Sunday, December 23, 2012

Emperor Issa Hayatou

THE local (Nigerian) sporting press either missed the news or simply chose to ignore it. When my co-Complete Sports columnist Chief Segun Odegbami called me to check whether it was true, I confessed to him that I hadn’t heard the news and I really didn’t care! Just in case you also missed the news, dear reader, here it is... The Confederation of African Football (CAF) has amended its electoral laws on the eligibility of candidates for the CAF Presidency. Henceforth, only the “voting” members of the CAF Executive Committee are eligible to contest. A massive 44 out of 51 members approved the amendment at the CAF General Assembly in Seychelles. Neutral observers see the amendment as a deliberate ploy to disqualify Jacques Anouma of Cote d’ Ivoire who has declared his intention to contest the presidency against Issa Hayatou in 2013. Anouma sits on the CAF executive committee by virtue of his membership of the FIFA executive committee, but he is a “non-voting’ ex-officio member only (in CAF). With the amendment, the coast has been cleared for Hayatou to easily win another four-year term in office (stretching his tenure to nearly 30 years!) or anointing one of his executive committee members as his successor as CAF president. That was the news that hit Odegbami like a slap in the face, but I was unmoved. For all I care, Hayatou may be CAF President for 100 years! Two years ago when Nigeria’s CAF and FIFA executive committee member Dr. Amos Adamu was suspended by FIFA over the infamous bribe-for-World-Cup-vote scandal, the general feeling amongst many CAF watchers was that Adamu’s barely-secret dream of succeeding Issa Hayatou as CAF president was dead and buried. I didn’t think so, however, and during a conversation that I had with Osasu Obayiuwana, a forthright journalist and keen follower of CAF politics, I predicted that CAF would change the rules to achieve whatever objective it has, not excluding an Adamu Presidency! Ironically, it was Osasu who broke the “sad news” from Seychelles to Odegbami last week. And he was soon calling me to do the same. I tried to be modest, but I couldn’t stop myself from reminding Osasu that “I told you so.” He duely acknowledged. It is indeed a big shame that this is happening to Africa but Issa Hayatou became an Emperor long before now. He is probably the most powerful man on the continent at the moment or how else could he have got 44 out of 51 countries to do his bidding so easily. With so much power, perks and patronage at his disposal; and with greedy and self-serving officials and committee members so rampant in African football, outright manipulation or subtle coercion is a piece of cake for the CAF President . The problem is not peculiar to Africa, however. Even at FIFA, dictatorial actions and sit-tight leadership appear to be the norm at the highest echelon of world football. President Joseph Sepp Blatter is criticized for over-staying his welcome. But he often argues that he has stayed so long to ensure “continuity and stability” in the management of the world game. Blatter can point to a very bouyant and profitable FIFA as evidence of his “stable” management. But in the case of Hayatou’s CAF, what we have presently, courtesy of an unpopular television rights deal with Sport 5, is a situation where most African soccer fans (including Nigerians) have been deprived the joy of watching their national teams in qualifying matches of the Africa Cup of Nations due to the exorbitant fees. Indeed, when Nigeria, South Africa and a few others tried to resist the deal, CAF forced it down their throats. Hayatou always has his way. It’s a totally helpless situation. That is why I was not moved by the latest shenanigans in Seychelles. Questions should, however, be asked on why Nigeria’s own FA president Alhaji Aminu Maigari voted in favour of the new rule that disqualifies Nigeria from contesting the CAF presidency since we don’t have any member on the executive committee at the moment. Frankly speaking, that question is valid only in the short term. In the long term, I predict that Nigeria’s Dr. Amos Adamu will resume his seat on the CAF executive (after serving out his FIFA suspension) and become eligible again to contest for the CAF Presidency. And when that happens, I wait to see who will bet against the Emperor’s anointed. *FIND below full text of Osasu’s account of what transpired at the CAF General Assembly in Seychelles. Titled “A PLUNGE INTO THE DEEP, DARK NIGHT...” the article was culled from his blog, footballisafrica.com. Please visit for more incisive commentaries by the firebrand Osaz... A Plunge into the Deep, Dark Night By Osasu Obayiuwana (www.footballisafrica.com) NICCOLO Machiavelli, who wrote the amoral 16th century political treatise, “The Prince” – on ruthlessly acquiring power, as well as maintaining an iron-clad hold on it – would have been quite proud of his faithful disciples, as they followed his playbook, to the letter, at last Monday’s CAF extraordinary General Assembly in the Seychelles. Forty-four countries out of the 51 CAF members that participated at the General Assembly, agreed to alter its electoral rules, which virtually guarantees that Cameroonian Issa Hayatou, the man that has ruled African football with an iron fist for nearly 25 years, has another four-year term, which will take him to a near 30-year hold on power. The new electoral law states that only voting members of the CAF executive committee are eligible to contest for the presidency. This excludes ex-officio members, like Ivorian Jacques Anouma, who is on the executive committee by virtue of his place on the executive committee of FIFA. It will also keep every national federation president on the continent out of the 2013 presidential contest. Only Burundi, Senegal, Mali, Niger, Cote D’Ivoire and Liberia had the courage to stand up against what is clearly an odious amendment that ensures the African game remains in the deep, dark and, clearly, seemingly endless night. And would it interest you to know that Monday’s vote was not by secret ballot but by an open show of hands? Augustin Senghor, the president of Senegal’s federation, gradually acquiring a reputation as a man that refuses to be intimidated by the CAF machine, made a bold statement that succinctly articulated the feelings of many in the fraternity, disgusted by Monday’s anti-democratic act. To alter the CAF statutes, according to Article 19(4), it can only “be adopted if three-quarters of the eligible Members present vote in favour.” In other words, just 14 countries, had they the balls, (pardon the pun) could have stopped this act of odium. But the others refused to cast their lot with the refuseniks. A CAF executive committee member, who voted for the amendment but had vehemently protested against it, in private to me, months ago, claimed the fear of retribution from the CAF secretariat, which had “friendly chats” with various federation presidents, ahead of Monday’s vote, intimidated many into supporting the amendment. “The situation was difficult… Everyone was ‘called in’ and this created a fearful situation,” he said, when I called him from Lubumbashi, DR Congo. Mohamed Iya, the president of the Cameroonian Football Federation, FECAFOOT, whom I bumped into, very briefly, at Addis Ababa’s Bole Airport, on his way back to Yaounde, had a different perspective of the meeting, describing the General Assembly in Seychelles as a “fulfilling, happy event.” But, as Machiavelli poignantly observed, “Men are so simple and so much inclined to obey immediate needs that a deceiver will never lack victims for his deceptions.” Certainly… CAF members have the ‘immediate need’ to be on its prized committees; to get those plum jobs during African club competitions and Nations Cups. And for those not out to satisfy personal interests, they are simply trying to protect their countries from being at the mercy of referees, sent by the powers that be, to do hatchet jobs on their competitive ambitions. In the executive committee meeting preceding Monday’s general assembly, only Leodegar Tenga, the Football Association of Tanzania president, who is also in charge of CECAFA, the Central and East African Confederation, courageously opposed the proposal. It is any surprise that the 1980 African Nations Cup player, of all the “full” executive committee members in CAF, is the only one not in charge of a single committee? Tenga, as honourable and virtuous as his stance appeared to be, ended up being a poster child for this ice-cold Machiavellian truism: “A man who wants to act virtuously in every way necessarily comes to grief among so many who are not virtuous.” And as a source from the Southern African region, also having a ringside seat in Seychelles, told me, the deafening silence of Anouma, who did not utter a word against a proposal that appeared to be tailor-made to eliminate him from the 2013 presidential contest, killed the possibility of any stout opposition to the plan. “Anouma, whom the new law seemed directly targeted against, refused to speak out against it, so why would anyone else stick out their neck and oppose it?” he asked. (Anouma has denied this in a press statement). And by also pulling up the drawbridge against national federation presidents, Hayatou has conveniently put aside his past, when he used his own position in FECAFOOT, the Cameroonian federation, to launch himself to the CAF presidency in 1998, following the death of Ethiopia’s Ydnekatchew Tessema and the one-year interim presidency of Sudan’s Dr Abdel Halim. Hayatou has clearly forgotten what he told me on March 1st 2004, while we shared a London ‘Black Cab’, with banned FIFA officials Amadou Diakite and Slim Aloulou, as its other occupants. “I do not think that I would want to stay that long [in office], as I would be too old,” Hayatou said in response to my query on whether he would want to perpetuate himself in power. He was heading for the 20-year mark then. I pose, again, this question, which appeared in a previous blog post but remains, at least in my opinion, poignant: “Is power such a debilitating intoxicant that it forbids African leaders, who have spent inordinate years in office, from bowing out honourably and resolutely ignoring the sweet-smelling but lethal pleas of sycophants, who egg them on for self-serving reasons? With last Monday’s vote, the answer to this poser is, tragically, a resounding yes. As my colleague Mark Gleeson publicly pointed out, in his recent piece for South Africa’s Sowetan newspaper, Hayatou “suffers from kidney failure and requires dialysis every second day.” How can a man with this life-threatening medical condition decide, at the CAF congress in Gabon earlier this year, that he wanted another term from 2013 to 2017, rather than opt for the more sensible option of retirement? This, of course, begs the question – How does the African game save itself from competitive oblivion on the global stage? Machiavelli – whom, may I remind everyone, is amoral – provides the men of courage, vision and fortitude in the African game, disheartened with the terrible direction in which our game is clearly going, with an interesting piece of counsel that could help turn the tide of misfortune: “A return to first principles in a republic is sometimes caused by the simple virtues of one man. His good example has such an influence that the good men strive to imitate him, and the wicked are ashamed to lead a life so contrary to his example.” But who will have the intestinal fortitude to build the needed groundswell of support, amongst African football’s right-thinking people, in order to bring us out of this deep, dark tunnel of despair? FEEDBACK YOU often make my day in Soccertalk, but sometimes I do get annoyed with you especially with your assessment of the Super Eagles under Stephen Keshi. It seems you have a soft spot for him which is unlike you. The Eagles under Siasia were far better than what we have now but you keep telling us to be patient. Please, let’s call a spade a spade: Keshi is not good enough, period! –??? MOST commentators on the Liberia game condemned Vincent Enyeama’s performance in Liberia and that means he did poorly and should make corrections ahead of the second leg. I’m also disappointed that Keshi didn’t introduce Brown Ideye to add pep to the attack when the starters seemed to have tired out. – A. A. Ahmed. Good day, sir. I’m of the opinion that Keshi should build his defense on the home based boys if Joseph Yobo keeps finding it difficult playing with them, especially in away games. Keshi can find another role for him or bench him (remember that Clemens Westerhof did same to Keshi in the twilight of his career). Going by reports, Yobo had no business playing that match in Monrovia! – Oloyede Ayodele, VI, Lagos. MA. It shows the decadence and corruption that have continued to ravage the entity that is called NIGERIA, where everything good is mentioned in past tense. Good old days of the naira, good roads, railways, Nigeria Airways, E C N or NEPA, security and now it is about the good old days of our national teams. Lest I forget, there are also the good old days of our National Stadium in Surulere where I watched a lot of great matches in the 1970s. How many good old days do I want to count? GOD save Nigeria. – Oluseye Adeyi. Hi. I think lack of concentration on the pitch cost Nigeria the chance of securing the maximum three points against Liberia. As it is right now, the tie is still 50-50 for both sides. Stephen Keshi should pick a combat-ready team that will give Nigeria the 2013 Nations Cup ticket. – Adegboyega Joshua, Lagos. Oga Mumini, we should not crucifiy the Super Eagles for the result in Monrovia. With the type of treatment they went through and the bad pitch they played on, let’s thank the boys and God for the one point that we got. I believe Keshi will deliver SA 2013 ticket after the second leg. – Tunji Oloyede. WHY should the lion (Nigeria) be afraid of the pussycat (Liberia)? We are going to use them as training material and have them for supper in Calabar! Up Eagles!! –Timothy Amehin, Badagry, Lagos. THANK you for your exquisite presentation in “Thank you, Liberia.” I share your optimism that Big Boss Stephen Keshi will guide us to the 2013 Nations Cup in South Africa. – Ananta Acharya, Abeokuta. THE confidence displayed in your write up titled ‘Hopeful Eagles’ is equally shared by some of us. One tends to agree with Stephen Keshi’s explanation and decision to exclude Osaze and Mikel Obi from the team considering Samson Siasia’s previous experience with these players. My only fear is with Keshi’s continued reliance on Vincent Enyeama even though he has been the source of cheap goals conceded by Eagles in recent times. It’s advisable for Keshi to try other available keepers before South Africa 2013 as Enyeama may not be able to contain the firepower of strikers from good teams. – Ibrahim A. Taye. Ibadan. nMumini, as a matter of fact we are fed up with our NFF. Keshi is not a magician afterall. Sacking Samson Siasia has done us more harm. – Ifeanyi, Ikosi-Ketu, Lagos. I BELIEVE our next game in Calabar will serve as a final examination for the Super Eagles ahead of the Nations Cup. If they fail, that means there’s no future for Keshi with the Eagles. – JOSHUA FROM LAGOS. Sir the last time a Briton (Fred Perry) won a tennis Grand Slam was 76 years ago and not 73 years. FACTS ARE SACRED! – ??? *Thanks for the correction.

1 comment:

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