With just days to the elections to form a new board of the Confederation of African football, it seems things have fallen apart in Nigeria’s football federation amid concerns over which candidate the country would support in the March 16 elections scheduled for Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.
The president of the present board of the Nigeria Football Federation (NFF), Amaju Pinnick, had gone to town in the last two weeks to trumpet his support for Madagascar’s football association boss, Ahmad Ahmad, who will confront the current CAF president, Issa Hayatou, who is seeking office for the eighth time.
But a letter distributed by some prominent Nigerian football figures, who serve on the current NFF board and also in CAF, shows Pinnick has perhaps been acting alone.
The letter was signed by Dominic Oneya, Amos Adamu, Amanze Uchegbulam, Sani Lulu, Aminu Maigari, Bolaji Ojo-Oba, Paul Bassey, Aisha Falode and incumbent NFF second Vice President, Chris Green.
They say Pinnick’s support for Ahmad should not be seen as Nigeria’s .
A part of the letter reads: “The attention of Nigerian members of CAF has been brought to bear on a publication purportedly issued by the President of the Nigeria Football Federation (NFF) Mr. Amaju Pinnick declaring support for Mr Ahmad of Madagascar in the forthcoming CAF elections.
“Since that publication and the attendant ripples in the African continent, we have consulted widely within the executive of the NFF, the sports ministry and indeed football stakeholders in Nigeria and discovered to our dismay that there is no evidence where Mr. Pinnick was mandated to commit this country to supporting Mr. Ahmad.”
Mr. Green told PREMIUM TIMES he and the other signed names stood by the letter.
Mr. Green and the others who signed the letter gave their support instead to Mr. Hayatou.
A later part of the letter added: “We, Nigerian members of CAF hereby declare our unalloyed support for President Hayatou and his leadership of CAF, one that has brought great development to the game in Africa, including the hosting of the FIFA World Cup on Africa soil for the first time.”
Meanwhile Ahmad has thanked Pinnick and the NFF publicly on Twitter, “Thanks to @thenff and his President @PinnickAmaju for their precious supports. You and me, all of us, are courageous. #TogetherForChange.”
Mr. Ahmad, 57, who is into his third term as Madagascar FA president said in an interview with the BBC that Mr. Hayatou had done all he could for CAF.
“In life, there is a limit. Typically in politics, everyone has his chance – maybe it is time [for Hayatou to depart],” he said.
Analysts say with the rift at the NFF, Nigeria may stand to lose with whoever candidate gets elected eventually.
Osasu Obayiuwana, a sports writer, said on Twitter, that this “could be the beginning of the night of the long knives”.
Editor’s Note: We have updated this post to reflect Mr. Green’s comment to PREMIUM TIMES.