NFF President Amaju Pinnick has reiterated that the conditions rolled out by the NFF Executive Committee for Nigerians aspiring for the Office of President of FIFA were perfectly in order and meant to ensure the aspirants make wide consultations before the real contest.
Speaking on a sports programme on Television Continental (TVC) in Lagos on Friday, in direct reference to the condemnation of the NFF criteria by Chief Olusegun Odegbami (one of the aspirants), Pinnick underscored the fact that the NFF was interested in protecting the image of the country.
“The NFF is presently working to rebuild and repair the country’s football, in order that we can return to global reckoning. There are so many things we are doing to ensure this, and the NFF is determined that our country does not become a laughing stock as a result of another false step in the political sphere.
“As the NFF has stated, over the past four years, our country has lost two elections into FIFA/CAF seats. Our stock in football politics has dipped, and for this reason, we must weigh carefully every other step we wish to take again in that respect. The FIFA presidential race is a very serious matter, an intense affair that demands playing the political game on a global canvass.”
Pinnick said the conditions were not targeted at any aspirant and that they are simply designed to induct the determined persons into the furnace of football politics.
“Our criteria is reasonable and sensible; this is not a matter for sentiment. We do not underestimate the capacity of the aspirants, but the FIFA presidential race involves too many things and rests on a lot of factors.”
On Thursday, one –time Secretary General of then Nigeria Football Association, Hon. Sani Ahmed Toro gave strong backing to the conditions stipulated by the NFF, insisting that those who have opposed the conditions have their own motives.
“I commend the NFF for the conditions, because we cannot allow people to go out to the international sphere to ridicule Nigeria.
“Look, vying for the Presidency of FIFA is a very serious business with strong political waters to navigate. It is not a picnic. How many votes does Africa as a whole have? And which of the Nigerian aspirants will be hoping to get Africa’s block vote? Let us stop deceiving ourselves.”
Toro, a former Member of the House of Representatives, was Secretary General of then Nigeria Football Federation between 1993 and 1999, commonly referred to as the Golden Era of Nigeria Football. During Toro’s tenure, Nigeria won the Africa Cup of Nations for the first time on away ground, qualified for the FIFA World Cup for the very first time, reached the Round of 16 at the FIFA World Cup in 1994 and 1998 and won Africa’s first –ever Olympic football gold in Atlanta in 1996.
In the same vein, Dr. John Oganwu, the first graduate to play for the Senior National Football Team, declared at the weekend that the NFF has done what is right because “we cannot make our country a laughing stock in the global arena.”
Oganwu, 73, now a highly successful businessman, played alongside the likes of Victor Oduah, Jossy Dombraye, Amusa Adisa and Sunny Oyarekhua. He said on Sunday that Nigerians aspiring for the highest office in world football should not hesitate to meet the criteria set out by the NFF to be eligible for endorsement.
“When you are aspiring for office, you should be ready to pass the test of what I call the 3Cs – competence, character and capacity. No one disputes the credence of the aspirants, but they should have no fear of standing up to the test,” said Oganwu, who earned a doctorate degree from the Cornell University, USA.