President of the Nigeria Football Federation (NFF), Amaju Melvin Pinnick, has described his election into the FIFA Council as a victory for Nigerians, Africa and global football.
Pinnick last Friday defeated incumbent Walter Nyamilandu of Malawi 43-8
at the 43rd CAF General Assembly in Rabat, Morocco to become the third Nigerian to occupy the position in the 37-member FIFA Council.
Speaking on ARISE NEWS' 'The Morning Show' television programme yesterday, Pinnick admitted that despite the final 'landslide' vote scoreline, his election into the hallowed chamber of world football's decision making body was no tea-party.
"It was a very difficult task for me to get elected despite the final vote scores. It was not a tea-party.
"First, there was a meeting of the Presidential candidates and the theme of the meeting was for everyone to think Africa and what will bring unity to the continent. There were lots of intrigues but at the end of the day, three of the candidates withdrew their candidatures for South African Patrice Motsepe. "Then for the FIFA Council seat, only one slot was available for the Anglophone and we were six candidates on the queue for it. And these six candidates were giants in their own rights. I mean Lamin Kaba Bajo from Gambia; Nick Mwendwa who is a certified chartered accountant from Kenya to Incumbent Walter Nyamilandu of Malawi; Zambia's Andrew Kamanga and Karia from Tanzania. These were no pushovers.
"These are real technocrats and men who have been involved in Africa's football politics. We started by appealing to them. It was quite difficult because when you are appealing to one to step down, he in turn asks why not you stepping down for him.
"Take the case of Nick Mwendwa for instance, there was this feelings in Kenya that a Nigerian (Ngozi Okono-Iweala) just toppled a Kenyan to have the WTO job. So it was more of a national pride but for the benefit of Africa, he had to step down for me," revealed the former Chairman of Delta Sports Commission.
On how his election would impact Nigerian football, Pinnick admits plans are afoot for him and the new CAF leadership to change the narrative of the game in the continent.
"We had a meeting with the CAF President and a few others shortly before my departure from Morocco where we talked about what can we do to show for our first 100 days in office and so on.
"The new CAF President Motsepe is so determined. If you follow his meteoric rise since when he was pronounced the first black billionaire in 2008 to date you will realize that he has that leadership quality to deliver.
"He asked me to go back to Nigeria and see how CAF can partner a bank here for development.
"I can tell you that I already have a meeting scheduled with a big bank on this.
Pinnick also admits that as a member of FIFA Council, it is a life dream come true because it gives an unfettered access to the world.
"It is huge. Just 37 members in the world that has economy of trillions of dollars business out there. We are going to work within the dynamics so that Nigeria as a country is better recognized globally as a football nation.
Asked to throw light on why ' clubless' Captain of the Super Eagles, Ahmed Musa, was invited for the double header with Benin Republic and Lesotho, Pinnick stressed that the winger was an exceptional quality who must have been called up for other reasons known to the coaches.
Musa has been without a club since leaving Saudi club Al Nassr last October.
"If Ahmed Musa is in that team, I believe that the technical crew have reasons to justify it.
"I recall when he had issues and was not playing at Leicester City, and the list of players going to a World Cup qualifier was released without his name, I put a call through to the coaches to ask why he was not there.
"The coaches said he was not playing at his club (Leicester) but it was later discovered that he had some marital challenges.
"He was included Eagles and turned out one of the best players in the team.
That boosted his ego and eventually made it to the World Cup in Russia and was outstanding in our team.
"He was also outstanding at the World Cup in Brazil in 2014. So like I said, I am the president of the Nigeria Football Federation and do not meddle in technical matters but there's are cases that one needs to support the decision of the technical crew to get the job done.
The NFF chief also dismissed the controversy generated by the proposed plan to move Super Eagles contingent to Benin Republic but boat from Lagos for the AFCON 2022 qualifier at the end of the month.
"I don't see anything wrong in Eagles going to play in Benin Republic by boat. Later today (Monday night) we are going to know which route is better for them to take to the game.
Pinnick insisted that no city in the world is without one form of challenges or the other.
"In most livable cities of the world like Melbourne, Vancouver, etc, there is none without black spots. What is wrong in taking our players to the match by boat for them to see the other beautiful parts of the country? It is just a journey of less than one and half hours by boat.
" I have spoken with most of the players and they are excited about seeing the aquatic scenery of Lagos. Some of the players previously lived in Ajegunle while the like of Oghenekaro Etebo is a Warri boy. We all played on the streets and understand our neighborhood.
"It is not just enough to begin to drive fears into the players with issues of security in the country.
"As President of the NFF, our league teams go round the country to play matches every week. Let's preach positive things about this country not just the negative. The Presidency is doing its best to ride the country of the present challenges," concludes Pinnick.