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AKINWUNMI, EMERUWA, UCHEGBULAM WALK TIGHT ROPE AS VICE PRESIDENCY IS ‘ZONED’ TO SOUTH EAST

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Nigeria Football Federation’s (NFF) First Vice President, Seyi Akinwumi, Confederation of African Football’s (CAF) Christian Emeruwa and Imo State FA Chairman, Amanze Uchegbulam, among other southern candidates in the September 30 NFF presidential election will find out soon that their aspiration to succeed incumbent president, Mr Amaju Melvin Pinnick, maybe an unrewarding venture, after all.

This is glaring from recent developments, including the list of cleared candidates for various elective positions by the Electoral Committee.

The Electoral Committee on Monday, September 12, released the list of cleared candidates to contest in the elections billed to hold in Benin.

From the list of presidential candidates, 10 were given the nod to begin campaigns and among these 10, six are northerners and four southerners.

The four Southerners are Akinwunmi – South-West; CAF’s Head of Safety and Security, Emeruwa and Uchegbulam, (both from South-East), as well as former Nigeria international goalkeeper, Peterside Idah who is from the South-South.

Stakeholders say these candidates have all been schemed out of the presidential race.

This is because the position of the first vice president has been ‘zoned’ to the South East, with only three candidates from the area cleared to contest for the position.

The three candidates include two current members of the NFF board, Felix Anyansi-Agwu (Abia State) and Senator Obinna Ogba (Ebonyi State), as well as Chinedu Okoye from Anambra State.

Stakeholders have argued that with the first vice president’s slot ‘zoned’ to South-East would be difficult for any of the four southerners to become the next NFF president.

Analysing emerging positions ahead of the polls, Osasu Obayiuwaana, a BBC sports reporter, said, “From what I see, from the list of candidates for the presidency, the first vice-presidency and other executive committee positions in the NFF, it is clear that political deals have been done underground, by Nigerian football’s principalities and powers.

“They have clearly zoned the first vice presidency of NFF to the South Eastern Zone, to ensure that no Southern candidate in the race can become president. In Nigeria’s geopolitics, the president and first vice president cannot both come from either South or the North.

“This means the presidential candidates from the South, like Emeruwa, Uchegbulam and Akinwunmi have a very steep, if not impossible, hill to climb.”

His view corroborates that of former Super Eagles captain and striker, Segun Odegbami, who had earlier stated that it would be “so difficult for a Southerner to replace” Amaju Pinnick as NFF’s new president.

He based his calculations on the fact of regional politics that has permeated Nigeria’s political space. “I am not versed in politics and when you want to go for any position, whatever position you have to campaign, meet people, in this environment, you have to bribe, cheat and manipulate certificates, you have to do all kinds of things to win elections in this part and football is not immune from it,” Odegbami said.
“It also matters where you come from. Are you Yoruba or Igbo; from the North or South? It is like the elections we are going to have in September; the big factor will be where the different candidates are going to come from.”

“We have had a Delta man, who is outgoing. I can bet it will be difficult for any Southerner to be the next NFF president because the big question will be whether they have had their turn, this is our own turn.”

These postulations are not cast in stone because as incumbent NFF president, Pinnick, is from the south, his current first vice president, Akinwunmi, is also from the south. So, the election could be decided by other factors, including the ability of the candidates to trade positions and sell their candidacy to the electorate.

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