Profile: Ibrahim Gusau, The New Man In Charge Of Nigeria’s Football

An accountant by profession, Mr Gusau rose through the ranks to become Director of Finance in Zamfara State, where he served for over three decades.

Generosity and empathy can be powerful weapons, but not everyone can adapt to the demands of working in the corridors of power where national football decisions are made.

Civil servants, who work as football administrators will agree that this is one industry that brings out the best and worst in its employees, painfully and publicly.

But one man who has used generosity to his advantage is the newly elected President of the Nigerian Football Federation (NFF) Ibrahim Gusau.

According to close associates, the new NFF president’s sense of humanity is such that any encounter with him turns into quality time and when he speaks, people listen.

This is because he is always eager to demonstrate his problem-solving abilities when approached with life’s challenges.

That is significant in an era when Nigerian football has faced an unprecedented invasion of the evils of corruption, match-fixing, hooliganism, and a lack of accountability from the country’s football governing body.

Humble beginnings

No one knows the difficulties he has overcome better than he, who is from Zamfara, a state presently known as a haven for terrorists and bandits. His state’s insecurity impeded his tireless efforts at establishing a football academy.

Mr Gusau, an unassuming but thoroughbred administrator, rose through the ranks in the game, serving as Team Manager of Zamfara State’s Club 50, Sambo Babes, and Zamfara United football clubs, as well as Kassim Stars FC in Sokoto State, before being elected to the board of the Zamfara State Football Association.

A trained accountant, Mr Gusau rose through the ranks to become the Director of Finance in Zamfara State, where he served for over three decades. His desire to be the best in his field led him to work as a special assistant to former NFF president Aminu Maigari.

Mr Gusau’s track record provided evidence that his viewpoint is that of an insider who has been very close to the seat of power.

At the national level, he defeated Ifeanyi Ubah for the second time in a row in 2018 to become chairman of Chairmen of the NFF board under Amaju Pinnick’s administration.

Mr Gusau has served on the African Nations Championship organising committee, is a CAF Safety and Security Officer, and is presently a member of CAF’s organising committee for the U17, U20, and U23 youth competitions.

Portfolio and Agenda

The 58-year-old was once a special adviser to the governor of Zamfara State on the environment and has spent eight years as the Chairman of the Nigeria Football Committee, among other high-level positions. He knows the Glass House like the back of his hand.

However, all that ended after the NFF elective congress chose him as the new President of the Nigeria Football Federation (NFF) after he polled 39 votes out of 40 votes in a runoff election. The northern caucus endorsed him after stating the baton of leadership had to return to the north.

The speed with which he is being ushered in shows how desperately state chairmen wanted a change in the Glass House.

Mr pinnick’s reign was a one-man show, marked by a series of controversies both on and off the field.

He had no choice but to abandon his dreams of running for a third term in office because he was no longer wanted by his federation.

The former Zamfara State Sports Commission Chairman from 2009 to 2010 has his hands full after assuming full rein as the new NFF president.

He promised to boost football, from the grassroots level in individual states of the federation, and to focus more on players’ welfare.

Also, he said television deals and building other revenue streams will be priorities while he mentioned private sector involvement in one of his interviews.

“The NPFL, NNL, NLO, and the NWFL for women league are key in the progress of Nigeria Football. If our leagues are vibrant, I believe the successes will reflect on the performances of our national teams,” he said when he declared his candidature.

“And for us to have strong national teams, both male and female, we have to focus on grassroots football, which is the breeding ground for a better league.”

“Another area our administration will focus on is age-grade football. For our national teams to prosper, the male U17, U20, U23, and their female counterparts will be given all necessary attention.”

“The senior national teams, Super Eagles and Super Falcons will surely get better if our cadet national teams are strong,” he added.

The man from Zamfara urged the new board he leads to be pragmatic in their approach to taking Nigerian football to a new height.

Having kept his ears as close as possible to the walls of the corridor of powers, he is no football revolutionary, more an evolutionary who feels Nigerian football needs to right the imbalances which have developed between grassroots and professional football. He wants the new board to recognise past failures and fix them.

Addressing the failures

The failures he refers to are well documented. Accountability is one word that most state Football Association (FA) chairmen would not discuss.

The Issue of accountability pops up in all spheres of Nigerian football and now is the time for Gusau to embrace transparency in the areas of cash flows such as FIFA grants as well annual budgets from the Sports Ministry.

Mr Gusau is said to be forthright in attacking negative influences and he must step up his efforts to run a transparent FA devoid of financial wastage which stems from jamboree trips by state FA Chairmen during Super Eagles matches. These are some of the loose ends he needs to tie up.

Secondly, the new NFF president must be ready to appoint technocrats to run the affairs of the NFF Technical department which is the bedrock of football development of every FA. The presence of charlatans in the department cost Nigeria dearly at the 2022 AFCON as well as the country’s failure to qualify for Qatar 2022 World Cup.

Also, it should not be business as usual when it comes to the appointment of coaches for various national teams.

While the Nigerian sporting press continues to struggle to come to terms with the appointment of Randy Waldrum as coach of the Super Falcons, Mr Gusau must ensure the appointment of national team managers is based on merit, while the recycling of [inept] coaches should be brought to an end.

His biggest challenge would be how best to revamp the ailing NPFL league after the Shehu Dikko-led LMC mismanaged the brand. He must ensure league sponsorship deals details are common knowledge before all and sundry unlike in the past when sponsorship figures were secret figures.

The league itself needs to be restructured, and that can only be achieved if the new NFF generalissimo can do away with the square pegs in round holes.

Finally, many feel Mr Pinnick used his role as NFF president to benefit himself rather than the country’s football. Hence, Mr Gusau must ensure that Nigerian football is less of him and more about the players, coaches, and federation while football politics is minimised to the barest minimum.

While the Super Eagles are the most important team under the NFF’s purview, they are not the only national team that needs attention. Gusau and his new board must ensure the Super Falcons and other national teams enjoy commensurate attention in terms of support and logistics.

Mr Gusau is the new man in charge in a democracy, but not in the way we know it. Though there are fears that he will choose to deploy the workings of the previous board, no one will care if he can just restore the glory days of Nigerian football.

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