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Ibrahim Musa Gusau elected Nigeria Football Federation president

Ibrahim Musa Gusau has been elected president of the Nigeria Football Federation. Image Supplied

Ibrahim Musa Gusau has been elected president of the Nigeria Football Federation (NFF), fending off challenges from former vice-presidents Seyi Akinwunmi and Shehu Dikko as well as former international goalkeeper Idah Peterside to emerge as successor to Amaju Pinnick.

Gusau, 58, polled 21 of 41 votes in the first round of voting, ahead of Akinwunmi's 12, Dikko's 6 and one each for Peterside and Special Assistant to the Sports Minister Abba Yola. Christian Emeruwa, CAF Head of Security, did not receive a vote.

Without the clear majority of 50% + 1, a run off was declared. The other candidates stood down except for Peterside, and Gusau finished with 39 votes to Peterside's one, with one invalid, to emerge the new president. He will serve at least a four-year term, running until September 2026.

Gusau, who has been chairman of the Zamfara State Football Association since 2011, was also a member of the NFF Executive Committee under Pinnick, on which he was Chairman of the Safety Committee. He is also a member of CAF's Organizing Committee of the Africa Cup of Nations.

Like most of the candidates, Gusau ran on the platform of implementing the 10-Year Football Development Master Plan driven by Sports Minister Sunday Dare, a roadmap that proposes a more commercially focused and private sector-driven model for running football in Nigeria.

Gusua's emergence marks the end of a long, convoluted and sometimes uncertain process mired by court injunctions and even a bomb threat.

Until early this year, it was a given that Pinnick would run for a third term. But he decided not to pursue re-election after Nigeria's failure to qualify for the FIFA World Cup, and pressure from fans, media and stakeholders.

That opened the door for his former lieutenants to throw their hats into the ring, but that was only the beginning.

First, the NFF had to convince a group that had lodged a court case against the election to withdraw the suit.

But the group, alleging marginalization in the process, secured a court order two weeks ahead of the election putting the poll on hold.

This came after a letter from a group calling itself the Nigeria Football Stakeholders threatening to bomb the venue of the election in Benin City if the poll went ahead.

The letter from the group said that because of the "atrocities committed by the current [NFF] board", the election should be "stopped till such a time when all reforms are carried out".

"Refusal to adhere to our warning will be met with very serious consequences," the group stated in the letter. "We will not hesitate to bomb and bring down the venue of the election and blood will flow. Your agreement to the cancellation will save the lives that are supposed to be lost."

Nigeria's sports ministry said the letter was handed over to the country's anti-terrorist forces for investigation, and the election was held with extra security at the venue given the bomb threat.

On the eve of the election, the final hurdle was removed when the NFF secured an Appeals Court order setting aside the injunction of the Federal High Court and allowing the election to proceed.

Gusau thus becomes the 36th man to hold the office since Henry Augustus Porter, who was the founding president of the football body on Aug. 21,1933 according to records by Nigerian football journalist and historian Kunle Solaja.

It is unclear, however, if the election will mark the end of the litigation, as the case before the Federal High Court is still pending and has been scheduled for hearing on Oct. 31.

This will be nothing new.

Since 2006, NFF board elections have been blighted by protracted issues, starting with Ibrahim Galadima, who was first elected in 2002 and re-elected in 2006 amid the crisis of Nigeria's failure to qualify for the World Cup that year.

Galadima was removed from office in controversial fashion and replaced by Sani Lulu Abdullahi, who was impeached in 2010 after a disastrous World Cup run.

Aminu Maigari was elected to replace Abdullahi, amid a court petition challenging the validity of that process; Maigari held on to the seat before he was removed by the board on allegations of financial impropriety then reinstated after an ultimatum by FIFA.

Similar problems dogged the election of Pinnick in 2014; Pinnick was elected despite a court order barring the elections, and a rival group led by Chris Giwa claiming to be the rightfully elected leadership of the NFF.

Giwa challenged Pinncick's rule for three years until he was eventually banned by FIFA, and Pinnick went on to become the first person to win re-election as NFF president.