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Odimegwu Onwumere

When his name was missing on Monday, October 26, 2015, deadline for the submission of nomination form for candidates vying for the presidency of the Federation International de Football Association, FIFA, the 63-year-old Segun Odegbami who was in the contest started throwing tantrums against reputable Nigerians and organisations for his failure.

The former Governor of Abia State, Dr. Orji Uzor Kalu who was severally massaged by public figures for the race but backed out at the eleventh hour, and ex-FIFA executive committee member Amos Adamu who tremendously endorsed Kalu, shared in the Odegbami’s affront. The Nigeria Football Federation, NFF, was not left out of the bickering of Odegbami; just as the President of the body, Amaju Pinnick was not left alone, either.

The former chairman of the National Institute for Sports (NIS) and Nigeria skipper Odegbami nearly went barmy for this reason as no day passed by without him appearing in the media to further his campaign of denigration against Kalu or any of the marked persons or groups he felt were behind his torment not to get the backing of other African countries in his quest to be elected new FIFA boss.

Conversely, indications emerging since then have shown Odegbami to be incorrect with his claims; he was just powerless to win the required backing of five member associations, said experts. But instead he would accept that his frail political standing and perceived sadistic nature were behind his failure, he rather claimed that the NFF did not give him the support that he needed.

Then-again, he was wrong as a report in The Nation, October 27 2015, said, “Odegbami, who was endorsed by the Nigeria Football Federation (NFF) to run for the FIFA presidency in February, could not muster nominations from five African soccer federations by Monday’s deadline to enable him stand for the FIFA elections.”

Odegbami speaking haphazardly said that the NFF offered him its support too late to meet Monday’s deadline. Again, he blamed himself, saying, “That was their reaction to my letter sent to them two months ago. It is preposterous.”

The difficulty to come to term with Odegbami’s uncertain-statements was that the NFF he claimed was aloof gave him its support, at least. But Odegbami would prefer denying this fact and accepting it later or saying that the support came very late.

He exposed his boisterous self again by saying that he had criticised de cream de la crème in the world of football. He started with his uncouth criticism of what he said was the “long-standing Confederation of African Football president Issa Hayatou.”

Odegbami who has a long rope of those he believed were behind his aborted FIFA presidential ambition without holding anybody or group liable said that his biased standing against Hayatou might have counted against him.

“Of course there are local politics within the Nigerian and African football system that pitches some of us against the established system. I have been one of the most virulent critics of the perpetuity in office of Issa Hayatou and I knew I was not one of his best friends,” he said.

Some analysts believed that Odegbami should better write a book on football critiques rather than go for political positions in any football bodies, as they could see his detractor-ship in the former. A football commentator who would not want the name in print warned Odegbami to watch his words.

“Odegbami should watch his words. It was a primary school mistake for him to have aspired to contest in the first place when he never did any homework on such post; or how many times did he work for FIFA before now, in any capacity? He could not have expected to get favour from the same people he had been fighting for years,” said the commentator.

NFF retorted
While Odegbami claimed that a mountain of persons and groups fostered to his failure, the NFF warned him to stop his “campaign of calumny” against the federation and prominent Nigerian football figures, Premium Times, November 2 2015, reported.

“It also asked the ex-footballer to face up to the reality that he undid his own campaign for a slot at the FIFA Presidency,” the source said.

Adamu dismissed Odegbami’s allegation with a wave of hand, saying it was a tissue of lies and cheap blackmail, stressing that such frivolous allegation was not to be expected from a man of Odegbami’s status.

Speaking, Suleiman Yahaya-Kwande, Chairman of the NFF Media and Publicity Committee, stated, “We are thoroughly disappointed at the conduct of Chief Odegbami since his failed bid. He was his own big problem, with the letter he wrote castigating the leadership of FIFA and CAF, which he brazenly copied to these eminent figures. We consider Chief Odegbami an elder statesman in Nigeria football, but he has been throwing a lot of tantrums lately. He has been accusing very prominent and illustrious persons of so many things, and imagining himself to be a saint.”

Then-again for Yahaya-Kwande who’s said to be a member of the House of Representatives: “The NFF is aware that Odegbami reached out to the Football Associations of Ghana, Togo, Benin Republic and Zambia. How is his failure the fault of the NFF? They told him to his face that they were opposed to him because of his statements against the President of CAF, who is now Acting FIFA President.”

Odegbami said the NFF wasted time in endorsing him. But in a swift reaction, Yahaya-Kwande retorted, “As far back as September 8, we set out conditions for himself and Chief Orji Kalu to meet before we could endorse either of them. We always emphasized extensive consultations by the aspirants. It is outrightly mischievous for him to give the impression that the NFF was his problem. The NFF President was in Cairo, Egypt to campaign for him for the five nominations, but where was Odegbami himself on the day that mattered?”

Kalu replied Odegbami
Immediately Odegbami started running his mouth against some persons and the NFF as reason he failed, on October 28, 2015, Kalu replied him.

Published in the New Telegraph, October 29, 2015, it was stated that Dr. Orji Uzor Kalu’s camp hit out at Odegbami, in a statement from Orji Uzor Kalu Media Centre, Abuja, which was signed by Mrs. Rubby Obinna.

The statement distanced Billionaire-Kalu from Odegbami’s failure and warned the later against making unguarded statements against the businessman.

“We would like to say that Kalu had no hand in Odegbami’s failure. Kalu does not support the failure of anyone or take pleasure in the disappointments of others,” the press statement read. “It was a campaign of calumny gone too far by Odegbami against Kalu.

“It was obvious that Odegbami had harboured animosity against Kalu. If not, Odegbami would not have uttered such heinous comments in the media against Kalu.

“We suspect that Odegbami was on a campaign to pull Kalu down by painting him black so that others would see him as a man who enjoys the failure of others.”

The Centre concluded, saying that rather than blaming everyone, Odegbami should take responsibility for his botched dream.

Adamu slammed Odegbami
Amos Adamu heatedly slammed Odegbami on October 29 2015 before newsmen, saying, “I didn’t sabotage Odegbami’s FIFA presidential ambition.”

Premium Times, October 30 2015, reported, “An executive member of Confederation of African Football, Amos Adamu has expressed “shock and disbelief” over claims by an ex-international, Segun Odegbami, that he (Adamu) sabotaged his plan to seek election as president of FIFA.”

Adamu averred in a statement by his media aide, Gabriel Omonhinmin, on Thursday, October 29 2015, that it was not his duty as one of the executive members of CAF to help Odegbami secure the support of four other African countries after he was supposedly endorsed by the Nigerian Football Federation (NFF) for the top job.

“It was absolutely the duty of Odegbami to go round other African countries to campaign and sell whatever programmes he had, that would improve not only the lot of Africa football but global football generally. If he has done this successfully, I am sure he would have gotten the support of four other African countries to contest the FIFA presidency as stipulated by FIFA’s status,” Adamu said.

Adamu said that the statement by Odegbami that Kalu and he were responsible for his failure was not only weak, but untrue and most unfortunate. Adamu continued, saying that Odegbami was not prepared for the job right from time as it was merely “a try your luck thing he did.”

“And what finally knocked him off the contest was his slim knowledge of the rules and regulations guiding candidates who seek to occupy FIFA presidency. These were his undoing.”

The source quoted Adamu to have said that right from the very first time Odegbami made public his ambition to contest the exalted office of FIFA Presidency, he (Odegbami) adopted a very wrong approach by spending almost all the time he had available here in Nigeria lobbying and pleading with the Nigerian Presidency and legislators to compel the Amaju Pinnick-led NFF to endorse him at all cost.

“He stressed that when it now dawned on him (Odegbami) that he had limited or no time on his hands to get other African countries to support his bid, he rushed to Ghana and Benin Republic to solicit the support of their Football Federations for his bid. When the President of Ghana and Benin Republic Football Federations separately asked him whether or not he has sought and gotten the support of Issa Hayatu, who is the President of CAF, for the top job before coming to see them, Odegbami was alleged to have arrogantly said he did not need Hayatu’s approval to succeed in his ambition to become FIFA president,” Premium Times reported.

Pinnick frowned at Odegbami
The President of the Nigeria Football Federation, NFF, Amaju Pinnick told journalists on October 28 2015, after an emergency committee meeting.

“Pinnick said the NFF after getting the final government endorsement of Odegbami last Thursday forwarded same to him because he was the person that substantially complied with the laid down requirements needed for anybody to be presented as a candidate for the election slated to take place in February, 2016,” Vanguard, October 29 2015 reported.

According to Pinnick, as a federation the members were just to nominate, which they thought that Odegbami had gotten the other endorsements.

“Ours was to be the icing on the cake and at a point he said all he needed was our nomination and we thought he had other nominations because he is a very popular person not just in Africa but beyond. I did my best as president of NFF,” said Pinnick.

Pinnick added that he was calling Odegbami every one hour, and did not think the NFF did badly as a federation.

“Ordinarily when you are going for a contest like this, there are 209 federations and you needed only five endorsements you should have gotten it. And talking about the so-called sabotage, I don’t want to delve into such a sensitive area, I don’t think it is true, nobody could have arm twisted me. To me it is unfortunate that we lost out but we should leave it like that, I will say we have learnt our lessons,” Pinnick concluded.

Supposed reason Odegbami joined the FIFA race
Making Odegbami a liar of his claim, from some quarters emerged information that it was his gullibility and ‘let down’ on NFF and other personalities that marred his ambition; also he had a mentality that since Kalu is a Nigerian politician, he (Kalu) might not get the needed support from Nigerians who see their politicians not to be living upto leadership expectations. But Odegbami misfired, because he did not know that Nigerians believed that Kalu had a clean bill as a politician.

According to a commentator, “Odegbami played a spoiler game. Immediately he heard about Orji Uzor Kalu’s interest to vie for FIFA presidency, he jumped out of his cave without a proper consultation. Now he is complaining. Why won’t he complain when he thought that he was clean than Orji Uzor Kalu. As if Odegbami was a saint while Orji Uzor Kalu was the devil, Odegbami was too judgmental against everybody and every institution of football.”

For Yahaya-Kwande, “Odegbami has this strange idea that everyone else is tainted and he is not! He worked against himself. It is not NFF’s problem; it is his problem, entirely.”

Presidency’s theoretical connection
It was observable that Odegbami’s outing had political colouration. “I think the Nigerian government must call for an inquiry into the circumstance surrounding the whole episode because I believe we just wasted a rare opportunity for a Nigerian to take a shot at the FIFA presidency,” said Odegbami at a press briefing.

A source said, “Odegbami was endorsed secretly by the President of Nigeria through the All Progressives Congress, APC, leaders who were majorly his kiths and kins, thinking that he could play the politics of FIFA without considering whether he had what obtains to march other contestants. Odegbami choose to interrupt when Nigerians could have queued behind Kalu who, at least, had huge connection all over the world and, the money as well.”

According to pointers made by Yahaya-Kwande, Nigeria was the only country where more than one person showed interest in the race; it’s also true that Kalu indicated his interest before Odegbami did. Yet, the authorities eventually endorsed Odegbami.

ThisDay, October 28 2015, “Odegbami said his quest to vie for the coveted position of FIFA’s topmost position was doomed to fail from the start as the lofty intention was treated with disbelief.”

Adamu challenged Odegbami to name the people who treated his ambition with disbelief, or those who sabotaged his bid right from the word go, asking Odegbami that if he was serious, why was he not in Cairo, Egypt for the CAF meeting to personally lobby the African countries he thought were favourably disposed to supporting his ambition?

“He said the ex-international’s claim that Mr. Pinnick, who was in Cairo, Egypt, promised to use his weight to get the required five endorsements, was laughable and childish,” reported the source.

Odegbami knew his lies
Segun Odegbami later made frantic effort to accept as lies his claims that some persons and groups were behind his aborted FIFA presidency aspiration.

In ThisDay, October 28 2015, Odegbami said he did not want to say that the process was sabotaged from the word go but that’s the truth staring the world in our faces. He also said that he thought his candidature was shrouded in disbelief with some people asking, “Why him, he cannot win, he is wasting our time, among other insinuations.”

Accepting his wrong soundtrack, Odegbami said, “I think the whole exercise is all about bad blood, I did it. Nobody asked me to do it. It just occurred to me that throughout the whole exercise nobody knew what the rules say about vying for the office of FIFA president, which is not more than get five endorsements and your federation’s backing.”

He concluded, “Right now it’s over for me, it’s a personal thing. I started the race. Nigeria did not start the race for me. I took full responsibility for everything.”

Odimegwu Onwumere is a Poet/Writer; he writes from Rivers State, Nigeria. ( Tel: +2348057778358.

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