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CAF Elections: Hayatou Should Step Down




I AM WRITING this on Monday, February the 27th, 2017. For anyone reading this article to have a good background to my perspective on the Confederation of African Football (CAF) elections, they would have to read my column of last week titled, “Pinnick Must Shut Moucharafu’s Big Mouth” @

But for those who have read it already, let’s continue the conversation…

Let me resume by saying that I did not speak to Nigeria Football Federation (NFF) president Amaju Pinnick before writing last week’s article. This clarification is important because, about the time I was writing that Pinnick was likely to support Ahmad Ahmad of Malagasy against incumbent Issa Hayatou in the up-coming CAF Presidency elections, Pinnick was actually granting the BBC an interview confirming that he would indeed be supporting Ahmad. The local Nigerian media reported the BBC story the same day that my article was published in Complete Sports and on my blog, thereby creating an impression that I knew about the BBC story. No, I did not. It was pure coincidence.

So, how did I know that Pinnick would be backing Ahmad when the BBC interview was the first time he would speak publicly about his position? My answer: Simple, logical reasoning!

However, since my speculative article and Pinninck’s confirmatory interview were published, events have unfolded in dramatic fashion concerning Nigeria’s expected role at the CAF elections.


First was a press statement by the NFF executive committee endorsing Pinnick’s position. The executive committee members reportedly decided to give Pinnick a “free hand” to decide who to vote for between Hayatou and Ahmad purportedly because, as NFF president, he (Pinnick) supposedly understood the politics of CAF better than other members and they trusted him to vote wisely in Nigeria’s interest.

Hardly had the ink dried on that press statement when Minister of Sport Solomon Dalung released a counter press statement over-ruling the NFF and declaring that “Nigeria as a country” had not endorsed any candidate for the CAF Presidency and that Pinnick’s announcement had no official approval from the Federal Government.

The third statement on the matter came from a group of Nigerian members of CAF committees who have rejected Pinnick’s support for Ahmad on the grounds that he didn’t have the mandate of the NFF executive committee and the ministry of sport to do so. The group also listed Hayatou’s ”contributions” to Nigerian football as basis for their own support for the Camerounian to continue in office as CAF president.

Now, I have to thread very carefully here in order to not be misunderstood. The group of Nigerian CAF members parades highly respected and eminent personalities who have made tremendous contributions to Nigerian football. The group includes former NFF presidents General Dominic Oneya, Alhaji Sani Lulu and Alhaji Aminu Maigari; former FIFA/CAF executive committee member Dr. Amos Adamu; former NFF member Amanze Uchegbulam; former NFF Secretary General Bolaji Ojo-Oba; eminent journalists Paul Bassey and Aisha Falode; and current NFF member Chris Green.

Personally, I have worked with and continue to relate cordially with many of these distinguished individuals and I do not want to offend them. But on this issue of the CAF Presidency, I beg to disagree with their collective position for the following reasons…


First, had Pinnick ”unilaterally” decided to support Hayatou rather than Ahmad, would the Nigerian members of CAF have objected to his decision? If the probable answer is no, then his purported “unilateral” decision to support Ahmad cannot be accepted as the real reason for rejecting his choice. Pinnick has been accused of ignoring “due process,” but it appears his real offense is choosing the “wrong” candidate.

Second, the group concedes Pinnick’s right “as an individual to declare support for whoever he pleases,” but then cautions him against “doing it in the name of Nigeria.” I find that contradictory because Pinnick has no other personal vote in CAF except the Nigeria vote. He is either voting on Nigeria’s behalf or he is not.

Thirdly, talking about following “due process,” I recall that Alhaji Ibrahim Galadima and Aminu Maigari both contested the CAF executive committee election in recent years and both of them lost despite presenting their candidatures as a “Nigerian Project.” Campaign committees were formed, lobby groups established, campaign budgets were raised and money spent on shuttle diplomacy but, in the end, nothing was achieved. If following due process has failed Nigeria twice before, I personally have no objection to Pinnick contesting “without following due process” this time around. The worst that can happen to him is that he and his candidate will lose the election also.

The truth of the matter is that Hayatou, NOT Pinnick, is the problem with the up-coming CAF elections. No one, in all fairness, can deny Hayatou’s massive contributions to African football during the close to three decades that he’s been at the helm because the facts are there to show.

Last week, I also gave him credit for making Africa proud and coming out “unscathed” from the FIFA corruption scandals that consumed former president Sepp Blatter, Michel Platini and other world soccer heavyweights last year. But when Hayatou used his power of incumbency to manipulate the CAF constitution (which stipulated 70 years as the retirement age for executive committee members) just in order to perpetuate himself in office, the now 71-year-old lost my respect and the respect of many neutral observers in African football. So, we cannot but salute the courage of Pinnick and others who are willing now to stand up to Hayatou’s ”sit-tight” agenda. The 2017 CAF elections are not about Hayatou’s past achievements; they are about the future of African football.

Furthermore, the media in any democratic society has a social responsibility to put government officials and public administrators in check. Anywhere in the world, leaders who use every trick in the book to hang on to power are never popular with the Libertarian free press, no matter those leaders’ so-called achievements and good intentions. The free press just naturally detests such “leaders.” I belong to the school of free press and the only way dictatorial leaders can escape our sting is to bow out gracefully.


Hayatou has been CAF president since 1988 which is 29 years ago. The sports media are simply are tired of him and nothing he will do now or next year or the year after that will make him acceptable to the generality anymore. In fact, he stands the risk of rubbishing his own legacy in the same manner that it happened to Sepp Blatter who over-stayed his welcome at FIFA. My candid view is that Hayatou should have been advised to step down from these elections.
Having said that, I understand the trepidation of the Nigerian group of CAF members about the repercussions of a Pinnick adventure going wrong. In their press statement, the group refers to the “political colouration of CAF elections” which they are “well grounded and versed in.” I interpret that to mean the heavy price Nigeria will be made to pay for Pinnick’s ”infantile radicalism” when the elections are over.
Well, for me that is another problem with Hayatou. Why should Nigeria be punished if our FA president contests for an election or supports another candidate and they both lose? Doesn’t the CAF constitution allow for a free and fair contest? If everybody is afraid of losing, who will contest against Hayatou then? Elections should not be a zero-sum game. CAF as an institution should have effective checks and balances to protect the loser from being persecuted by the winner. But it would appear that is not the case in Hayatou’s CAF.
In any case, Pinnick has said that he will still support Hayatou if Hayatou defeats Ahmad. But my response to a failed Pinnick or Ahmad bid is that Nigeria’s group of CAF members should also prepare to clean up any resultant mess! By cautioning Pinnick now, they have prepared a strong alibi already. Afterwards, they would simply tell Hayatou that Pinnick was a reckless, over-ambitious young man who refused to listen to advice. At that stage, I will also join in begging Emperor Hayatou for forgiveness so that our 2018 FIFA World Cup qualification is not jeopardized by questionable officiating!

But if Pinnick and Ahmad’s ambitious gamble pays off, Nigeria loses nothing! And that will put the mouthy Moucharafu Anjorin of Benin Republic in his rightful place.

What Will Dalung Do?

AT THE TIME of writing this, minister of sport Solomon Dalung had reportedly summoned an emergency meeting of the NFF to reappraise Nigeria’s position ahead of the CAF elections.

Last December, Dalung originally expressed reservation about Pinnick’s candidacy for the CAF executive committee elections at the NFF Annual General Assembly in Lagos. But he was beaten back by the assembly delegates who proceeded to “unanimously” endorse the NFF president. Dalung did not mention the matter again until last week when Pinnick disclosed that he was also backing Ahmad for the CAF presidency.


What will Dalung do now? Will he report Pinnick to the acting president Yemi Osibajo, cut off funding for the NFF or instigate some NFF executive committee members to impeach Pinnick? Or, will he support Pinnick and the NFF executive committee in their bold decision to confront Hayatou.

You probably know the answer by the time you’re reading this. In which case, I will pick up the conversation again from there next week. See you then, insha Allah…


Welcome to The Sports Parliament 

I HAVE been invited to be a part of a new television programme titled The Sports Parliament which will start showing live on Nigerian Television Authority (NTA) network every Thursday at 11.00pm starting from Thursday, March 2nd, 2017. The programme is a creation of former Green Eagles (now Super Eagles) captain Segun Odegbami who ironically pioneered privately produced sports programming on Nigerian television with Saturday Sports Special close to three decades ago.


The Sports Parliament promises to be quite engaging, controversial and in-depth going by the quality of Parliamentarians that The Speaker, Odegbami, has put together. I’m looking forward to enjoying myself thoroughly on the programme and I invite you to come along for the ride. Don’t miss it.


This post was repost from with permission from Mumini Alao.



Kunle Solaja is the author of landmark books on sports and journalism as well as being a multiple award-winning journalist and editor of long standing. He is easily Nigeria’s foremost soccer diarist and Africa's most capped FIFA World Cup journalist, having attended all FIFA World Cup finals from Italia ’90 to Qatar 2022. He was honoured at the Qatar 2022 World Cup by FIFA and AIPS.

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Expectedly, Nigeria’s Super Falcons are African champions for the ninth time in 11 editions of the Women’s Africa Cup of Nations. Winning continental honours with over 81% success indicates that the Super Falcons are the dominant forces in Africa.

But the bare statistics speak little about the increasing decline in the status of the team. The gulf that existed between the pedigree of the Super Falcons and that of the rest of the Africa is increasingly narrowing.

In essence, the rest are catching up, while the standard in Nigeria is at best stagnant if not declining. In the just concluded tournament in Ghana, the Super Falcons played 330 minutes of matches without scoring in the open play.

The statistics consist of the blank shots in the 90 minutes of the opening encounter with South Africa, and the 120 minutes played with each of Cameroon and South Africa in the final stages. It is the lottery of penalty shootout that earned the team both the World Cup ticket and the continental title.

Goals, almost in torrents, were scored against only the punching bags of Group B – Zambia and Equatorial Guinea. It should be noted that the FIFA Women’s World Cup next year will not feature such weaklings.


At the best of forms, the Super Falcons had never found their feet at the global level, even though the dominance in Africa earned the team the honour of being one of the only seven to have attended all the past seven editions of the tournament since the inaugural edition in 1991.

Yet of the seven that comprise of USA, Brazil, Germany, Japan, Norway and Sweden, the Super Falcons are the only one not has ever become one of the third-place finishers. Next year, it will be exactly 20 years since they had their best outing, a quarter-final finish at USA ’99.

Shall they continue to live in past glory? That is why a lot more have to be done. The Super Falcons appear to be the only one of Nigeria’s national teams that commands little or no attention. The only significant preparation in the form of friendly match was the one played against France earlier in the year.

Of course, the results speak volumes on the gap between our team and those of the ambassador class, the medium but rare and those still learning the hard way as the FIFA Technical Report of China 1991 espoused on the three-tiered participants.

At the global level, Nigeria still remains at the third tier, even 27 years after. It calls for urgent concern. Virtually all the squad members of the current Super Falcons are based abroad; an indication of the paucity of talents at home. In the early days of 1990s, women clubs established by spirited enthusiasts dotted virtually all parts of the country.


These days, the clubs have thinned out leaving the Rivers Angels, Bayelsa Queens, Delta Queens and Pelican Stars as some of the few existing ones and without vibrant domestic competitions to sustain, let alone multiply talents.

Except urgent steps are taken by the Nigeria Football Federation, the end of Nigeria’s dominance in this category of football is imminent. Even as we draw most of the Super Falcons’ players abroad, a time will come when there will be none to export to be refined for later-day importation into the Super Falcons.

Probably to increase the interest in women’s football, the clubs in the NPFL could be encouraged to have teams of opposite sex. Considering that women’s clubs attract no gate fees which is the barest to sustain the clubs in competitions, the ones attached to NPFL clubs can play curtain raiser matches ahead of the main menu especially if the opposing clubs are in the neighbourhood.

For instance, a fixture of Enugu Rangers and Enyimba can be preceded as a curtain raiser by the women’s teams attached to the two clubs. That way, those who ordinarily will not go out to watch women’s football will have the opportunities.

The ladies get exposed to more competitions and in crowd attended environments. The result will be multiplication of talents and the raising of women football to the next level.

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It is no longer news that Plateau United are the Nigerian Professional Football League Champions. They topped the log very early in the recently concluded season and kept the top position away from the rest of the pack until the final day of the season.

Fidelis Ilechukwu, Gbenga Ogunbote and Abdul Maikaba’s charges variously huffed and puffed all season. The Jos-based team was however determined to achieve the feat last accomplished by a Plateau team through the Mighty Jets squad of old.
Fast forward to today. After losing out on a possible double in a two-legged battle against Niger Tornadoes in the Aiteo Cup, all appears to be at a standstill concerning the Jos-based side.

The team has not been honoured by the government of the state. To add to the worrisome situation, there has not been any significant preparations for either the forthcoming league season or the CAF continental competition they qualified for by virtue of winning the league title.
A bunch of players who aren’t hosted by their sponsors for winning the league title after a gruelling season in such fashion as they did are less likely to be motivated to do anything significant on the continent.

Added to this is the allegation that the League Management Company is yet to pay the club the cash prize for winning the title as at last weekend.


With the State government not currently looking the way of the champions and the delay in receiving their prize money from the league organizers, it is no surprise that the Ahlan tournament currently taking place in Kano is the very first major training session the team has been engaged in since they were knocked out of the Aiteo Cup.
Unlike other teams competing for honours on the national and continental stage like Enyimba FC, which camped in Ado Ekiti before travelling to Kano, or El Kanemi, which had been on a road trip playing teams across the country, or other teams which played in the Gold Cup, Plateau United had not had any serious tune-up game before coming to Kano for the double preseason tournaments in the Pyramid City.

To make it to Kano, a lump sum, running into a few million naira, had to be borrowed from private sources in order to fund the team’s departure for the competition.
A short while ago, the media was awash with a news article where the Plateau United General Manager, Pius Henwan was said to have announced that Plateau United were to sign 50 players ahead of their 2017/2018 football season in order to strengthen the team for its CAF Champions League, Nigeria Professional Football League and the Aiteo Cup engagements.

He went on to assert that some new players have been recruited to replace the 12 players released last season and to fortify the team before the commencement of the 2017/2018 NPFL season.
In the statement, he promised that efforts were on for the team to embark on a close camping outside the country where the team is expected to map out plans for their continental campaign.

“During the camping the team will play some quality friendly matches with some foreign clubs,” he said.
However, in a conversation with Coach Kennedy Boboye who manages the league outfit over the weekend, he is worried about the impression that news item would project to the public as up till they departed for the Ahlan tournament; there had been very little support from the sponsors as regards the team’s preparations for the forthcoming season.
He went on to say that although he is blooding a few young players as well as trialists in the team, he is yet to make any signings ahead of the new season as he has to see them for a while in training at a closed camping exercise.

He lamented that although the Kano tournament is a welcome idea and gives him an opportunity to see some of these trialists in action, he may be unable to teach his team core tactics and strategy in such an open place away from home, where there is no guarantee that his tactics may be spied upon.
All these bring the Imama Amapakabo episode of the 2016/2017 season to mind only too uncomfortably. On that occasion, not too long before he was disengaged, Imama had explained in the media, using an allegory of a worn transport vehicle that received human augmentation upon reaching the home stretch of a marathon with victory in sight.


The Super Eagles Assistant Coach, in his allegory in that period, had bemoaned the lack of mechanical overhaul and refurbishing of the old and worn automobile ahead of its return marathon trip despite the evidently poor state.
Apparently, few administrators in ‘042,’ as Enugu is fondly described, got that message.

In the middle of the frenzy, pomp, pageantry (even though the road show left more to be desired!) and razzmatazz that followed the remarkable 32-year broken jinx, little was done to beef up the team and plug obvious leakages and grease necessary bearings.

It crash-landed only too soon the following league season and while the then-defending champions flirted dangerously with relegation for way too long, the celebrated coach was excused under a hail of dust.
It was so acrimonious that Amapakabo was briefly detained supposedly under the orders of some Rangers bigwigs.

By the time the dust settled, the entire leadership of Rangers International football club were shown the door at the end of the league season with continued top flight status secured, at least for one more season.
That same foreboding is what recent revelations from the camp of Plateau United suggests. This is despite the fact that the team captain, Golbe Elisha had recently suggested that his team was ’rearing to go.’

The question then is “Rearing to go to where?” Somewhere even better than their previous achievements or somewhere better imagined than experienced?
Plateau United must be encouraged not to fail us all on the continent, just like MFM, Enyimba and Akwa United.


It isn’t just about these teams and their sponsoring state governments. It is about Nigeria and her public image.

More than the public image of Nigeria however, it is about the coefficient rankings of Nigerian club outfits by CAF that can further plummet if the Nigerian charges fail to reach the latter stages of the CAF engagements this year.

The implication is that Nigeria may have her continental slots reduced, and that would be a huge reversal of opportunities to exhibit the Nigerian potentials and talents on the continental and global scene.

Tunde Akinbinu (Dr Tee) is a practising Medical doctor as well as a registered Sports Journalist. He writes from Kano._




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Day of Long Knives Beckons





The die is cast, the moment of decision is nigh and in just one year or so from now, the drummer boys will gather, ready to beat the drums of war ahead of what promises to be the fiercest and toughest  NFF presidential elections ever.

It promises lots of fireworks, the daggers will be out full length and this time, no one will be spared according to a top inside source.

From the North East, to the North West and North Central, the familiarity visits have begun.  The scheming game has intensified as meetings have started stretching into the dark.


It all began on the first day of the league season, when over 23 State FA chairmen converged in Kano State.

After that match between the hosts Kano Pillars and FC Ifeanyi Ubah, which ended rather abruptly, a congregation of FA chairmen from the North, spiced up by the presence of Nigeria Referees Association president, Tade Azeez and Chairman of Association of professional footballers of Nigeria APFON, Dahiru Sadi, met with the Kano State governor and the agenda on the day was how to return football administration to the North.

The North can boast of at least 22 votes from the 44 available and for now.  Two men are the hottest delegates in town, Alhaji Mohammed Alkali and Chidi Okenwa.  As FA chairmen of Nasarawa and Enugu states and also Chairmen of the Nigeria Nationwide and National Leagues respectively,

Both are proud owners of two votes each, out of the 44 available and as we speak  both are courted by all and sundry like beautiful brides in their prime, all, in their desperate bid to sway them over to their sides in good time ahead of the elections.



But who wants Amaju’s seat?


The incumbent, Melvin Amaju Pinnick (MAP) could become the first man in history to return for a second term in office.

Amaju describes himself as the anointed one. I am God’s anointed and the chosen one he said after dusting Mucharafou Anjorin of Benin Republic to the CAF executive committee seat.

Amaju has become very powerful in only a matter of months after emerging as a member of the exalted FIFA organising committee, CAF executive committee and now, chairman of CAF organising and media committees, two of the most respected committees in CAF.


He emerged NFF president in September 2014, and has done so well to keep his team intact and very united. He recently embarked on rigorous marketing drive to make the NFF buoyant again with the recent signing of the 2.5 billion naira Aiteo deal.

However, he still has a case at the Supreme Court to contend with as the Chris Giwa faction all turned up in court last week only to see the judge adjourn their plea to relist a case that have dragged on for over two years.

By December when the case will come up again, the World Cup ticket must have been secured and the pressure certainly will reduce on the shoulders of a man who has battled with forces far and near to get to the very pinnacle of world football politics.

He believes he has his soldiers fully behind him but daily; there are cracks in the walls as new groups have begun to emerge.

Still his strongest ally and supporter, is Chairman of the League Management Company, Shehu Dikko, a man who has refused to join forces with the opposition to fight a friend he has grown to love and accept.


The North sees Shehu as the ideal candidate to wrestle powers from Pinnick but his continued reluctance is gradually forcing them to change strategy and think of a plan B.

What is the plan B? For now, three options are available.

The first is for the North to align with a strong political warhorse from the South West who has told everyone that cares to listen that he will emerge the next NFF president.

This former NFF General Secretary is a silent planner but also a very intelligent politician. He contested against Pinnick in the September 2014 elections and has embarked on a constant pilgrimage to the North in the last two months in his bid to fraternise with the power blocks and get them support his presidential ambition.



The Option Two: A few of the Northerners are also dancing with a strong billionaire from the East who is fast emerging as one of the most powerful football administrators in Africa.

He has a club, he is building a sports village in his home town in Anambra state and he has a football club and remains one of just two private clubs owners in the NPFL.

He took over ten FA chairmen to London last year in continuation of his companies’ partnership pact with West Ham United football club.

He has kept very close ties with the real power blocks in the North and he is gradually infiltrating the rank and files among them in a bid to finally getting them to support his presidential ambition.

He is a man who goes for whatever he wants and gets it, so his influence and power as an emerging APC stalwart can never be under estimated.


Already, one very strong NFF executive committee member is being positioned to run with him as his vice president and he has vowed to drag twenty or more delegates along in this fresh adventure.



The third option is looking like the most workable even though the pilot flying this plane has continued to deny interest or acceptance. He is described by many as the ‘Jagaban’ of Nigeria football. A friend of many and enemy to none.

He smiles at every joke and offers a handshake when necessary.  He is loved by the media, worshipped by his very close associates and respected by all.


Across board, this man is gradually building an empire that will in no time catapult him to the very top of the ladder.

He tells one anytime he is asked that he has no ambition ofbecoming the NFF president and that he is more comfortable as a king maker.

Indeed he is a kingmaker because he attends every function from naming ceremony to birthdays, to graduation and marriages ceremonies. He doles out money to the rich and poor and carries all the northern FA chairmen along in this his emerging football empire.

He is a threat to anyone if only he decides to run for the NFF presidential seat.



Other Options…


There is the unseen hand from the presidency that could change everything and pick a candidate loyal to the ruling party as NFF president.

There is also the story of an emerging strong ally between some members of the present board who already smell foul play and members of the Giwa team to truncate the process before the 2018 World Cup.

We also hear that a group is compiling documents to get the EFCC to disrupt the process and put a few people behind bars few weeks to the election.


All these options are open for consideration as the 2018 NFF elections draws closer.

For now though, everyone prefers to stay quiet as if all is well as they go about their scheming and politicking in the dark.


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