Re: Re-setting button of Nigeria football administration

Amaju Pinnick

In a democracy, freedom of expression remains a cardinal pillar, especially when done with the best of intentions, to enhance public good and overriding national interest.

In the exercise of this inalienable right, those who pontificate on issues of significance should be seen to be truly patriotic on the ideas they sell to fellow citizens.

This is not the case with Segun Odegbami in his diatribe, which he deceptively captioned “Re setting Button of Nigeria Football Administration”.

In all his eloquence and writing abilities, Segun Odegbami, to the best of my estimation, is a man who is always quick to criticise from the sidelines, but wouldn’t deliver when given the opportunity to be on the saddle.

As Chairman of Shooting Stars Sports Club (3SC) at a time, his managerial acumen was below average and couldn’t successfully berth the ship. At Gateway Football Club, his “know-better-than-anyone-else” style sent the club into relegation.

The owners and supporters of 3SC and Gateway FC, two great names in the domestic league are still livid with anger and grudge over this failures till date and dashed hopes from Segun Odegbami.

Talking about his stewardship at the National Institute for Sports (NIS), Lagos, he ran the place like an Emperor and the once highly revered establishment became a vassal in ruins. When he was consultant to Oil major, Shell to facilitate the yearly SHELL CUP football tournament, there are no records of any single young player produced for any of our national teams. Segun Odegbami will not stop at grandstanding. He is an orator but this prowess has not translated to any concrete achievement that could be referred to in our national conversation.

It is an open secret that Segun Odegbami’s eyes are set on the NFF Presidency. He has every right to aspire to that office as a Nigerian. He is also an ex-player of great repute, which makes it even a bigger deal.

In my private time, I have kept wondering why Segun Odegbami should genuflect and hide under the shadow of some renegades to launch his ambition of becoming the next NFF President in 2022 when Mr. Amaju Melvin Pinnick’s second tenure runs out.

In his piece, Segun Odegbami merely scratched the surface by referring to other sporting associations in passing. His analysis is to discredit the present Board of the Nigeria Football Federation, cast aspersions on past leadership of the country’s sports and award himself the “Midas Touch Generalissimo”. Far from the truth.

Segun Odegbami’s support for someone like Harrison Jalla, whether real or fake, is understood. Because Harrison Jalla was an ex-footballer, so to speak, it is only natural to express solidarity and camaderie with one of his own. But there are posers, which Segun Odegbami is keeping blind eyes to. That he has decided to look at the other way in pretense cannot in any way suppress the sublime. This is a case of birds of the same feathers flocking together.

By sheer hindsight, I don’t think Mr. Pinnick has plans to run for a third term as President of the Nigeria Football Federation, even when the statutes of the NFF allows him to do so. Though as a human being, anything is possible. Football administration gains more from maturity, experience and exposure.

These are virtues in Pinnick’s kitty, which has made critical and major football stakeholders to clamour for his continuity beyond a second tenure. If he decides to run for a third term, which he is not wont to, he will navigate his way to victory.

He wants others to take a shot at the office. From the Republic of Benin to Sierra Leone, Egypt and Morroco, there have been consistencies in their football policy thrust, as the citizens rally support behind their football supremos to continue in office beyond a second term, even while on FIFA council seat.

Truth be told, Segun Odegbami’s goodwill, if any, has further plummeted for identifying with an outcast like Harrison Jalla whose only records in Nigeria Football is the various roles he played in its destabilization and stagnation through the various crisis and confusion directly championed and or supported by Jalla and his cohorts.

At this point in time, a true statesman should give genuine advice as the likes of Dr. John Oganwu and Thompson Usiyen always do. I recall that Dr. John Oganwu was the first university graduate to play for the Green Eagles of yesteryears. Usiyen, in his playing days was a striker par excellence which made him stood out among his peers.

Segun Odegbami’s advocacy has always been limited to government funding of sports, nay football. While it is true that government has a role to play in terms of funding, the private sector driven model is the way to go in the 21st century. Its on record that when Pinnick was still at the helm of sports in Delta State as the Executive Chairman of the Sports Commission, he came to Asaba, the State Capital to lobby for Government’s sponsorship of two students into his infamous sports academy.

Mr. Pinnick was quick to tell him that sponsorship must not always come from Government. There and then, Pinnick in the “adopt-an-athlete” fashion, entered a deal to personally sponsor two teenagers to the school, and one later became the headboy. I think Segun Odegbami wants to try his luck again with the NFF Presidency, haven failed in numerous attempts. His muddled-up conviction has made him to junket from one political party to the other in his native Ogun State, in order to become the elected governor.

He has failed woefully in this quest because he is never direct with his ambition, but always relying on opportunist situation and or other unintended issues for him to thrive and indeed the Ogun State electorates who refused to be fooled by his utopian ideas!

It is a shame that Segun Odegbami should align with a character like Harrison Jalla. Is Odegbami not aware that Jalla demanded for a contract to renovate the NFF liaison office in Lagos from Mr. Pinnick? The “sin” of Pinnick was his insistence that due process must be observed in the bid, and that it was not time to carry out the renovation in Lagos, as the football secretariat in Abuja was also undergoing renovation. Is Odegbami not aware that Jalla is a serial blackmailer, who recircles petitions, concoct stories which he sends to the nations antigraft agencies against Pinnick and the NFF? Is Odegbami not aware that Jalla was expelled from FIPRO over funds issues meant for the welfare of ex-players of Nigeria?

Is Odegbami not aware of Pinnick’s philanthropy and support towards ex-footballers in the country? When Wilson Oruma had issues at a point in time, Pinnick’s personal commitment for the rehabilitation of Oruma was a crazy amount of money in multiple digits. Femi Opabumi, another ex-player had attempted suicide and Pinnick has been there for him. It took the intervention of Pinnick to give him new hope and orientation to now live a new and better life.

What about Patrick Pascal, an Olympics gold medalist? It took the solo effort of Pinnick to get the Lagos State Government to fulfill her promises to the sports ambassador. What about “Chairman” Christian Chukwu? Has Odegbami forgotten how Pinnick mustered support from corporate Nigerians to embark on health tourism for him?

I want to also recall that as Chairman of the Delta State FA, Mr. Pinnick ensured that ex-players such as Austin Jay Jay Okocha, Victor Ikpeba, Kenneth Nwaomucha, and Alex Amudo were part of the FA Board. Austin Okocha was the first Vice-Chairman under Pinnick, and later won elections to become the Delta FA Chairman.

As President of the NFF, Mr. Pinnick ensure that most backroom staffs of our national teams are ex-players and above all Pinnick led his board to start the process to set up the NFF Foundation whose core brief is to support the ex-players. Which ex-player has Harrison Jalla or Segun Odegbami assisted either in good or bad times? So its totally unfair for anyone including Jalla or Odegbami to try to pitch Pinnick and or the NFF against the ex-players whose service to the country has been consistently duly acknowledged.

Many can attest to the support Mr. Pinnick has rendered and still rendering to the sports writers’ family and other football stakeholders.

Pinnick spent hugely on late Timi Ebikagboro when the later had health challenges. He wouldn’t have died if it were for want of money. After his demise, Pinnick has continued to pick the bills of the family that Timi left behind. Ask Timi’s wife, Dr. Yinka Ebikagboro at Central Hospital, Warri. What about an NFF staff, late Tolu Abe, former head of the ICT Department? The young man passed on, leaving behind a wife and kids who are still in school. Pinnick still carries the burden of paying the tuition fees for the children through his charity organization, the Brownhill Foundation. As a matter of fact, the Foundation has offered succor to over 200 indigent students in many tertiary institutions cutting across the country.

The trajectory of sports development in Nigeria is not all about the statutes and elections into the sporting federations. Every regime should have a mission and vision that goes beyond mere paper propaganda. It is strong institutions, the vision and dexterity of those at the helm that counts, as is the case with the present Amaju Melvin Pinnick-led NFF. The rapport and confidence, which the corporate sponsors of the Football Federation, reposed in the leadership in unprecedented.

Segun Odegbami’s piece painted a horrible and pessimistic picture, using the Liberty stadium in Ibadan as a metaphor. Whilst the country had had to grapple with infrastructural deficit and decay, successive government always contend with other sectors that equally need attention. It is work in progress. It is rather unfortunate that Segun Odegbami has resorted to the use of innuendoes, subtle references, denigrating statements, and image damage mechanisms on past sports administrators to ostensibly have his way.

Too bad. Nigerian football will be served better if Odegbami will simply come out and directly declare his interest which is within his fundamental right and pursue it the right way instead of trying to goad the Hon. Minister of Sports and or anybody into delving into NFF internal elections matters which over the years have proved to be a big disaster and collateral damage for Nigerian Football.

Barely few years ago, during the AITEO/NFF Awards ceremony, Segun Odegbami in a live telecast extolled the vision, drive, transparency, sagacity and dexterity of the Football Federation’s leadership.

The question to ask him is: What has suddenly changed? It crystal clear that Odegbami is versed in double talk, which to him, are ways and means to attain an office. Such a fellow can never be taken seriously; neither can he be entrusted with a public office.

In reality, no political system in the world is perfect. Goading the Sports Ministry or stirring the hornet nest at this time when the NFF leadership is focused on the next World Cup qualification is not only diversionary, but also wicked and self-serving.

Except for some few isolated cases instigated by the likes of Harrison Jalla and co, which has distorted and derail some of the laudable and sustainable projects embarked upon by the Pinnick board such as the unprecedented private sector identification with the NFF, the NFF has enjoyed leadership stability over the last six years and the positive outcomes is very apparent.

Indeed, the NFF Statutes, like any constitution or governing documents needs to be updated from time to time to ensure it moves with times and correct any deficiencies observed.

However, the statutes clearly has provisions and processes to be amended and Jalla and or Segun Odegbai could always come through this process to propose and canvased for the statutes amendments within the Law and am very sure they are quite aware of this process.

Therefore its simply being clever by half and or being disingenuous to now suddenly wake up start asking the Minister to get involve in clearly a matter the proponents quite knew is not within his realm do so.

Segun Odegbami should at his age deploy his God’s given talents to the promotion of germane causes. For instance, when an ex-international like Adokiye Amiesimaka speaks, everybody listens to him, because he talks out of conviction, whether good or bad.

This cannot be said of Segun Odegbami who talks merely to impress and in most cases, out of proportion. In fact, the Minister of Sports should not listen to him, as he is merely playing to the gallery and apparently derail the minister focused derive to tale Nigerian Sports to the Next Level.

My final advise to Odegbami is that he should take a cue from what legends in other climes do by rising to the occasion of offering candid advice and useful tips going forward rather than hiding under the guise of the ex-players forum to torpedo the good works of those at the saddle so as to open a window for his personal ambition.
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Sani Abdullahi, the Walin Kakuri, is a grassroots football developer, a National Elite Match Commissioner and a key stakeholder in Nigeria Football, No 20 Abdulkadir Road, Barnawa Kaduna, [email protected]; 08033949960

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