In a new twist ahead of the Confederation of African Football (CAF) elections that will take place on Thursday, March 16, in Addis Ababa, the Nigerian government has ordered its delegation to vote for the incumbent, Issa Hayatou, despite its previous choice of challenger Ahmad Ahmad of Madagascar.

According to an AFP report, Vice President Yemi Osinbajo has told the Nigerian Football Association (NFF) chief, Amaju Pinnick, to support the Cameroonian, who is seeking to extend his 29-year reign at the top of African football, for diplomatic reasons.

Cameroonian government has been backing the Nigerian effort to quash the terrorist group, Boko Haram, that created an enclave in the border area of both countries and Chad. A multinational force was needed to dislodge the group that held more than two hundred school girls captive.

Pinnick, who is also contesting for a place in the CAF Executive Committee, has been in the forefront of a campaign to stop Hayatou’s continued grip on power, with Ahmad being the beneficiary.

However, the Nigerian government has now taken a position to stand by Hayatou as the NFF delegation arrived in Addis Ababa on Monday to intensify campaigns.

“There is an existing joint relationship between Nigeria and Cameroon and most recently both countries collaborated in the fight against the Boko Haram insurgency,” said an unnamed high ranking member of the Nigerian government quoted by the AFP in Abuja.

“We can’t afford to jeopardize this relationship.

“Pinnick has therefore been ordered to cast his vote for Hayatou even if every other country failed to do so, as Nigeria does not owe Madagascar anything.”

This election is the most hotly contested since Hayatou became president in 1988. It is seen as a shift towards to a more progressive and forward-minded organization by the young Turks who want to bring an end to the 70-year-old’s time at the helm of CAF.

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