President of the Nigeria Football Federation, Amaju Melvin Pinnick, was on Friday in Rabat, Morocco elected into the FIFA Council – the highest decision-making organ in world football. He attained the exalted seat after defeating his only rival, incumbent Walter Nyamilandu of Malawi by 43 votes to 8 at the Congress held inside the Royal Ballroom of the Sofitel Hotel in Morocco’s administrative capital.
Four of Pinnick’s five rivals, Lamin Kaba Bajo (The Gambia), Wallace Karia (Tanzania), Nick Mwendwa (Kenya) and Andrew Kamanga (Zambia) threw in the towel before the vote and opted to back the Nigerian.
NFF General Secretary, Dr Mohammed Sanusi casted Nigeria’s vote.
It is a remarkable case of rapid global football boardroom upliftment for a man who, a little over six-and-half years ago, had no intention of contesting for even board membership of the NFF, but has now been in the post for six-and-half years (becoming the first person to democratically secure a second term), won election as Member of the CAF Executive Committee, served as CAF’s 1st Vice President, still serving as Member of the Organising Committee for FIFA Competitions, and now a revered member of the world’s highest decision-making organ for football.
Pinnick’s entry into the 37-member FIFA Council came at the 43rd Ordinary and Elective General Assembly of CAF, and was accomplished hours after the man he supported for the CAF Presidency, Dr Patrice Motsepe of South Africa, mounted the ‘throne’ unchallenged.
Motsepe’s challengers Augustine Senghor of Senegal, Ahmed Yahya of Mauritania and Jacques Anouma of Cote d’Ivoire had all withdrawn from the race before Thursday’s poll.
The elevation is for a four-year term, and automatically makes Pinnick a Member of the Executive Committee of the Confederation of African Football.
A man who sets and pursues his vision doggedly, Pinnick thus becomes only the third Nigerian to serve in world football’s highest decision-making body, after the late Etubom Oyo Orok Oyo and Dr Amos Adamu.
The quest by the football administrator for the seat was solidly backed by the Government of Nigeria, which delegation, led by the Permanent Secretary in the Federal Ministry of Youth and Sports Development, Nebolisa Anako was on ground in Morocco.
A mining billionaire, who is also into banking and telecommunications and has businesses in 40 African countries, Dr Patrice Thlopane Motsepe is also the owner of top South African club, Mamelodi Sundowns.
In his acceptance speech, Motsepe expressed gratitude to the African football family for his attainment of the position, saying it is a huge honour to serve African football at the highest level. “All of us can and will work together,” he said, underscoring the need for team work, collaboration and sense of togetherness as he praised Senghor, Yahya and Anouma who withdrew from the race.