The latest installment of Nigerian football’s long-running intrigue has offered no new twists. The protagonist is the same, the antagonist as irascible and reckless as ever. It all seems so base, and so laughably desperate.
Chris Giwa, buoyed by a mandate which has so far been voided in every judicial sense, now occupies the Glass House, the seat of the Nigeria Football Federation. In his corner is a detail from the national security apparatus, while the country’s Minister of Sport, Solomon Dalung, is allegedly the man behind the curtain, the unseen hand propping up the pretender.
Aside even the legitimacy of Giwa’s claim to the presidency of the NFF, which has been punctured so thoroughly it must resemble a thatch basket, there is the small matter of the ban from all footballing activities which was placed on him in January 2017. FIFA endorses this five-year ban, and that makes Giwa all the more unfit to hold the office.
Indeed, it is in the endorsement of both FIFA and CAF that it is most clear whose claim is rightful.
Amaju Pinnick, under whose stewardship the footballing landscape in the country looks to be blooming again, has been at the helm for nigh on four years now. In that time, he has risen markedly in prominence in the political landscape of both local and international football, largely due to making the right alliances.
This has lent him a cloak of near invincibility, and it is one which he wears comfortably: presently undertaking match Commissioner duties for FIFA at the World Cup, there has been no panic from his camp at the state of affairs back home.
FIFA, instead, have largely done the job for him, restating their support for and continued recognition of the Pinnick administration.
Considering the state of affairs, it is telling that, while Nigerians are understandably apprehensive, there has been no overt threat of a Nigeria ban from FIFA. With a man who is so clearly in Gianni Infantino’s good graces a key player, world football’s governing body have dialled back somewhat on their often hefty rhetoric.
The clearest indication yet of the popular backing which Pinnick enjoys has come from CAF, who just this week promoted him to the position of First Vice-President.
The position, previously held by erstwhile Ghana FA President Kwesi Nyantakyi, had been vacant following the Ghanaian’s resignation, after allegations came to light of his involvement in corruption, match-fixing and a number of other malpractices.
That the position passed to Pinnick can be read as a tacit endorsement of the embattled Delta indigene. However, the real kicker is in the fact that the appointment is “immediately applicable”, even though it is pending due ratification by the CAF ExCo in September.
The message is simple and clear, akin to the dove descending on a dripping Jesus: CAF is doubling down on Pinnick, and are prepared to back him in the fight, if push were to come to shove.
If the odds were not already stacked against Giwa, the table has now effectively been pulled away from under him. Pinnick holds all the aces, and has been extremely savvy in making the right moves.
A man cannot win judgment against his clan. Quite what Giwa hopes to achieve by pursuing a lost cause is anyone’s guess.
As it stands, the man from Plateau is fighting, not only Pinnick, but the entire footballing apparatus of African football, as well as the might of Fifa.
One has to, on some level, admire his chutzpah. It is almost certainly doomed to fail of course, however bold a play it is.