Tuesday, February 28, 2017

CAF Elections: Hayatou Should Step Down



I AM WRITING this on Monday, February the 27th, 2017. For anyone reading this article to have a good background to my perspective on the Confederation of African Football (CAF) elections, they would have to read my column of last week titled, “Pinnick Must Shut Moucharafu’s Big Mouth” @ www.soccertalknigeria.com.
But for those who have read it already, let’s continue the conversation…

Let me resume by saying that I did not speak to Nigeria Football Federation (NFF) president Amaju Pinnick before writing last week’s article. This clarification is important because, about the time I was writing that Pinnick was likely to support Ahmad Ahmad of Malagasy against incumbent Issa Hayatou in the up-coming CAF Presidency elections, Pinnick was actually granting the BBC an interview confirming that he would indeed be supporting Ahmad. The local Nigerian media reported the BBC story the same day that my article was published in Complete Sports and on my blog, thereby creating an impression that I knew about the BBC story. No, I did not. It was pure coincidence.

So, how did I know that Pinnick would be backing Ahmad when the BBC interview was the first time he would speak publicly about his position? My answer: Simple, logical reasoning!
However, since my speculative article and Pinninck’s confirmatory interview were published, events have unfolded in dramatic fashion concerning Nigeria’s expected role at the CAF elections.
First was a press statement by the NFF executive committee endorsing Pinnick’s position. The executive committee members reportedly decided to give Pinnick a “free hand” to decide who to vote for between Hayatou and Ahmad purportedly because, as NFF president, he (Pinnick) supposedly understood the politics of CAF better than other members and they trusted him to vote wisely in Nigeria’s interest.



Hardly had the ink dried on that press statement when Minister of Sport Solomon Dalung released a counter press statement over-ruling the NFF and declaring that “Nigeria as a country” had not endorsed any candidate for the CAF Presidency and that Pinnick’s announcement had no official approval from the Federal Government.
The third statement on the matter came from a group of Nigerian members of CAF committees who have rejected Pinnick’s support for Ahmad on the grounds that he didn’t have the mandate of the NFF executive committee and the ministry of sport to do so. The group also listed Hayatou’s ”contributions” to Nigerian football as basis for their own support for the Camerounian to continue in office as CAF president.

Now, I have to thread very carefully here in order to not be misunderstood. The group of Nigerian CAF members parades highly respected and eminent personalities who have made tremendous contributions to Nigerian football. The group includes former NFF presidents General Dominic Oneya, Alhaji Sani Lulu and Alhaji Aminu Maigari; former FIFA/CAF executive committee member Dr. Amos Adamu; former NFF member Amanze Uchegbulam; former NFF Secretary General Bolaji Ojo-Oba; eminent journalists Paul Bassey and Aisha Falode; and current NFF member Chris Green.

Personally, I have worked with and continue to relate cordially with many of these distinguished individuals and I do not want to offend them. But on this issue of the CAF Presidency, I beg to disagree with their collective position for the following reasons…
First, had Pinnick ”unilaterally” decided to support Hayatou rather than Ahmad, would the Nigerian members of CAF have objected to his decision? If the probable answer is no, then his purported “unilateral” decision to support Ahmad cannot be accepted as the real reason for rejecting his choice. Pinnick has been accused of ignoring “due process,” but it appears his real offense is choosing the “wrong” candidate.

Second, the group concedes Pinnick’s right “as an individual to declare support for whoever he pleases,” but then cautions him against “doing it in the name of Nigeria.” I find that contradictory because Pinnick has no other personal vote in CAF except the Nigeria vote. He is either voting on Nigeria’s behalf or he is not.
Thirdly, talking about following “due process,” I recall that Alhaji Ibrahim Galadima and Aminu Maigari both contested the CAF executive committee election in recent years and both of them lost despite presenting their candidatures as a “Nigerian Project.” Campaign committees were formed, lobby groups established, campaign budgets were raised and money spent on shuttle diplomacy but, in the end, nothing was achieved. If following due process has failed Nigeria twice before, I personally have no objection to Pinnick contesting “without following due process” this time around. The worst that can happen to him is that he and his candidate will lose the election also.


The truth of the matter is that Hayatou, NOT Pinnick, is the problem with the up-coming CAF elections. No one, in all fairness, can deny Hayatou’s massive contributions to African football during the close to three decades that he’s been at the helm because the facts are there to show. 
Last week, I also gave him credit for making Africa proud and coming out “unscathed” from the FIFA corruption scandals that consumed former president Sepp Blatter, Michel Platini and other world soccer heavyweights last year. But when Hayatou used his power of incumbency to manipulate the CAF constitution (which stipulated 70 years as the retirement age for executive committee members) just in order to perpetuate himself in office, the now 71-year-old lost my respect and the respect of many neutral observers in African football. So, we cannot but salute the courage of Pinnick and others who are willing now to stand up to Hayatou’s ”sit-tight” agenda. The 2017 CAF elections are not about Hayatou’s past achievements; they are about the future of African football.

Furthermore, the media in any democratic society has a social responsibility to put government officials and public administrators in check. Anywhere in the world, leaders who use every trick in the book to hang on to power are never popular with the Libertarian free press, no matter those leaders’ so-called achievements and good intentions. The free press just naturally detests such “leaders.” I belong to the school of free press and the only way dictatorial leaders can escape our sting is to bow out gracefully.

Hayatou has been CAF president since 1988 which is 29 years ago. The sports media are simply are tired of him and nothing he will do now or next year or the year after that will make him acceptable to the generality anymore. In fact, he stands the risk of rubbishing his own legacy in the same manner that it happened to Sepp Blatter who over-stayed his welcome at FIFA. My candid view is that Hayatou should have been advised to step down from these elections.

Having said that, I understand the trepidation of the Nigerian group of CAF members about the repercussions of a Pinnick adventure going wrong. In their press statement, the group refers to the “political colouration of CAF elections” which they are “well grounded and versed in.” I interpret that to mean the heavy price Nigeria will be made to pay for Pinnick’s ”infantile radicalism” when the elections are over.

Well, for me that is another problem with Hayatou. Why should Nigeria be punished if our FA president contests for an election or supports another candidate and they both lose? Doesn’t the CAF constitution allow for a free and fair contest? If everybody is afraid of losing, who will contest against Hayatou then? Elections should not be a zero-sum game. CAF as an institution should have effective checks and balances to protect the loser from being persecuted by the winner. But it would appear that is not the case in Hayatou’s CAF.

In any case, Pinnick has said that he will still support Hayatou if Hayatou defeats Ahmad. But my response to a failed Pinnick or Ahmad bid is that Nigeria’s group of CAF members should also prepare to clean up any resultant mess! By cautioning Pinnick now, they have prepared a strong alibi already. Afterwards, they would simply tell Hayatou that Pinnick was a reckless, over-ambitious young man who refused to listen to advice. At that stage, I will also join in begging Emperor Hayatou for forgiveness so that our 2018 FIFA World Cup qualification is not jeopardized by questionable officiating!
But if Pinnick and Ahmad’s ambitious gamble pays off, Nigeria loses nothing! And that will put the mouthy Moucharafu Anjorin of Benin Republic in his rightful place.



What Will Dalung Do?
AT THE TIME of writing this, minister of sport Solomon Dalung had reportedly summoned an emergency meeting of the NFF to reappraise Nigeria’s position ahead of the CAF elections.
Last December, Dalung originally expressed reservation about Pinnick’s candidacy for the CAF executive committee elections at the NFF Annual General Assembly in Lagos. But he was beaten back by the assembly delegates who proceeded to “unanimously” endorse the NFF president. Dalung did not mention the matter again until last week when Pinnick disclosed that he was also backing Ahmad for the CAF presidency.
What will Dalung do now? Will he report Pinnick to the acting president Yemi Osibajo, cut off funding for the NFF or instigate some NFF executive committee members to impeach Pinnick? Or, will he support Pinnick and the NFF executive committee in their bold decision to confront Hayatou.
You probably know the answer by the time you’re reading this. In which case, I will pick up the conversation again from there next week. See you then, insha Allah…

Welcome to The Sports Parliament 
I HAVE been invited to be a part of a new television programme titled The Sports Parliament which will start showing live on Nigerian Television Authority (NTA) network every Thursday at 11.00pm starting from Thursday, March 2nd, 2017. The programme is a creation of former Green Eagles (now Super Eagles) captain Segun Odegbami who ironically pioneered privately produced sports programming on Nigerian television with Saturday Sports Special close to three decades ago.
The Sports Parliament promises to be quite engaging, controversial and in-depth going by the quality of Parliamentarians that The Speaker, Odegbami, has put together. I’m looking forward to enjoying myself thoroughly on the programme and I invite you to come along for the ride. Don’t miss it.

FEEDBACK

RE: Pinnick Must Shut Moucharafu’s Big Mouth
• Maoucharafu probably mistook the word Pinnick for “pikin” hence his allusion to Amaju as a small boy! But, like the saying goes, “Warri no dey carry last.” I pray that Pinnick wins.   – Dan Nwokenye, Benin-City.
• Mumini, the question is “whom would African countries side with - Gianni Infantino (for FIFA largesse) or Issa Hayatou (for fear of vendetta)? The answer will determine Amaju Pinnick’s fate. Too complicated to call. – Howard Odigie, Lagos.
• Oga Mumini. We are your fans, I support Pinnick to win against Moucharafu. – Tunde Oresanya, Ijebu.

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