A plunge into the deep, dark night…

September 8, 2012 Articles 5 Comments

CAF president Issa Hayatou (left) with Orlando Pirates chief Irvin Khoza (right)

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.

44 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.

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?

 

5 Comments

  1. Steve Grey says:

    Thanks for your excellent coverage of this disturbing turn of events. So now we know that CAF, like AFC and CONCACAF, is a dysfunctional confederation. No doubt they took their cues from the stinking, fetid morass that is FIFA under Havelange and Blatter.

    It’s always surprising to me that anyone elected to a position, as a representative for others, would vote in favour of such an obviously detrimental change. But looking from the outside, we don’t experience the pressures heaped upon the voter, by use of tactics similar to the Prisoner’s Dilemma. Pressure like this is also what caused Charlie Dempsey to abstain from voting in the 2006 World Cup hosting election.

    World football governance is in a truly sorry state, for which Blatter should be ashamed. As President, it is his job to instil a positive culture and to set guidelines for what is and isn’t acceptable. It is clear, not only from the actions of the FIFA ExCo, but also from the actions of the Confederation leaders, that Blatter has done nothing of the sort in his time in charge. For him to now say, “Let me finish the job” is laughable.

    In the meantime, we will continue to see the game stolen from us by the likes of Bin Hammam, Warner, Blazer, Teixeira, Grondona, Leoz and Hayatou; a rogue’s gallery representing everything that is wrong with modern football.

    The intestinal fortitude to which you refer is indeed much needed, but could such a candidate ever seriously stand a chance of being elected?

  2. Segun Odegbami - 1980 Africa Cup of Nations winner says:

    Osasu,
    Thanks for raising your voice and standing on the side of truth. The ‘Poverty Mentality’ has been ruling and gradually ruining the administration of African football. Issa may have done some good work for African football through the years. But, in his twilight years, his scheming – to perpetuate himself in office – will leave a sour taste rather than a legacy in African football. Everyone that voted for this retrogressive and shortsighted alteration of the rules of CAF presidential elections has done a great disservice to the game, to themselves and to the continent. Posterity will judge them all harshly for doing what is evidently self-serving!

    Enough of the shenanigans! We do not have to aspire to the presidency of CAF before defending fair play and condemning actions that take us back to the dark ages. We, the people to whom the game ultimately belongs, must ‘save’ Issa Hayatou now before he destroys all that he has worked for. No man is indispensable. Sooner than later, this truth shall dawn on all those that now want to make us believe he is!

    By the way, how did Nigeria’s representative vote? A vote in support of this dastardly act is selling the ‘birth right’ of every qualified Nigerian to vie for the Presidency of CAF!

    • Osasu Obayiuwana says:

      Thanks for your comments and columns, which appeared in this week’s Nigerian national newspapers. Aminu Maigari, the president of the Nigerian Football Federation, the NFF, was one of the 44 federation/FA heads that voted in support of the change. I guess the people of Nigeria, to whom Aminu Maigari is supposedly accountable, will have to ask him why he cast his vote in the way that he did.

  3. Taiwo Francis says:

    This is a pure case of power drunkenness, where absolute power is use to maximize corruption, and at the same time manipulate human beings.

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