By Our Reporter
Contemporary history in sports development in Nigeria, particularly football, is incomplete without a mention of Amaju Pinnick. His sterling records in the sports development and successes achieved in sports competitions, during and after his stint as Chairman of Delta State Commission, succinctly explains his climb to the hierarchy of national and international football administration.
As the President of the Nigerian Football Federation, NFF, Pinnick places huge premium on excellence and never shirks from challenges. Rather, he throws himself into his tasks however challenging such may be until a solution is found.
Undaunted by the deep-seated and age-long issues debilitating football administration, Amaju Pinnik, in 2014, offered himself for service. He took up his job like a skilled mechanic, fixing knotty problems and tightening the loose bolts and nuts to get things working again. He would go ahead to win a re-election as the federations president, based on nothing but his sterling performance.
Before the advent of Amaju Pinnik, Nigeria football has always struggled to get private sector sponsorships. It would amaze watchers to see the NFF nicking sponsorship deals one after the other. The list includes AITEO Energy Resources Limited, Nigerias leading Energy Solutions Company becoming the Official Optimum Partner of the NFF. The company decided to sponsor the FA Cup, Challenge Cup and Federation Cup. Similarly, ZENITH International Bank has handled capacity building for administrators, youth development programme and payment of Super Eagles Head Coach. And on the eve of the 2018 FIFA World Cup qualification, two partnership agreements were signed in one day with Tropical General Investments (TGI) Group as Official Food Sponsor of the Super Eagles, and PayPorte Global Systems Limited, as Official Online Store of the NFF. Coca-Cola also teamed up with Nigerian Football on a five-year agreement, which made Coca-Cola the Official Soft Drink of the National Teams. Months later, the NFF signed more endearing agreements; first with Nigerian Breweries PLC a five-year deal worth N2.2 Billion and which made Star Lager the Official Alcoholic Beverage of the Super Eagles; and Amstel Malta the Official Malt Drink of the NFF and the National Teams. There is also a partnership deal with Cadbury Nigeria PLC which makes Tom Tom the Official Candy of the Super Eagles. WAPIC Insurance PLC is the Official Insurance Company of the NFF and the National Team while Emzor Pharmaceuticals has been retained with another longterm contract.
In December 2017, a two-day workshop to fully connect the NFF to the FIFA Connect system of registration of football players and officials was held in Abuja. FIFA Connect is the centralized portal for the registration of football players and other stakeholders. Following its full integration, Nigeria became the first African country to be on FIFA Connect.
On the international stage, Amaju Pinnick has served as member of the strategic FIFA Organising Committee and as an executive member of the Confederation of African Football (CAF) in 2017. This enviable feats would be followed with his appointment as President, African Cup of Nations and, later, First Vice President of CAF, in September 2018. Hate or love him, one quality that cannot be taken away from Amaju Pinnick is integrity. Despite the avalanche of attacks from his rivals, Pinnick proudly wears a badge of honour as he does his well-trimmed beard. This underlies his passing various integrity test by continental and world football bodies.
Although, ambitious and determined, Pinnick would do nothing to undermine Africa and African football administrators. He would demonstrate this value to the admiration of the world when he stepped back to give opportunity to another African as the continents representative on the FIFA Council. Aside, amaju Pinnik has been pivotal in steadying the drifting ship of African football. To unclog Africa football from its entanglement, Pinnick vigorously saw to the retirement of former football grandee, Issa Hayatou, as CAF president after three decades of being in the saddle. This, he didnt do for personal gain or glory as rejected calls for him to succeed Hayatou. Instead, he prodded and supported the emergence of Malagasy football administrator, Ahmad Ahmad as CAF President.
The Pinnick administration has also concentrated on enhancing the capacity of administrators, referees and coaches. About two dozen referees went for refresher programs in the United Kingdom in December 2014, and about the same number took their turn in February 2015. Another capacity-enhancing program took nearly 30 administrators to London in December 2015. Some coaches were specially trained in the world-renowned Pro-Zone software to enhance the performance of Nigerian teams in international competitions. Thanks to Pinnick, too, there have been a range of FIFA-supported courses and workshops for coaches, referees and administrators in the country in the past four years. The CAF A coaching course for home-grown coaches was a first of its kind and benefitted over 80 coaches with highly-experienced resource persons in attendance.
Under Pinnick, former Nigeria football stars have been highly considered for coaching positions with the various National Teams. Pinnick had so much confidence in former Eagles captain, Sunday Oliseh by appointing him Head Coach of the Super Eagles in July 2015 but the latter fell short of expectations by resigning abruptly. Former goalkeepers, Imama Amapakabo and Alloy Agu have been with the Super Eagles; Samson Siasia coached the U-23 boys; while Emmanuel Amuneke coached the U-17 and U-20 boys at different times. Manu Garba is the current coach of the U-17.
The women are not left out. Florence Omagbemi, Perpetua Nkwocha and Ann Chiejine worked with the Super Falcons at different times. According to Pinnick, The NFF recognizes and appreciates the great efforts of our footballers who have done well locally and internationally for the glory of our country. They are the most important aspect in the game because, without them, there will be no NFF, FIFA, sponsors, fans and others. The NFF will be putting in place the NFF Foundation principally to look into the welfare of players.
Not just that; he also set up the machinery to take care of retired footballers who are distressed. An example is Wilson Oruma who lost his fortune but has been assisted back to good health by Pinnicks Brownhill Foundation. The foundation is his way of giving back to society. Those who know say that five per cent of earnings from his businesses is channelled to the foundation. Several students have been awarded scholarships and ex-sports personalities with health challenges have also benefited from this foundation. The legendary Segun Odegbami had to applaud Pinnick because some of the beneficiaries of the Foundation went through the Segun Odegbamis Sports College in Ewekoro.
At the moment, Brownhill Foundation is rebuilding the football pitch, seating pavilions, classroom blocks, volleyball court and renovating the main administrative building in Hussey College, Warri, his alma mater.
Instructively, the Pinnick administration has already started the construction of mini-secretariats for the Football Associations in each of the 36 States and the FCT. The first round of the project has already been concluded in six states (selected from each of the countrys geo-political zones), and construction has commenced in the second tranche of six states. This was part of the significant add-ons agreed with AITEO.
When German giants, Adidas, refused to renew its agreement with the NFF following perceived failures of the previous administration to protect it from the ambush of rivals, and with Nigeria left with no choice than to be buying kits for its various National Teams, Pinnick reached out to his contacts and succeeded in bringing NIKE, another global player, into the fold. Following participation at the FIFA World Cup and the generally rising stock of Nigerian Football on and off the pitch, conversations moved to NIKE significantly improving the terms of the contract, and in November 2018, a robust, new contract was signed between the NFF and NIKE.
Typical of the Nigerian Pull-Him-Down syndrome, Pinnick would soon become a victim of his successes. At the early stage of his second tenure, his opponents, supported by the former sports minister, Solomon Dalung, attempted to forcibly gain control of the NFF but after the intervention of Vice President Yemi Osinbajo, Nigeria was spared a worldwide ban by FIFA. Not satisfied, the opponents again wanted to use the retirement of the World Cup fund to cause more confusion but again the presidency stepped into the matter and a fresh crisis was averted.
In May 2019, Nigerias Special Presidential Investigation Panel for the Recovery of Public Property brought charges against Pinnick and other members of the NFF top brass over the alleged misappropriation of the $8.4 million (around R120 million) which FIFA paid Nigeria as a participation fee in the 2014 World Cup.
Pinnick maintained his innocence, claiming victimisation. According to him, The motive for this media trial is purely destructive; its a deep-seated emotional, obsessional and delusional hatred. This is not the first time. We believe all the false allegations are aimed at destroying our credibility and what weve built. The charges were, however, withdrawn by the Federal Government who had taken over the case from the Special Presidential Investigation Panel on Recovery of Public Property (SPIP).
It is interesting to note that despite all the allegations thrown against him and which have landed in court, Pinnick has always triumphed. Still, his detractors would not back off, preferring to distract him from his mission to put African football aright and in the right light. But Pinnick is seen by many as a child of destiny. And they have good grounds to believe so because he has survived both physical and spiritual attacks especially after his close shave with death after a firecracker accident that took out half of his face and had to be flown to London in an air ambulance in 2011 from Warri via Lagos. The legal attacks have also been unrelenting but he keeps surviving all.
A former Super Eagles player, Chikelue Iloenyeosi, recently advanced reasons why he believes Nigeria should celebrate Pinnick rather than pander to the orchestrated moves to bring his name into disrepute. Since his emergence as chairman, Iloenyeosi said Pinnick has been buffeted with allegations of all kinds in the media and public space, with some of the issues ending up in court. He has been the victim of high-grade envy, intense political schemes and vendetta. Before I came close to the NFF, I was like the other armchair critics who saw nothing good in the federation and thought all they were doing there was sharing money, the former defender said.
He added, Since I started working with Mr. Pinnick, the NFF has never received up to N1 billion as allocation from the government. The money that comes from FIFA is about $1.2million, of which $700,000 is for infrastructure, with the rest broken into subheads like women football, youth development and leagues.
When you place this side-by-side with the responsibilities of catering for 11 national teams, most of which are always competitively engaged, you begin to wonder where all the outlandish figures that some persons are bandying around town as having been embezzled came from.
Iloenyeosi declared further that Pinnick and his team deserve kudos for their resourcefulness in getting some state governments to take the burden of sponsorship of some matches of the national teams as the Federal Government does not give monies for every match but intervenes only for critical tournaments like the Africa Cup of Nations and the FIFA World Cup. He continued, For the 65 months that he has been NFF President, Mr. Pinnick has not received money for accommodation in Abuja, despite travelling to the city several times every month for official functions. His predecessor collected a tidy sum for this.
A successful businessman before his love and passion for football took over, he is the chairman of the Brownhill Group UK with subsidiaries like Brownhill Investments Company Ltd, A Marine and Offshore Support Services Co, the Brownhill Investment Company Ltd, Brownhill Construction and Engineering Ltd, Brownhill Properties LTD, Brownhill Coliseum, Brownhill Events Incorporated and BrownHill Marine and Offshore support services
His journey to the NFF began after a four year-stint as Chairman, Delta State Football Association. Against all odds, he won the NFF election in 2014 despite being pitted against heavyweights like sports business mogul, Shehu Dikko, and former NFF Secretary-General, Taiwo Ogunjobi. Pinnick went on to name Dikko as second vice-president. The plan is to make genuine reconciliatory moves. I will personally go to Jos to see and speak to Chris Giwa because we all need to come together for the sake of our country and football, said Pinnick. It was the first sign that he was not at the NFF to wage petty wars against real or phantom enemies. He won re-election in September 2018 and has promised to focus on youth development programmes and reconciliation, build a sustainable football culture for Nigeria, and continue the great march towards ensuring financial independence for the NFF during his second tenure.