Senate President, Dr. Abubakar Bukola Saraki, on Monday appealed to warring factions in the Nigeria Football Federation (NFF) to sheathe their sword in the interest of football development in the country.
Saraki, according to a statement by his Chief Press Secretary, Sanni Onogu, made the call, when the President of NFF, Amadju Pinnick led the President of the Federation Of International Football Association (FIFA), Gianni Infantino, and Secretary General, Fatma Samoura on a visit to the National Assembly in Abuja.
Members of the board of NFF and Presidents of Football Associations (FA) from other African countries also accompanied the FIFA President on the visit.
The Senate President urged the NFF executive to seize the international recognition accorded Nigeria by the visit of the FIFA leadership to put the crisis plaguing the association behind them and commit to providing leadership for gainful football administration in the country.
Saraki while responding to the remarks made by Infantino said: “Apart from the major issue of reform and accountability, the key issue remains the development of our own football and I think Africa, as you said, is the greatest place such can come from.
“We are going to play our own role in creating the enabling environment. I am happy that fellow presidents of football associations in different African countries are here. I think your visit clearly shows that you are keen and you want to work with us in Africa. We must play our own role and that is why we must give all the support we can.
“And I think it gives me an opportunity to talk to the members of NFF that we must solve our problems. I think that with this kind of world recognition we have today, the only thing we can do is to show example here in Nigeria, how we think a football association should be run and we must put an end to the crisis we are presently going through.
“A lot of you professionals sometimes blame politicians that when we lose elections we don’t want to accept. But now we politicians are now reformed. When we lose elections we accept. I think football professionals too should learn from us.
“In this era of change, when you lose elections, accept and wait for when the tenure is over to re-contest. But to try and bring the house down because you did not win would not be in the overall interest of the country.
“Whether rightly or wrongly, I think we just need to move on. Especially for something that the whole country loves, I think it is not too much of a sacrifice. You know in elections, sometimes it is fair, sometimes it is not fair, accept it for the interest of everybody and be ready for the next elections. So I want to appeal to those of us who are managing our football, that it is time for you to learn. We politicians, we have moved on. You should follow us.
“But on a serious note, I think this is a matter that we need to put behind us. I think having the President of FIFA here, and all other presidents from different parts of Africa, we must provide leadership in this matter,” he said.
Earlier, the FIFA boss called Nigeria ‘a great country in a great continent,’ adding: “I was impressed coming from the airport on Sunday and seeing so many kids playing football on both sides of the road. That shows Nigerians not only love football, they live football. There is great passion and great tradition, but there is need for unity and stability. I was elected on pledges of reforms, transparency and to develop the game. I am happy that Ms Samoura accepted to be Secretary General and the Executive Council endorsed her, because her choice said something for inclusion, gender equality, diversity and the future that we promise.”
NFF President Amaju Pinnick reiterated that the visit, the first time that both the FIFA President and Secretary General would travel together on a non –football competition assignment, underscored the reckoning that Nigeria football commands globally.
He acknowledged the role of the National Assembly in re-defining Nigeria football development, saying that peace is key to true growth. He also recalled that months ago, the first football match was played in Maiduguri after a long time, with a huge crowd at the stadium boldly proclaiming the power of football to enable ceasefire even in war situations.
In attendance were Senators Obinna Ogba, Philip Aduda, Shuaib Abdullahi, Barau Jibrin, Baba Kaka Bashir Garbai, Monsurat Sunmonu, David Umaru, Mao Ohuabunwa, Tijjani Kaura, Albert Bassey and Mohammed Hassan, and Honourables Goni Bukar Lawan and Danburam Abubakar.
Also on the visit were the FA presidents of Ghana, Sierra Leone, Rwanda, Tanzania, Djibouti, Somalia, The Gambia, Zambia, Ethiopia, Kenya, Liberia and South Sudan, NFF General Secretary Mohammed Sanusi, NFF vice presidents Seyi Akinwunmi and Shehu Dikko, NFF Board members Ibrahim Gusau, Yusuf Ahmed Fresh, BabaganaKalli, Sunday Dele-Ajayi, Suleiman Yahaya-Kwande, Sharif Inuwaand Chris Green, former NFF vice president Amanze Uchegbulam, former NFF Board member Ahmadu Kawu and Deputy General Secretary Emmanuel Ikpeme.
See more photos of their meeting below!
Leave your views in comments box below.