By Brian Mukasa,
An opportunity to make a proactive statement for what the future of African football should be beckons at the 39th Ordinary Congress of the Confederation of African Football, CAF in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia on Thursday, March 16.
Issa Hayatou from Cameroon, a 71 –year old who has held African football in a vice grip for 29 years, is up against 57 –year old Ahmad, the interesting Madagascan with only one name and genial comportment.
Following the death of Ydnekatchew Tessema, the outstanding but simple servant of African football in August 1987, Dr. Halim Mohamed of Sudan (who served as the third CAF President, 1968-1972) took charge in acting capacity before elections at the Africa Cup of Nations in Morocco the following year, which he lost to the gangling Cameroonian.
In 29 years, Hayatou has reigned and ruled, determining the direction that African football should take at every turn, and ruthlessly crushing political opponents without batting an eyelid. In the manner of all despots, the former Cameroonian athlete has anextreme distaste for dissenting views and dissenting individuals, particularly when such as much as suggest a different leader for the African game.
His word has been law, and while fierce loyalists and foot soldiers have been richly rewarded, those seen as ‘ambitious’ and ‘untrustworthy’ as a result of independent views/progressive demeanour are squashed without mercy.
I am a young student who has taken a keen (now deepening) interest in African football and its governance over the decades, and I dare say that Hayatou had a dictatorship-wrapped long stay in office well planned even before ascending the throne.
A Discriminating Emperor
Never before in the history of sports administration has a leaderbeen so discriminatory andintolerant of views and language outside his cocoon.
In Tessema’s exemplary 15 years, during which service to the African game was what mattered, the mental boundaries of Francophone, Anglophone, Lusophone and whatever –phones were never there. Everyone in administration within CAF, from Casablanca to Curepipe, simply worked as Africans for the African game.
Things changed with the coming of Issa Hayatou, a multi-talented sportsman who also played volleyball in his younger days. He deployed his multi talent to erecting boundaries, encouraging dichotomies of all sorts and setting brother against brother – the method of all tyrants.
Now, everywhere you go, people talk of being Anglophone, Lusophone or Francophone. The Francophone buddies are the fortunate ones, and even within that bloc, the Cameroonians are most privileged.
Anytime he goes to an Anglophone country, Hayatou would not speak a word of English. The pretense that he does not understand the English language has been sustained for decades. Yet, journalists who do not possess multi –lingual asset have been able to interview him in the inner recesses, and his spoken English, they attest, is near perfection.
At the recent Africa Cup of Nations in Gabon, most official functions were conducted in French, without attempts at servicing those who speak in other tongues. Yet, on the CAF website, it is grandly displayed that the official languages are English, French and Arabic!
The President of Sudanese Football Federation Sirelkhatim Muttasim was furious that after making him go through the arduous task of getting a letter of commitment from the Sudanese Government to host the U20 event (after it was withdrawn from Madagascar simply because Ahmad was contesting against Hayatou), the Cameroonian would so flippantly throw his country overboard without as much as an earlier notice.
While it is common to find reports of Hayatou visiting Chad, Cote d’Ivoire, Gabon, Togo and Cote d’Ivoire, you would never catch him napping in places like Nigeria, Ghana, Liberia, Kenya, Uganda or Tanzania, except if those territories host African football championships. Are they not part of the African continent?
A recent revelation about Hayatou’s preferred algebra for distributing Africa’s seven seats in the FIFA Council is most disturbing. The Cameroonian will take one seat, with three more reserved for his fellow French –speaking friends: perhaps Guinea’s Kabele, Constant Omari (RD Congo/SidyDiallo (Cote d’Ivoire) and Lydia Nsekera of Burundi, whose place is sealed as she is the only woman, and a woman must be in the mix.
He has offered two to the Arabs: Hani AboRida of Egypt and Tarek Bouchamaoui of Tunisia. Africa’s 20 English –speaking countries (out of the 54) will have to make do with only a seat, to be contested by Ghana’s KwesiNyantakyi and Tanzania’s LeodegarTenga.
A Big Thumb Down
At the recent summit of the African Union in Addis Ababa, in January 2017, Hayatou’s leadership of CAF was handed a dressing down. The body was referred to in scathing language, as Africa’s political leaders expressed disdain for the state of African football and its visionless leadership.
Mutilating the Statutes
Severally, he has tweaked the Statutes to favour his position or to disfavour those who nurse ambition. Cleverly and without appearing to be the sponsor, he got the CAF Executive Committee to pass the amendment to the Statutes that only members of the Committee could stand for the position of CAF President.
This was the smart card used against the Ivorian Jacques Anouma, the well-to-do former president of Federation Ivorienne de Football and of WAFU (before the balkanization into A & B). Pursuing his policy of intolerance to dissent and dissenters, Hayatou blocked Anouma from the CAF Executive Committee and heaved him out of his FIFA Executive Committee seat.
The Statutes also had a provision on age, such that anyone above the age of 70 would not be able to stand for election as CAF President. Hayatou took care of that by railroading a proposal for amendment through the Congress, to say that this was no longer a barrier. In the event, he becameeligible to stand for an eighth term of office in Ethiopia, even though he is months away from his 71st birthday.
Yet, 29 years ago, Hayatou was at the vanguard of the campaign that effectively knocked out Nigeria’s Oyo Orok Oyo from the CAF Presidency. The two persons in the race, following the demise of the brilliant Tessema, were Oyo and the Sudanese, Halim Mohamed. Both men were advanced in age.
Hayatou launched a campaign of hate against the two, insisting that the times called for youthful, dynamic and visionary leadership, and not geriatrics. Africa saw reason with him and gave him votes.
Today, the same man is sticking stubbornly to the chair even after surpassing the biblical allowance for human existence.
Gunning for Samoura!
When FIFA President Gianni Infantino proposed the first –ever African (and first –ever woman), FatmaSamoura as FIFA Secretary General, the whole of Africa celebrated. When she passed the eligibility test that effectively made the office hers, there was joy unlimited.
However, one man was unhappy. Hayatou is yet to forgive Infantino that he was not consulted on an appointment (this, even though Samoura is Francophone!) so big from his Confederation.
Persons close to him have spoken of how he vowed from that moment not to work with Infantino. On several occasions, it has been reported, the Italian-Swiss has offered the olive branch. Each time, Hayatou has declined.
His un-forgiven stance was on brazen display in Libreville, Gabon on the eve of the Nations Cup Final match. At the dinner preceding the final match, Hayatou refused to even acknowledge the presence of the FIFA Secretary General and while he recognized by name, the presence of dignitaries at the occasion, he only mentioned the FIFA President’s title as an after thought and did not deem it fit for the FIFA President to be given a few minutes to talk to football stake holders present at the dinner.
Hayatou has displayed craft insensitivity, insubordination and extreme hatred for constituted authority for personal gains and thus it is clear who will bear the brunt of his blatant disrespect (obviously it is CAF Member Associations).
The relationship between Fatuma Samoura and Issa Hayatou is not a secret. He has shown clear hatred towards her and while other Confederations President duly visited Samoura in the FIFA Head Quarters, Hayatou has refused, till now to even pick up his phone and call the FIFA General Secretary who happens to come from the same continent as him.
Hayatou’s grand agenda is to get Samoura removed. How he plans to do that, no one knows yet. But don’t put anything past foxy tyrants!
His Many Goofs
In another Confederation, Hayatou’s several failed choices would have resulted in voluntary or forced resignation.
When the inimitable Jean-Marie FaustinGodefroidHavelange (known as Joao Havelange) decided to step down as FIFA President in 1998, he brought forward his long-time Secretary General, Sepp Blatter, to contest for the position. Against the desire of the African family that had benefitted from Havelange’s creation of junior tournaments and several development programs, midwifed by Blatter, Hayatou opted, and tried to align the whole of Africa, for Lennart Johansson, the Swedish president of UEFA.
Blatter won the vote.
In 2002, despite knowing that he did not have the number and against wise counsel, Hayatou decided to run against Blatter. At the election in Seoul, the Congress did not need a second ballot because Blatter won by a landslide.
Last year, Hayatou came out strongly to voice Africa’s support for Sheikh Salman bin Ebrahim al Khalifa, president of the Asian Confederation, in the race for FIFA presidency following Blatter’s forced departure. Infantino won the race.
His self-serving decision to foist centralized marketing concept on African countries has been a disaster. Already, Egypt, Morocco and Algeria have pulled out of the arrangement, and feelers are that South Africa, Ghana and Nigeria are gearing up to do the same. That will Hayatou’s contrived pot empty by all means.
The best option would have been to allow countries to align for the purpose of getting lucrative deals with big companies. For instance, Morocco and Sierra Leone have come together on this matter. By so doing, the so-called smaller countries can pocket far bigger amounts of money than they presently get.
Hayatou’s disdain for African companies is absolute, which is why sales of CAF’s TV Rights have gone to European firms (Canal Plus, SportFive, Lagardere) that are even smaller than the African firms, with little or no competitive bidding permitted. CAF entered into a broadcast agreement with Lagardere for CAF competitions for a period of 20 years! This, the Egyptian Competitions Commission is presently investigating, amidst claims of monopoly practices, and for this reason, Hayatou can no longer enter into the Arab Republic of Egypt.
Ask yourself, why is he in a hurry to move the Head quarters of CAF out of Egypt? Why is he not able to attend to his official functions in Egypt? Why is he courting the President of an un-named French Speaking West African Country to build a new Head Quarters of CAF in that country?
Recently, Hayatou ended up with a black nose again after CAF turned out the only Confederation that opposed the proposal to increase the number of participating teams at the FIFA World Cup from 32 to 48. His opposition was simply as a result of hatred for Infantino and Samoura, no more. Even Sheikh Salman al Khalifa, the president of Asia, was stunned to see Africa oppose a progressive idea.
Why Africa Must Change
In some of his campaigns across a number of countries, Ahmad has tried to express the reasons for the need for African football to opt for change at the top. One is that the world is changing, and everywhere you look, a new way of doing things is being developed and embraced everywhere.
Africa cannot continue in the ancient ways. Hayatou’s kitchen table –type of leadership (in which only the likes of AnjorinMoucharafou, Kabele, Djibrine and Diakite can contribute) is old fashioned and can no longer take Africa forward.
Too much power is concentrated in the Executive Committee, and few people make suggestions. At the Cup of Nations in Gabon, 50 so-called VIPs were invited on the bill of CAF. But there were no Ghanaians, South Africans, Egyptians, Moroccans or Nigerians. Ghana has people like Abedi Pele and Anthony Yeboah, and in Nigeria, you can find Amunike, Victor Ikpeba, Kanu Nwankwo and JJ Okocha. Egypt has Hossam Hassan and Taher AbouZeid. Morocco has Mohamed Timoumi and Ezaki Badou. Algeria has Abdelmajid Chetali, LakhdarBelloumi and RabahMadjer. None of them was deemed worthy. Only Cameroonians and pockets of Senegalese are CAF’s legends!
When the FIFA Council sits, you will find a 47 –year old Infantino at the head of the table, with the likes of Victor Mongliani (51, president of CONCACAF, elected in 2016), David Chung (54, president of Oceania, elected in 2010), AleksanderCeferin (49, president of UEFA, elected in 2016), Alejandro Dominguez (45, president of CONMEBOL, elected in 2016) and Sheikh Salman al Khalifa (51, president of Asia, elected in 2013).
Africa will have a 71 –year old man, elected in 1988, and who will only sleep off at meetings!
Price of Loyalty
Those who have staked their reputation and backed Hayatou to the hilt even against their own conscience have discovered in the end that the effort was never worth it.
Take Suketu Patel (his 1st Vice President) and AlmamyKabeleCamara (2nd Vice President) who have toiled for him and given their backs all the time. Hayatou told a few persons recently that neither of the two has the mettle, intellectual capacity and mental strength to succeed him.
Instead, he is in search of a young Francophone FA president (mentions have been made of Ivory Coast’s Sidy Diallo and Senegal’s Augustin Senghor) to take the seat whenever he (Hayatou) becomes tired.
How about Mohamed Raouraoua, the president of Algeria Football Federation? The calm –mannered North African was his main man for decades. Raouraoua was the one who moved a motion that has prolonged Hayatou’s stay in Cairo, yet he was dealt a brutal hand after a suggestion that did not go down well with the ‘Emperor’. The old man refused to stand for another election into FIFA Executive Committee after reading the writing on the wall.
And Constant Omari? Another man who served as Hayatou’s foot soldier for many years. Today, the Cameroonian is ready to dump him for Sidy Diallo in the race for the FIFA Council seat.
Slush Funds to the Rescue
As is characteristic of elections, money will be heavily present at the Congress in Addis. Already, usually dependable sources have confirmed that the French firm, Lagardere, unsurprisingly is committed to storming the Ethiopian capital with bags of dollars for delegates.
Another source of slush funds, it is alleged, is Angola. One of the contestants for a seat on the Executive Committee, Rui Da Costa, is Angolan.
Hayatou has pledged the seat to Da Costa if he brings a pot of American dollars, with which to “purchase” the delegates.
Only a fortnight ago, Angolan officially became Africa’s biggest exporter of crude oil. Petro dollars will flood Ethiopia!
His Final Agenda
Issa Hayatou’s final agenda, if he wins this week’s presidential vote, is to victimize those who campaigned and stood against him. One of his aides was overheard saying sometime last week that Ahmad, the president of Malagasy FA who is running against Hayatou, is ‘a goner’.
Names of persons like Egypt’s Abo Rida, Ghana’s Nyantakyi, Nigeria’s Pinnick, Zimbabwe’s Chiyangwa and other FA Presidents in COSAFA region have been penciled down for outright victimization.
Even those countries that received FIFA President Infantino during his recent visit to Africa are not going to be left out of the stick. Rwanda, South Africa, Zimbabwe, Niger Republic, Mauritania, Swaziland and Chad should prepare for sanctions that are not in the books.
There could be some bitterness spewing out of CAF’s headquarters to affiliate Federations that have already been categorized as ‘renegades’.
President, Vote for Africa’s Future
Yet, what has to be done must be done. It is time to see Hayatou’s back.
Today, I was informed of a certain documentary being prepared to highlight Hayatou’s ‘several achievements’ as CAF President over the past 29 years. No doubt, he got a couple of things done, as is expected of someone who stayed in an office for 29 years.
However, if the said documentary failed to capture the bad and the ugly sides as well (such as failed choices), it would be fit only for the marines and not for the archives.
Hayatou’s health and ongoing investigations into sale of broadcast rights, do not recommend him for another term of office, though there are those who will vote for him hoping he would not last another year on the seat, so that they could be in good stead to take over.
FA Presidents of Africa, it is time to consider the future of Africa and act wisely. You can collect all the monies they offer (because we know Hayatou and acolytes will employ all tactics and tricks, and manouevring), but vote for youth, dynamism and innovation.
Hayatou and his lovers of ancient ideas and principles should be resisted and told in clear terms they have overstayed their welcome. The septuagenarian from Cameroon believes that FA Presidents of Africa love him and want him to continue in office in perpetuity, but that is a misconception.
At the end, he will have no choice but to retire quietly to his house in Garoua, relating with nature, taking better care of his health and feeding on fresh vegetables and fruits for the remaining years.
You have done your bit, Issa Hayatou. A new name is needed on the CAF President’s scroll in this 60thyear anniversary.
Ex- CAF Media Expert. An expert on African football with over 15 years experience ,always with an ear to the ground with indepth knowledge of the game. I have worked for top publications including 7 years at www.supersport.com until i founded www.soka25east.com to quench the thirst of football lovers across the continent. I have trained young upcoming journalists who are now a voice in African football.I have covered World Cup,AFCON,CHAN,Champions League,Confederations Cup,Cecafa,Cosafa,Wafu and many other football tournaments across the World. Founder Football Africa Arena(FAA),Founder www.afrisportdigital.com