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Chief Odegbami Petitions NFF Over FIFA Presidency Nomination Conditions

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Former Nigerian international, Segun Odegbami on Wednesday petitioned the Nigeria Football Federation (NFF) over demands the federation is making from Nigerians contesting for the FIFA presidency.

Two Nigerians; Chief Odegbami and former Abia State Governor, Orji Uzor Kalu have so far indicated interest to be the next president of FIFA.

Odegbami wants the NFF to withdraw those demands and nominate one person for the  FIFA Presidential elections set to take place in February 2016.

In the petition addressed to the Nigerian Football Federation president, Melvin Amaju Pinnick wrote:

“I refer to my letter of August 26, 2015, addressed to you, in which I humbly requested for nomination by the NFF to enable me contest for the vacant position of President of FIFA in the elections coming up on February 26, 2016.

“Whilst awaiting a formal response from you, it was with utter disbelief and shock to read of the conditions (more of barriers) on a television programme that the NFF has set for Nigerian candidates.
“I wish to remind you that long before I publicly announced my intention to contest for the election, I met with you to intimate you of my aspiration and intent. You had proposed then that I met with Dr. Amos Adamu [former member of the Confederation of African Football [CAF] Executive Committee] and Mr. Issa Hayatou – the CAF President.

“At this meeting, I reminded you that the FIFA elections became necessary as a result of corruption charges against members of the current FIFA Executive Committee, and that both gentlemen that you suggested I meet have been an integral part of the FIFA establishment, and that engaging them at the initial stages may not be a good idea, particularly as I aim to align part of my campaign strategy and key messages alongside the change mantra and anti-corruption stance of the present Nigerian Government under President Muhammadu Buhari. In my view, to achieve this, I stand a good chance if I distance myself from the present FIFA members.

“I also told you that my good chance of winning the elections would be to present my works and records in football and football administration, as well as my good conduct and character throughout the decades of my involvement and engagement with the sport at various levels – local, national and international – and not by hobnobbing with the establishment.

“As part of your response to me, you mentioned the interest of another Nigerian – Orji Uzor Kalu – even though you also said, at this meeting, that he had not officially notified the NFF of his intention. You also promised to seek the opinion of a few of your friends, fellow national Federation presidents in Africa, as well as your Executive Committee members, and revert back to me quickly, noting that time is of essence in this quest.

I informed you also that I had already sent my official notification letter to the NFF and that I would be expecting a response.”

Odegbami went on to state his disappointment and shock at the requirements the NFF President listed on television for the aspirants.

“On September 2, 2015, after extensive consultations with some stakeholders that could assist and support my aspiration, I publicly made my intentions known to the world.

Of course, I expected that the NFF would conduct its own integrity and eligibility tests and decide which of the Nigerians that have applied for nomination to the NFF, to be offered the only nomination spot.

However, I was perturbed and shocked to see you, the NFF president, reveal on a television programme – Sports This Morning – on Channels Television, on Monday September 14, 2015, that the NFF Executive committee had met and decided that Nigerians interested in contesting for the position of FIFA president should secure the following endorsements in order to be nominated;
1. Endorsement of their State Football Association
2. Endorsement of the National Sports Commission [NSC] – the government agency that supervises all sports in Nigeria
3. Endorsement of the Confederation of African Football [CAF].

I find the last two of these requests very bizarre, and a product of lack of familiarity with the guidelines for the FIFA presidential elections. In my view, it reeks of and it is a reflection of insensitivity to the prevailing situation around global football that currently faces integrity issues. It further appears to be a calculated attempt to pursue an entirely private agenda at the expense of national benefits cum interests,” Odegbami wrote.

Odegbami went on to remind the NFF President that the requirements the Nigerian federation has listed for the aspirants is not in line with FIFA electoral guidelines as federations don’t contest for the FIFA presidency but individuals

“Permit me to assure you that I have studied the eligibility rules and criteria for contesting for the position, as clearly stated in the well-publicised Electoral Guidelines and FIFA statutes, before presenting myself as a candidate. Only individuals contest for the FIFA presidency, not national federations or representatives of confederations, even though the individual federations are the electorate that would elect the president.

“Therefore, whatever the motivation behind or driving the NFF demands, the decisions by your Executive Committee are not in line with the requirements set by FIFA to contest the elections. This therefore, raises some pertinent issues/questions;

a. CAF, as a body, is not part of the election process – why make them a condition [and more of a barrier] to the process?
b. Why would my country’s federation send me on a wild goose chase to secure the endorsement of a continental federation that I have no relationship with before I can be nominated, if there is no hidden agendum somewhere?
c. Apart from not having a direct relationship with CAF, which as a confederation has nothing to do with the FIFA elections, I wonder why I would need the endorsement of the organization since I am not representing it  at the elections?
d. I need to remind you that CAF and FIFA do not deal with individuals, or governments in their internal affairs, but with national associations that must be independent and be seen to act without the influence of all external forces at all times. Why decide to send me, an individual, to CAF and to a government agency to seek endorsement?
e. Why demand that I get endorsement of CAF headed by one of the FIFA Vice-presidents, who may be an integral part of the on-going investigations by the US and Swiss authorities?

“I am, therefore, requesting that you rethink your directives, noting that you are aware that time is not on my side as nomination closes on 26 October 2015 and your requests are causing me substantial delays, unless this is a tacit intent to disrupt my aspiration and application process.

“I assumed that the NFF, headed by you, would be happy and excited that a Nigerian citizen has indicated interest to take up the challenge and that our dear nation deserves this quest as part of its reward for its contributions to this global sport. I thought the NFF would do everything in its power to support and facilitate this aspirational and brave effort. Rather, it appears that the NFF is becoming and creating obstacles in the way.”

Chief Odegbami didn’t stop there. He went on to list his 31-year achievement since retiring from international football in 1984.

“Since retiring from the game in 1984, for 31 unbroken years, I have been continually connected with the game of football in Nigeria at various levels – national and international. As a reminder, I am also stating some of my antecedents and curriculum vitae;

• In March 1998, I was decorated a Sports Ambassador of the Federal Republic of Nigeria in recognition of my role as a former international football player, former captain of the national team of Nigeria and 1998 FIFA/MasterCard awardee as one of the Best African Players of the last Century
• Twice, I served as a member of the board of the Nigeria Football Association and in several committees of the NFF and the Sports Ministry
• I worked in the media as a newspaper journalist, columnist, television presenter/producer and football analyst for various national and international media [I am a registered member of the Sports Journalist Association (SJA) of the UK, as well as the AIPS]
• I have written 4 books on Nigerian football
• I managed some Nigerian football clubs through the years.   I am presently the Chairman of Ewekoro United Football Club, as well as Ewekoro Local Government Football Council, Ogun State, and managing consultant of First Bank Football Club of Lagos [for the last 3 years],  the All-Nigeria Secondary Schools Football Championship  for the Shell Cup [for the past 17 years], Milo International Under-13 Africa Football Championship [since 2011]
• I am the proprietor of The International Sports Academy, Wasimi, Ogun State, a specialist secondary school that combines a football academy with education for young Nigerian footballers
• I have served for 6 years in CAF’s Players Committee
• I have served as the Chairman of the Governing Council of Nigeria’s National Institute for Sports for the training of football coaches and administrators
• I was Chairman of Nigeria’s 2010 World Cup aborted bid.
• I was a member of the Presidential Task force to the 2010 World Cup.

“All these and more are a testimony to my continuing contribution to football in Nigeria, and make me qualify to represent our great nation as a candidate for the position of the President of FIFA.”

He concluded by urging the NFF President to withdraw the conditions it stated for the Nigerian aspirants and also to go ahead and formally nominate a Nigerian who has requested the federation’s nomination.

“Kindly note again that your demands of me to seek endorsement by a government agency, and endorsement by CAF are not requirements of FIFA for contesting the elections. Therefore, once again, I am requesting that;
1. The NFF should immediately withdraw its demands for endorsements from CAF or any government agency, as these are not requirements of/for eligibility for the FIFA elections. The individuals, with the support of the NFF, will seek the support of both important bodies [and more] not their official endorsements.
2. The NFF takes the proper decision to nominate any Nigerian that has formally requested for its nomination and that must be a Nigerian, eligible and of good character and integrity to contest the FIFA Presidential elections.”

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