stands to reason that no one thinks Amaju Pinnick should, or will seek, re-election and continue his reign as President after 8 years that have been barren of Silverware.
A few months ago, he seemed to clear the cobwebs when he publicly declared that his family had prevailed upon him not to re-contest the elections and attempt to extend his record as the longest serving President of NFF in history. Before him, no Nigerian has managed to succeed himself and to complete a second-term in the exalted office, not even when they scored higher in terms of achievements.
This time, many analysts have been generous to Pinnick. They look at the demands of the eras and declare that the present times demand and deserve a different set of yardsticks of measurement. The state of global economies, international conflicts, an unprecedented global pandemic, all have posed unprecedented challenges for even football federations.
Unfortunately, football thrives on sentiments and emotions rather than scientific analysis and academic postulations.
So, the field may be clear of who will NOT be president out of those that look the most likely contenders, or have indicated intention to contest, or those still reeling in the rumour mill as interested contestants.
One thing though, Amaju Pinnick will NOT be the next president. His Vice-Presidents, may be added to that list. Unless, of course, the rumour mill is right that Amaju is changing his mind and will soon bite the bait been laid for him by some ‘powerful’ forces ‘pressuring’ him to throw his hat into the ring again.
Surely, that would introduce a whole new dynamic into the picture, make nonsense of any analysis here, and produce drama such as Nigerian football has not seen in a long time.
Elections without Amaju
Outside Amaju Pinnick as a contestant in the race, from my remote observatory in Wasimi, what I see is blurry.
There have been strident calls for amendments to the statutes that would be used to conduct the elections.
The amendments can only be effected and ratified by the current General Assembly of the Federation. They are constituted mostly by incumbent Chairmen of State Associations that disproportionately and unjustifiably dominate the Assembly. The chances of their amending anything that would see them lose their present firm grip on the Federation and diminish their chances of producing the next president are slim.
They are also not obligated to carry out any amendment. The Federal Ministry of Sports that has been the puppeteer behind the scenes determining the fate of all past regimes, and directing how things fared, may be powerless to right the wrong they introduced some two decades ago, when (without realising the grave damage they were introducing at the time) they increased the size of the electorate in order to install a preferred candidate, by adding all 37 Chairmen of State Associations (and even their secretaries, at a time) into the Elective Congress and created a ‘monster’ they have not been able to kill since then.
State FA Chairmen are NOT registered Members of the national federation. They are ordinary stakeholders, a creation of individual States to liaise with the national federation whilst running football in their individual States. From having only one (Chairman of Chairmen) as a member of the electorate and a representative on the board, they were ballooned to 37 out of an elective assembly of 44 members. Since then, almost 20 years ago, they have been determining who became president exclusively from amongst them.
To reverse the statute, or amend it, would now require that the same members take the steps to do so. This is unlikely to happen considering that no one surrenders power without a good cause and a good fight. From all indications, this constituency in the present General Assembly of the NFF, is determined to hold on to the rein of power.
Already the process for conducting the next elections has started with a meeting of the General Assembly called. I see no amendment to the statutes as an item on the agenda.
Furthermore, the amendments proposed are mainly the work of a committee set up by the Ministry of Sports to design a 10-year development plan for Nigerian football. Part of their recommendations is an amendment to articles in the statutes that may affect the contest for the coming elections.
So, amending the statutes will be the first huge hurdle to cross. The Ministry does not have the power and numbers in the present General Assembly to drive that change before the elections.
Therefore, it is likely that the existing statutes will provide the process and guidelines for the September elections. If that is the case, the country should brace up for a fight.
Further implications would include the reality that none of the former international players that have declared an interest to run for President would stand a chance. It would not matter if they joined the ‘game’ through a State Chairmanship position. Their chances from that group are nil.
The major players in the current struggle (without Amaju) would fight for control of the 37 State Chairmen who will once again determine who amongst them would become President.
Ethnic politics would definitely rear their ugly head again. Before long, amongst the electorate there will soon arise the chorus that ‘it is the turn of the North to produce the next president’. It will be so strident that the next president will, more likely than not, come from any one of the politically powerful northern candidates in the race.
Another major factor that would influence the election is where the elections are held. Incumbents usually use that to get hosting State Governors to get involved, spend stupendous resources to host and ‘buy’ the most vulnerable members of the electorate and make their person President.
For these reasons and much more, it is hard to guess, at this point, what would happen and who would be the next President of the NFF.
The minimum the Sports Ministry can do is to put pressure on Amaju Pinnick not to take the elections anywhere else but the headquarters of the federation, Abuja. It used to be the rule in the past that Board elections are only held there.
That will cut down on corrupt practices and corrupting influences outside the glare of the superintending Ministry, and cut off the umbilical cord of manipulation. At least, that would be a good starting point for the coming rofo rofo fight for the Presidency of the NFF