“I’m from the north and I have endorsed Seyi. NFF affairs have never been an issue or politics of where anyone comes from. It’s about competence and my conscience tells me that Seyi is eminently an outstanding personality that can take Nigerian football to where we all all desire.”
This was former Sokoto State FA Chairman and one Nigerian football’s greatest voices, Mallam Danladi Bako, introducing Barrister Seyi Akinwunmi (BSA) to the audience at the recent official launch of Akinwunmi manifesto and campaign to lead Nigerian football.
Mallam Bako pulled no punches in explaining why he feels BSA is the right man to succeed Amaju Pinnick, and take Nigeria football to greater heights with a holistic approach and professional execution.
“Seyi is one man we respect so much,” he continued. “That is why the who is who in Nigerian football came to grace his declaration. Those who decide our fate in Nigerian football, the congressmen are present here. They have a choice to make whenever the time comes as to who they endorse but by me being present here, it has given support to Seyi.”
Mallam Bako further made the point to underline the spirit in which football unifies Nigeria, and what support of BSA means. “If I and those of us who don’t want to bring politics of region and ethnicity into the elections are supporting him, what else? What goes around will come around. Once upon a time you had Alhaji Galadima, followed by Sani Lulu followed by Aminu Maigari. One stretch of three chairmen from the North, so why didn’t you complain at that time? So if you follow my drift I am looking for the merit and the best material.”
As the date for election of NFF President, vice Presidents and other executive committee members on 30th September draws near, most football stakeholders and observers seem to consider BSA the front runner and almost certain of the top job in Nigerian football – if the outcome were based solely on merit.
Akinwunmi, the incumbent Lagos State Football Association (LSFA) Chairman, has a reputation for focusing on grassroots and schools football, with his Seyi Akinwunmi Charity Foundation offering scholarships to indigent kids – as well as running LSFA increasingly as a commercial enterprise.
His tenure has seen LSFA introduce Nigerian football as a key part of the global football business in the 21st century. In 2012, the LSFA organized Soccerex West Africa, the first time the sports business forum came to this part of the world outside South Africa
Akinwunmi also led a rebrand of football in Lagos by creating a commercial brand for LSFA, ekoFootball, an entity that drove corporate partnerships through active stakeholder engagement, sound business propositions, and solid governance.
What makes BSA the standout candidate – and demonstrates him walking the walk of his Football First vision – is his record in schools football and youth development at LSFA.
The Lagos State Youth Football League remains the most vibrant across the country. As NFF 1st Vice President, Akinwunmi led the Zenith Bank under-13 national team project; while also steering through the adoption of the Channels Kids Cup by the NFF as a protected tournament.
Most informed observers seem to be of the view that the scope, depth and innovation of BSA at the helm of LSFA make him a very strong merit based contender.
As a long standing corporate lawyer with over 30 years of experience, Akinwunmi would also bring integrity to the office, along with the analytical mind to cut through to the most important issues. He is a man who gets things done in football.
Add to this his quiet but impactful work in his area of responsibility in the outgoing executive team – youth development; and it is easy to see why Akinwunmi is widely believed to be the most competent man for the job.
His colourful declaration event was graced by FA Chairmen from all the geo-political zones, other NFF Congress members, retired internationals, football administrators, representatives of corporate Nigeria, and a myriad of members of the Nigerian football family who BSA has helped over the years.
The audience composition, glowing endorsements, and reception to his well articulated strategy for Nigerian football all point to his early lead.
Certainly this reflects a general desire in football circles to restore the dignity of real Nigerian football culture. This is in line with the Federal Government’s recently published position on how Nigerians want their number one sport to be managed and projected.
Mallam Bako, who has a long standing exposure to and experience of football and its administration in Nigeria explained the characteristics we need at the apex of the NFF.
“I want a President that will use our money judiciously and is accountable. I want a President that will take care of all national teams without giving excuses of no money.
“I want a President who will not only attract sponsorship or engage coaches, but disclose the terms and any contract contents to Nigerians. I want a President who will reengineer Nigerian football from grassroots.
“Whoever wins this election, I beg everyone to support him… I’m very much confident that Barrister Seyi Akinwunmi will win based on his track record. Anyone who can effectively manage Lagos FA, a Lagos with over 20 million population, a population of another African country, can do very well as President of NFF. So Seyi has a lot to offer.”
Barrister Akinwunmi, is his declaration speech, made the following commitment to the Nigeria football family. “I guarantee you that as much as I love football, as much as I love my friends, one thing that is paramount in my mind is football. As much as I love and cherish the camaraderie that we share and that is football, and that must come first. Nigeria football can change, only if we put football first.”
BSA introduced his anchor four-point agenda: Infrastructure, Development, Business and Technology.
Responding to Akinwunmi’s vision for Nigerian football, Remo Stars Chairman and sports betting billionaire, Mr Kunle Soname remarked that, “football anywhere in the world has gone beyond mere rhetorics to strategic business model which is capable of engaging everyone interested, especially young people and give them meaningful life.”
He continued, “so redirecting the focus of Nigerian football is paramount if we must achieve the desired goal.”
A shortlist of candidates will be released by the NFF Election Committee on Monday, 12th September.