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Trials & Triumphs Of Amaju Pinnick At 51

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Trials & Triumphs Of Amaju Pinnick At 51

Trials & Triumphs Of Amaju Pinnick At 51
December 01
05:58 2021

How He has Transformed African Football

• His Huge Impact in Sports, Education, Poverty Alleviation

• Why President Buhari Honoured Him

• Inside His Catalogue of Awards

For a man who challenged resolve with steely grit and exploited the arduous planes of ambition and toil till he encountered grandeur at the crossroads where wild contemplation and hard work morph into triumph, Amaju Melvin Pinnick, President, the Nigerian Football Federation and member of the FIFA Executive Council, who clocks 51 on December 1, continues to turn excellence and humaneness into an art form. As far as business ideas and innovations are concerned, he turns nothing down, except the collar of his shirt, writes Lanre Alfred.

A MASTER OF HIS UNIVERSE

Like an indefatigable mariner, Amaju Pinnick rides the storms, bolstered by a tenacious spirit and mulish resolve to excel and arrive with his dreams intact on pliant coasts. Today, that unyielding spirit of his has paid off. It has seen him through the teething and oft tumultuous stages of the cut-throat world of global football till he emerged unhurt and stronger in spirit and resolve like a champ.

In the pursuit of glory, the Warri, Delta State-born football administrator learnt to thrive like a lily in unimaginable valleys. Like the daring mushroom that pierces the motionless eternity of earth, pushing clearly but obstinately, through faint form, till the hour of fertility strikes, Pinnick sought to flourish where many have cowed to defeat. Shedding doubts like ragged clothing, he tilled the thick darkness of the soil, on whose cliff the fair flower advances, till the flag of its whiteness defeated the contemptible famine of night, and from the motion of light, spills itself in astonished seeds.

By dint of hard work, he honed his talent and schooled himself against the barrage of life’s hard knocks until his fortunate hour. There comes a time in every man’s metamorphosis when he arrives at the conviction that to give in to envy is to be ignorant; to imitate is to commit suicide; and that he must take himself for better or worse as a model of his fashioning; that though the wide universe is full of good, no kernel of nourishing corn shall come to him but through his toil bestowed on that plot of ground which he seeks to till.

The moment Pinnick realized this fact, he became aware of the immense power residing within him. He attained that rare understanding that enhances a man’s capacity to accept that none but he can set a ceiling to what height he could reach and what glory he may achieve.

This attainment in understanding was, however, not without pre-established harmony. Every faculty that constitutes his being came to accept that he was doomed for gloom if he, like most half-formed men, failed to fully express his God-given abilities. Thus, he simply chose to be unashamed of that divine idea, which he represents because God will not have his work made manifest by a coward, a man who feared his capacity to thrive, so argued Pinnick.

In his attempt to thrive, genius ennobled him by complimenting his efforts; the proverbial muse befriended him thus, his evolution as an alpha of a man. Through global football politics’ turbulent tides and windstorms, the unyielding spirit, ingenuity and incorruptibility of Pinnick have paid off.

Pinnick’s global influence in the footballing world has been acknowledged from quarters that matter; a fact which speaks volume of the transformative leadership he has brought to bear on football administration in Nigeria. His managerial acumen deployed to taking national football management from the doldrums to an efficiently run and profitable federation has elicited rave commendations from the high and the mighty. Accolades trailed Pinnick when Governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu of Lagos State received the President of the Federation International Football Association (FIFA), Gianni Infantino, and other distinguishedguests, were welcomed to the state during the maiden Aisha Buhari Women’s Cup.

At a dinner event tagged ‘Dinner With The Best of Corporate Nigeria’ in honour of Infantino and his CAF counterpart, Dr. Patrice Motsepe, Governor Sanwo-Olu had thought it the Aisha Buhari Women’s Cup was just going to be a competition; he admitted Lagos State got more than the hosting rights by having FIFA president to grace the occasion, underscoring Pinnick as a global asset of Nigerian origin. “We just thought it we are going to have the competition. But when Pinnick told me that ‘Don’t worry, I’m going to get CAF President to come here.’ I said ‘That’s really good.’ He further said ‘Not only him, Gianni himself is going to come.’ I said ‘Wow!’

“For these two men to be under the same roof at the same time in Lagos, in the same, it is big. It is big. I cannot but thank you both enough. You have honoured us; and you have honoured us greatly. You have given us hope. You have given us belief that indeed, our strength is in our unity,” Sanwo-Olu impressively said

Acknowledging the roll-call of the very important personalities and leaders of the Corporate Nigeria Pinnick brought together to grace the event, Governor Sanwo-Olu was full of adulations for Pinnick. According to him “It is only Pinnick that can do (bringing all biggest names in the business world under one roof). How he does it, I don’t know. To see all this happening, it means that Pinnick is such a good person for his whole colleagues in other federations to come and support us in this very unique occasion that we have started.”

In the same vein, President of Dangote Group, Alhaji Aliko Dangote, did not mince words in thanking Pinnick. The very elated Africa’s richest billionaire did not hide his pride in Pinnick “doing a very great job.”Dangote narrated how Pinnick made him change his mind about a short vacation he was to embark on just attend the event because Pinnick made CAF President, Patrice Motsepe, who was referred to as Dangote’sbrother.

“Amaju, you are one person that can actually mobilise these kinds of people here. You are doing a great job, and we are very proud of you,” Dangote expressed.

Dangote used the occasion to reiterate his readiness to renovate the Abuja National Stadium while also promised Infantino that the Nigerian football would have grown to a higher level when next the FIFA President visits Nigeria.

Highly captivated by Pinnick’s effort at attaining ninety per cent (90%) of the NFF funding, Dangote assured him further. “Amaju, what I want to assure you, you will reach may be 200 % of your funding,” he said.

Charging the Governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria and leaders of the Nigerian business community, Dangote pointed told Amaju that funds would be raised to support the NFF. “So Amaju, your job is done. And I assure both the CAF President and FIFA President will be very proud to have somebody like you. There is nobody that has turned NFF to this level like you.

“You are the only person that I know can pester anybody and make sure that person delivers. Today alone, I got four phone calls from AmajuWhen he was at the airpost, he called me. When he received the FIFA President, he put him on the phone to be sure I would be here. So, thank you very much for all you have been doing. I can assure you, we will not leave you alone. We will continue to support you,” Dangote stated.

Not left out in the encomiums showered on Amaju Pinnick was FIFA’s Infantino who eulogized the Delta-State born administration for his revolutionary feats of turning around Nigerian football, and making it enviable globally. “For the great Pinnick who is doing such a good job for Nigerian Football, I say ‘Congratulations!’ When we speak about football in Nigeria, it is not just for emotions or passion or art; it is even more than religion. Football is life in Nigeria and Africa,” Infantino said.

CAF President, Motsepe, equally had glowing tributes for Pinnick. “The Nigerian national team has the potential to win the World Cup. And that must be the focus. Let me recognise my brothers, my family and people whom I said make me very proud and make all of us very proud. Pinnick, I think Nigerian Football should be very proud. He (Pinnick) represents this country with pride. He represents African Football worldwide with pride,” Motsepe said in his appraisal of Pinnick’s stewardship.

 ELECTION INTO FIFA EXECUTIVE COUNCIL

The startling lustre of gold ingot pales to the radiance of Pinnick. He is not your average human or football administrator. Some would liken him to a modern-day idol but he resolutely transcends the lure of hyperbolic praise. He affects the candour of a general and the passion of a poet as he embarks on a relentless mission to milk a life of bliss and makes the most of every opportunity presented to him by miserly fate.

Last March, he was elected into the FIFA Executive Council, the highest decision-making organ in world football. Pinnick defeated Malawian FA president Walter Nyamilandu by 43 votes to eight during the CAF General Assembly held in Rabat, Morocco. He becomes the third Nigerian elected into the prestigious council after Oyo Orok Oyo (1980-1988) and Amos Adamu (2006-2010). Pinnick succeeded in his bid by his unusual approach to football administration and ability to identify and hatch practical solutions to daunting realities in the sector.

No wonder President Muhammadu Buhari hailed him on his election saying, “By dint of hard work, dedication and consistency, Pinnick has proven to be an efficient football administrator and the world has taken notice of his competency skills by electing him into the FIFA Council and one of the Vice Presidents of the Confederation of African Football (CAF).” The President noted that this feat of enhanced visibility and prestige of Nigeria in the international community is coming on the heels of recent elections of other well qualified and endowed Nigerians into strategic leadership positions in international organisations.

The President urged Pinnick to see his new assignment as an opportunity to enhance Nigeria’s reputation and identity as a football-loving country and optimally utilise the role of sports, through football, as a driving force to engender development, peace and stability at the regional and international levels.

Similarly, Gianni Infantino, FIFA president, described Pinnick as an experienced football administrator whose wealth of experience and a passion for the game will set him aside in his new job. He affirmed his belief that Pinnick will make invaluable contributions that would see to the development of football in the world.

 

FROM PAUCITY TO PROFITABILITY…HOW NFF BECAME SOLVENT UNDER PINNICK

Over the years, the NFF had depended solely on the government for funding. On assumption of office in 2014 for his first term, Pinnick averred that his target before leaving office was to make the NFF self-sufficient; a herculean task one would say. Indeed, funding had been the greatest challenge of previous NFF administrations. While the situation is not totally different for Pinnick, he has devised ingenious ways of sourcing funds. The federation has on its list of prominent sponsors industry giants like MTN with N500 million sponsorship deal, Air Peace with whom the NFF penned a four-year contract and another 4-year N400 million sponsorship deal with Premier Lotto popularly known as Baba Ijebu. Others are Revolution Plus Property, GAC Motors, Nike Sports, Peak Milk, Dettol and TVS.

Recently, Air Peace entered into a deal with the NFF to be the official airline sponsor of the national teams. The sponsorship deal is worth N300million naira and renewable at the expiration of one year.

In a statement, the NFF said, “The Nigeria Football Federation has sealed a partnership agreement with Air Peace that made the frontline indigenous airline company the Official Airline Sponsor of Nigerian National Teams. The contract is for one year, renewable for four years and worth N200million with separate Value-In-Kind in the worth of N100million. The contract covers all the National Teams, from the Super Eagles to the junior teams.”

Speaking on the partnership, Allen Onyema, chairman of Air Peace, said his company was delighted to have the opportunity to work with the NFF and the national teams. “We decided to partner with the NFF not just because we are enamoured by the hard work and resilience of Mr AmajuMelvin Pinnick in improving the lot of Nigeria’s football on the pitch and in the boardroom, but also because we passionately seek a platform to give Nigerians hope. Football is a huge unifying force everywhere and the same is true of our country,” Onyema said.

Onyema also said that Air Peace has the capacity to compete with the best airlines in the world and would offer top-of-the-range services to the various national teams. It would be recalled that last September, the Air Peace chairman fulfilled a N20million pledge to the Super Eagles after they defeated Cape Verde 2-1 in their 2022 World Cup qualifier.

It was a special moment in the history of the NFF when Amaju brought in AITEO Energy Resources Limited, Nigeria’s leading energy solutions company, as Official Optimum Partner of the NFF. It was the Eureka moment, as that event remarkably marked a turning point in personnel management of the federation, as Aiteo shelled out the money to pay salaries of coaches. In the first tranche, even coaches that were owed by previous NFF administrations were paid. The company then took up the sponsorship of the oldest football competition in the land – previously known by various names such as FA Cup, Challenge Cup and Federation Cup.

Today, the AITEO Cup is an integral part of the NFF Calendar. Before AITEO, the Pinnick-led NFF Board secured a partnership deal with Zenith International Bank for capacity building for administrators, youth development programme and payment of Super Eagles’ Head Coach. On the eve of the 2018 FIFA World Cup qualification, two partnership agreements were signed in one day with Tropical General Investments (TGI) Group as the Official Food Sponsor of the Super Eagles, and PayPorte Global Systems Limited, as the Official Online Store of the NFF. Coca-Cola also teamed up with Nigerian Football on a five-year agreement, which made it the ‘Official Soft Drink of the National Teams’. Months later, the NFF signed more endearing agreements; first with Nigerian Breweries PLC – a five-year deal worth N2.2 Billion and which made Star Lager the ‘Official Alcoholic Beverage of the Super Eagles’; and Amstel Malta the ‘Official Malt Drink of the NFF and the National Teams. There is also a partnership deal with Cadbury Nigeria PLC which makes Tom Tom the ‘Official Candy of the Super Eagles.’ WAPIC Insurance PLC is the Official Insurance Company of the NFF and the National Team while Emzor Pharmaceuticals has been retained with another long–term contract.

In his pursuit of further financial independence for Nigerian football, Pinnick visited Lieutenant Governor Boyd Rutherford of the State of Maryland during which it was agreed that the Super Eagles and Super Falcons would hold at least one friendly match a year in Baltimore, the state’s largest city with equally one of the biggest ports in the United States; leveraging on the Baltimore-Maryland 2026 platform/assets to create added value for NFF sponsors for broader activations; exchange on youth development programmes; the development of formal sister-city relations to cover football development and stadium management and, importantly, the utilization of the platform to create a symbiotic economic relationship in broader areas of economic development between Maryland and Nigeria.

With NFF tilting towards eighty-six per cent (86%) self-funding, whchcan be said to be sufficient for general organisation, administration, operations and World Cup preparations and qualifiers for all the 11 National teams, there is indeed no gainsaying that the NFF under Pinnick is gradually inching towards its proposed financial autonomy. He has always advocated government disengagement from football running except during critical tournaments and competitions that require intervention in arrears of infrastructure, security and safety and other systemic variables that beyond corporate capacities of an organisation such as NFF. Conversely, Pinnick has also shown that profitability and integrity can go hand in hand because while so many big names in African football administration fell to the tempting allure of the filthy lucre, Pinnick passed the FIFA Integrity Test (a rigorous check on an individual’s credibility and personal life) with flying colours.

THE TEMPESTS, TRIALS AND TRIUMPHS

The moment he set foot in the Nigeria Football Federation as President in September 2014, Pinnick imbued the office with unprecedented nobility and passion for excellence. Sheer passion and ambition are the threads running through his ascent to the pinnacle of African football and the threshold of world football politics. It is, otherwise, these qualities that are threatening to be his greatest Achilles’ heel.

Typical of the Nigerian Pull-Him-Down syndrome, Pinnick would soon become a victim of his successes. At the early stage of his second tenure, his opponents, supported by the former sports minister, Solomon Dalung, attempted to forcibly gain control of the NFF but after the intervention of Vice President Yemi Osinbajo, Nigeria was spared a worldwide ban by FIFA. Not satisfied, the detractors again wanted to use the retirement of the World Cup fund to cause more confusion but, again, the presidency stepped into the matter and a fresh crisis was averted.

In May 2019, Nigeria’s Special Presidential Investigation Panel for the Recovery of Public Property brought charges against Pinnick and other members of the NFF top brass over the alleged misappropriation of the $8.4 million (around R120 million) which FIFA paid Nigeria as a participation fee in the 2014 World Cup.

Pinnick maintained his innocence, claiming victimisation. According to him, “The motive for this media trial is purely destructive; it’s a deep-seated emotional, obsessional and delusional hatred. This is not the first time. We believe all the false allegations are aimed at destroying our credibility and what we’ve built.” The charges were later withdrawn by the Federal Government which had taken over the case from the Special Presidential Investigation Panel on Recovery of Public Property (SPIP).

It is interesting to note that despite all the allegations thrown against him, some of which are in court, Pinnick has always triumphed. Still, his detractors would not back off, preferring to distract him from his mission to put African football aright and in the right light. These have earned him the appellation of a child of destiny.

FROM WARRI TO THE WORLD

Born into a polygamous family on December 1, 1970, Pinnick’s father, the late Chief Oritsetimeyin Japhet Pinnick, worked with the U.A.C where he rose to become one of the company’s pioneer Nigerian managers. His mother, Madam Rebecca Ayomike, a renowned trader, hails from a very prominent Itsekiri family, ‘The Ayomikes’.

The 15th of 19 children, young Pinnick attended Hussey College in Warri, Delta State, which was very popular for producing footballers while nurturing several generations of Nigerians from all tribes and backgrounds in the best tradition of scholarship, athleticism, citizenship and morality. He obtained his BSc in political science and public administration from the University of Benin in 1994. As a young adult, he subscribed to the belief that a man’s reach should always exceed his grasp. He also believed in reaching for the moon, knowing that if his grasp misses its cusp; his hands may land on the stars.

His journey to the NFF began after a four year-stint as Chairman, Delta State Football Association. Against all odds, he won the NFF election in 2014 despite being pitted against heavyweights like sports business mogul, Shehu Dikko, and former NFF Secretary-General, TaiwoOgunjobi. Pinnick went on to name Dikko as second vice-president. He won re-election in September 2018 and has promised to focus on youth development programmes and reconciliation, build a sustainable football culture for Nigeria, and continue the great march towards ensuring financial independence for the NFF during his second tenure.

 

BROWNHILL GROUP AND PINNICK’S PHILANTHROPY

Pinnick nurtures a robust interest in the humane. He was never brought up to savour bluster by finding pleasure in what is so commonly condemned neither was he given to pessimism at an early age. He chooses only to see the sunny spokes behind the darkest pall. Left to him, a modern traveller could spend his time peacefully admiring the world’s picturesque scenes and the good among men instead of feeling mortified by the wild, grotesque inclinations of the world and the grind of mankind’s fledgling inhumanity.

He pities folk who consider it repulsive that a peasant’s naïveté has come to outweigh the beauty of meadows and rivers even as the hypocrisy of politicians soar higher than the mountains. Pinnick would rather be the solution or constitute a part of the solution rather than become part of his world’s major problems. He considers it very progressive and mature to give up all efforts at condemning human nature and drawing social and political deductions from trifles to engage in conscious efforts at providing solutions to the world’s greatest problems.

He knows, however, that the world cannot be healed hurriedly on the knee. Thus, he eschews impatience and quick-fix solutions to societal problems. Pinnick does not turn a blind eye to the needy. Rather, he pays a good mind to their needs. And, in this respect, his generosity proclaims him. Pinnick is indeed generous at heart. He does not run to grapple with a roaring lion. He desires neither typhoon nor tempest. He is content in his harbour to listen to the storm upon the rocks if, now and then, by a lucky chance, he can shelter someone from the wreck.

A successful businessman before his love and passion for football took over, the father of four is the chairman of the Brownhill Group with subsidiaries like the Brownhill Investment Company Ltd, BrownhillConstruction and Engineering Ltd, Brownhill Properties LTD, BrownhillColiseum, Brownhill Events Incorporated and BrownHill Marine and Offshore support services.

There is also the Brownhill Foundation that caters for over 150 students (Primary, Secondary and University) yearly in the last ten years. On his 50th birthday, the foundation invested over N100m in providing a mini-stadium for his Alma Mater. It also built a brand new volleyball court and revamped and furnished two classroom blocks.

On a recent visit to the University of Benin to watch football at the UNIBEN sports complex during the National Sports Festival, he promised to revamp the library of the Social Science Faculty and digitiseand upgrade the library of the Political Science department to an E-Library. “By His Grace, I intend to embark on these projects by using my yearly honorarium from FIFA as a Council Member and further support it through funds from the Brownhill Foundation,” he said.

The projects will be completed on or before the end of the second quarter of 2022. According to him, “The University of Benin, no doubt, made a huge impact in my life both academically where I made a second class upper division and in business as a show biz personality. For me, it is time to give back.”

 

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