16 September 2012

Nigeria: No to Hayatou Again!


This should not be true, but it is!

I thought Osasu was playing his usual pranks when he called me up during the week to tell me about the meeting. Until I later read his blog some hours later I thought he was merely pulling my legs. Since then I have been in a state of shock and explosive anger. Osasu's report hit me like a bomb.

To start with I did not even know there was going to be an Extra-ordinary General Meeting of the Confederation of African Football, CAF, until he told me after he returned to Nigeria. The meeting held last Monday in the Seychelles. That I did not know about it is an indication of just how remote I have been from the activities of the continental football body. By the way, Osasu Obayuwana is the associate editor of New African magazine, a lawyer, erudite journalist and broadcaster.

For some time I have been very uncomfortable with CAF and several of its activities. I have been a member of the Players Committee three times in the past almost 16 years. So, in a way I can claim to know a little about some goings-on in CAF's administration. The little I know depresses me. I have expressed my thoughts a few times in my writings, and every time I did I paid the 'price' of exclusion from the next list of Player Committee members. Time passes and for reasons best known to them, I am re-enlisted again. This has happened three times and yet I have not been able to stop being one of the harshest critics of CAF President Issa Hayatou.

In the CAF family you are either with the CAF president, or you were considered an 'enemy' to be excluded from all activities related to the continental body. So, most members of the Executive Committee, national football association Presidents and even members of CAF committees from various national associations, have learnt to be completely loyal to Issa in order to continue to enjoy the benefits of their subservience. Rule number one in CAF is to never have, or express, any iota of ambition to succeed Issa Hayatou.

Thats why the man from the Cameroon has reigned and survived as President of a body representing 50 other countries in the continent for over 25 years! No one dares stand in his way.

Shortly before the last CAF elections on the eve of the 2010 World Cup Issa publicly declared that after 2010 he would not contest for the CAF Presidency again. He wanted all of Africa to support him for the election as his passing gift for helping to bring the World Cup to South Africa. That was to be his greatest legacy to African football. Africa obliged him.

Now, this is 2012. The songs from out of the Seychelles have become different. Issa is scheming to re-contest again and elongate his 25-year old stranglehold on African football.

What angers me most is not his schemes but the spinelessness of 44 countries that supported the amendment of a rule that provides some kind of a level playing field for all, to be substituted by a new rule that excludes most, and provides the incumbent with dictatorial powers that can put him on the seat in perpetuity (almost). It is a 'monster' that will consume African football and take it back to the dark ages!

When Issa was young, strong and vibrant he served Africa well by providing African football with leadership that has been commended by many all over the continent. But after 25 years of holding on to power and recent reports that his health is failing with the need for dialysis every other day, why does he still want to eat his own words, and make himself indispensable to African football? No one is indispensable as he would find out when the elements eventually take control as they inevitably would.

The amended rule endorsed at the meeting is that only those presently with voting rights and in the Executive Committee can contest for the Presidency. Before now, any member of any national association nominated by the association (particularly national association presidents) can contest. Now the field is being narrowed to the 13 members of the committee with Issa atop the list.

And 44 members at the general assembly supported it in an open show of hands with Issa watching out for any renegades! Only my co-football player from the 1980 African Cup of Nations from Tanzania, Tenga, I am told was brave enough during the deliberations to raise his voice against a rule designed specifically to elongate the dictatorship that has ruled African football. I am not surprised. The others were too frightened to speak either with their voices or with their votes and sacrificed fair play, equity, and a democratic process on the altar of lucre and impotent, transient power! Are the members saying that there are none amongst them knowledgeable, deserving, and qualified to take over from Issa? No member could tell him to go take a deserved rest and allow African football to rise to new heights without him?

It is a shame that only 6 representatives voted against the amendment. That list, incidentally, does not include Nigeria!

So what happened to the Nigerian vote? It went for the amendment of the rule that effectively shuts out any Nigerian from contesting for the position for a long time to come. The only Nigerian in the Executive Committee is Amos Adamu who is still serving a suspension that will morally bar him from contesting if or when he ever returns.

At the risk of reviving my poor relationship with the leadership of CAF I consider this a very bad decision and a great error of judgment. It is either a product of ignorance or a mischievous, misguided, retrogressive, authoritarian and ill-conceived design to achieve the selfish agenda of a few people IN CAF representing themselves only and not the millions of passionate African football followers that want to see a positive change that will take African football to new heights where the possibility of winning the World Cup resides. Africans must say NO to 4 more years of Issa Hayatou!

That amendment by frightened, coerced, brainwashed, or bribed general assembly members must not be allowed to stand. It must be challenged somehow and reversed.

Here in Nigeria, the NFF leadership must be questioned about why they sold the right of Nigerians, now and until the rules are amended again, to contest for the Presidency of CAF. Thats what their vote and silence at the general assembly last monday translates into!

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