It will be recalled that on Tuesday, March 29, the three-time African champions drew 1-1 with the Black Stars of Ghana in the return leg of the
final round qualifiers for this year’s World Cup and were eliminated on the away goal rule.
Super Eagles’ failure did not go down well with millions of disappointed Nigerians, including the number one citizen, President Muhammadu Buhari, who had stormed the Moshood Abiola National Stadium Abuja to give support to their darling team.
Consequently, as soon as the match ended, some of the fans who could not bear the pain of the monumental loss went berserk as they invaded the pitch and vandalised facilities at the stadium.
The players were also not spared as some of the angry fans attempted to attack them physically but were restrained due to the timely intervention of the security personnel on duty.
As a follow up, most football stakeholders immediately called on the president of the NFF, Pinnick and his board members to resign without further ado as they blamed the failure of the Super Eagles on the football federation’s ineffective leadership.
However, instead of the board resigning, it decided to throw Coach Austin Eguavoen and his technical crew members under the bus. The NFF terminated the appointment of members of the technical crew and announced that in a short while, new coaches would be appointed to lead the senior national team.
Behold a serial failure
For those who believe Pinnick and his colleagues are solely responsible for the failure of the Super Eagles, the sack of Eguavoen and his assistants was nothing more than a diversionary tactic. Consequently, calls for him to resign from his position have continued unabated. Such Nigerians are upset that apart from losing the 2022 World Cup ticket and national pride, NFF’s ineptitude has cost the country over €12.2m (N5.6bn) bonus, which would have accrued to the football federation had the Super Eagles qualified for the 2022 World Cup.
In spite of desperate measures by the embattled NFF president to pacify angry stakeholders, the pressure on him to vacate his office has continued to increase leaving him in a quagmire.
Among the first to call for his resignation was a former Secretary General of the then Nigeria Football Association (NFA), Dr Tijani Yusuf, who said that in other countries, the NFF president would have resigned long ago.
In an exclusive interview with Daily Trust, the university don said “This is the time for the government to step in. In a normal situation, the first person who should have tendered his resignation honourably is the NFF president.
“If it were in other climes, Pinnick should have resigned immediately. But in Nigeria, people don’t resign; they are pushed out by force. I expect him to resign together with his board members. He has done his best but it is not good enough so let him resign immediately.”
In the same vein, the Guild of Sports Editors, the umbrella body of managers of sports in Nigeria’s major media organisations, called on members of the executive committee of the Nigeria Football Federation (NFF) to resign from their positions. In a statement signed by the guild’s Vice President, Adekunle Salami, the editors stated unequivocally that “Nigerian football is bigger than any individual and should not be tied to the fortunes of anybody.
“The leadership of the current NFF has ridden on the back of Nigerian football to get to top positions in the world football governing body, FIFA, to the detriment of the game.
“Nigerian football now needs a total overhaul, from the lowest league to the national team and that can only happen when patriotic individuals, not self-seekers, are given the opportunity to manage the game. “We ask, therefore, that every executive member of the federation should resign honourably.”
On his part, a former Director of Sports in Katsina State, Alhaji Aliyu Kofar-Soro said the only way forward is for Pinnick and his ‘friends’ to resign and never contemplate contesting elections again to lead Nigerian football.
“All members of the NFF board beginning with Amaju Pinnick should resign over the failure of Nigeria to qualify for the 2022 World Cup.
“I doubt if they know the degree of pain that they have caused football-loving Nigerians. I almost collapsed that fateful day. You need to see how I was sweating right inside a fully air-conditioned room,” said Kofar-Soro.
A former member of the House of Representatives from Plateau State, Hon. Lumumba Adeh also blamed the latest sporting disaster on the mediocre leadership of those at the helm of affairs of Nigerian football and called for their resignation.
“My lamentation has been that they have killed Nigerian football. The standard has been falling each passing day. “It is unfortunate. Unless something dramatic is done, Nigerian football is on a cliff and the decline is going to continue unabated.
“The managers of Nigerian football have failed in all ramifications. The league, national teams and the development structures have all crumbled. We need to overhaul the system,” said the former NFF presidential candidate. However, a former Super Eagles player and former African Footballer of the Year, Victor Ikpeba said sacking Pinnick and his board members was not the solution as he suggested that they should be allowed to complete their tenure.
“I think the NFF has failed Nigeria and being a member of the technical committee, I think we have not played our role enough,” Ikpeba said on Monday Night Football Show on SuperSport.
“We cannot sack the board. We just have to wait for the system to take its course. Pinnick can re-contest if he wants to as the delegates have the right to reject him,” he said.
Past failures and calls for Pinnick to resign
This is not the first time Nigerians are calling on the NFF president to resign. It will be recalled that similar calls were made in the past when the Super Eagles failed back-to-back to qualify for the 2015 and 2017 Africa Cup of Nations.
The male and female national teams also failed to qualify for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics after the Golden Eaglets and the Flying Eagles could not qualify for their respective world championships.
On all occasions, aggrieved Nigerians called on the NFF president to resign. However, he refused to take the path of honour.
Summoned by Senate
As the pressure on Pinnick to resign continues to mount, the Senate has also summoned him to appear before it along with the Minister of Youth and Sports Development, Mr Sunday Dare, to explain why Nigeria failed to qualify for the 2022 World Cup in spite of the huge funding by the government, individuals and corporate bodies.
The Committee on Youths and Sports Development is also to investigate the vandalisation of facilities at the Moshood Abiola National Stadium after the ill-fated match on March 29 and to assess the extent of damage to the stadium.
Third term ambition in jeopardy
Although he is yet to resign or denounce his third term ambition, many football stakeholders are of the opinion that the failure of the Super Eagles to qualify for the 2022 World Cup has nailed Pinnick’s ambition to stay on as NFF president.
It will be recalled that soon after he was re-elected in Katsina for a second term, Pinnick announced that when the present tenure, which will end in September expires, he would leave the stage for another Nigerian to continue.
“I made my decision even before earning the second mandate on 20th September 2018. I will not be running for the NFF Presidency again. I want to thank the members of the Congress, my colleagues on the Executive Committee, management and staff and stakeholders of the game for their support. I will be stepping off in 2022 to give another person the opportunity to lead Nigeria Football. That is the truth,” Pinnick, who is now a member of the FIFA Executive Committee, was quoted by This Day in 2020.
However, as days went by, it became an open secret that he had reneged on his vow and is plotting for a third term.
But Pinnick may be forced to drop his ambition because the first time Nigeria failed to qualify for the World Cup, which was Germany 2006, the then NFA Chairman, Alhaji Ibrahim Galadima lost his plum job. It is against this background that most football stakeholders in Nigeria are of the opinion that the Super Eagles’ failure has put Pinnick’s third term ambition in serious jeopardy.
As the heat on Pinnick and his board members rages, the football federation in a statement apologised to the government and Nigerian football fans over the failure of the Super Eagles to qualify for the 2022 World Cup.
“There was nothing the team needed that was lacking. The government provided necessary support; the NFF put all logistics in place with the active support of the sports ministry and Nigerians turned out en masse to support the team. The truth is that we left nothing to chance. It is sad that things turned out the way they did.
“Sport is about winning and losing. Nobody wants to lose but sometimes it happens that way. We are quite sad that despite playing a draw in Kumasi, the Super Eagles could not win here in Abuja.
“We apologise unreservedly to the government and people of Nigeria for this non-qualification,” reads part of the statement.