Saraki Receives FIFA President

President of the Senate, Dr. Bukola Saraki on Monday admonished football administrators in Nigeria to allow peace by accepting defeat in the interest of the immediate environment and larger society, also desisting from ‘pull-the-house-down’ syndrome when things do not go their way.

Nigeria’s number three man spoke at the Senate President’s Conference Room at the National Assembly in Abuja, when receiving visiting FIFA President Gianni Infantino and Secretary General, Ms Fatma Samoura, alongside NFF President Amaju Pinnick, FA presidents from other African countries and members of the NFF Executive Committee and Management.

“The kind of global recognition we have today, as a result of this historic visit, challenges us to learn to allow peace and stability in Nigerian football. If people lose election, they should learn to accept defeat. People used to blame politicians for do-or-die attitude; politicians have moved, it is now football administrators who have this attitude! When you lose an election, you should be prepared to wait for the next poll.

“I call on those who are fomenting trouble or trying to divide the house to stop their act. The National Assembly is united in moving to restore peace in Nigerian football, and creating an enabling environment for the game.”

Saraki, who owns a football club (ABS FC, in the Nigeria National League), said the passion and love of Nigerians for football is incredible. “Football is a big unifying factor in our country. As governor of a State, I set up a football academy because there are so many talents out there waiting to be nurtured.”

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, Babagana Kalli, Sunday Dele-Ajayi, Suleiman Yahaya-Kwande, Sharif Inuwa and Chris Green, former NFF vice president Amanze Uchegbulam, former NFF Board member Ahmadu Kawu and Deputy General Secretary Emmanuel Ikpeme.

Earlier in the day, the FIFA President and Secretary General inspected the new NFF headquarters (Sunday Dankaro House) located at the Package B of the National Stadium. On Sunday, both leading world football governors attended a welcome dinner powered by the League Management Company and which also had Sports Minister Solomon Dalung, Mr. Christian Ohaa (Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Youth and Sports), Nigeria’s IOC member Habu Gumel, members of the diplomatic corps, African FA presidents, NFF chieftains, LMC directors, corporate bigwigs and media representatives in attendance.