Issa Hayatou’s long reign has been ‘keeping good men down’; top enemies – Nigeria, South Africa, Egypt, Cote d’Ivoire, Ghana. In less than two months, the man who begged to be given a chance to “show what I can do” way back in 1988 will be standing for election for an incredible eighth term in office!
BY VOICE OF SPORT CORRESPONDENT
21:46 PM UTC January 30 2017
WHENEVER he decides to relinquish his iron grip on the headship of African football, Cameroonian Issa Hayatou will be remembered as one man who had the opportunity to write his name in the pantheon of heroes, but stubbornly took another route and lost the slot.
A former Cameroonian basketball player and 400m and 800m champion, Hayatou started as secretary of his country’s volleyball federation, before holding forth as General Secretary of FECAFOOT between 1974 and 1983. He was president of FECAFOOT between 1985 and 1988, when he won election into CAF presidency on the margins of the 16th Africa Cup of Nations in Morocco, following the death of the refined Ethiopian Ydnekatchew Tessema the previous year.
A journalist friend who was in Morocco to report the Africa Cup of Nations once told me how, apparently not knowing the Nigerian who had the voting right, the slim, tall former quarter miler simply solicited with every Nigerian he met!
On 10th March 1988, Africa’s football family opted for the young Cameroonian instead of the older and more experienced Dr Abdel Halim Mohammed (the Sudanese who served as second President of CAF between 1968 and 1972, and occupied the position in acting capacity following Tessema’s death from cancer on 19th August 1987).
After that stroke of fortune that catapulted him to fame and made him one of the most important football administrators in the world, Hayatou was expected to carry along those who made it possible, and groom persons who would eventually succeed him after a few terms in office. Instead, the lanky former basketball player has ‘travelled’ in administration (to use a basketball term), and has steadily become sit-tight, and then a tyrant of sorts, decimating all opposition in his way along the line.
In less than two months, the man who begged to be given a chance to “show what I can do” way back in 1988 will be standing for election for an incredible eighth term in office! If he wins in Addis Ababa on 16th March, Hayatou would be guaranteed at least 33 years at the helm of African football – a period at headship of international sport rivaled only by the great Frenchman Jules Rimet, who was president of FIFA between 1921 and 1954.
Even the inimitable Baron Pierre de Coubertin, who is regarded as the founder of the modern Olympics, served as the IOC President for 29 years, between 1896 and 1925. Hayatou has been a member of the FIFA Executive Committee (now FIFA Council) since 1990; FIFA Vice President since 1992; FIFA Senior Vice President since 2014; Acting FIFA President between October 2015 and February 2016; Member of the International Olympic Committee since 2001 and; Chairman of the Organizing Committee for the Olympic Games.
In August this year, he would be 71. What more does the man want?
In truth, it would be uncharitable to contend that Hayatou has not done well for African football in his 29 years in charge. He met the Africa Cup as an eight –nation competition; now it is a 16 –nation championship, with many people already mooting a 24 –team finals. He has expanded the world of African football, with the ‘world’ now truly in the World Cup after South Africa hosted in 2010, and reached out to corporate bodies and firms globally to boost the continent’s game.
Now, monies from TV rights have elevated CAF’s financial capacity generally and provided monies for the Member Associations and the Clubs involved in the CAF Champions League and CAF Confederation Cup. He has supervised a steady and commendable increase in revenue streams, expanding the dollar pot in the interest of the continental game.
In the whole of 29 years, it is no more than anyone could have done. Certainly, there are persons who could have achieved many more feats and broken greater grounds. Take for instance, Jean-Marie Faustin Godefroid Havelange (popularly known as Joao Havelange). The Brazilian (originally Belgian) met the FIFA World Cup as a 16 –team tournament and took it to a 32 –team championship, with Africa guaranteed five (5) slots as opposed to only 1 before him.
He also brought billions of dollars into FIFA through the sale of television rights for the World Cup, and created the FIFA U20 World Cup, FIFA U17 World Cup, FIFA Confederations Cup and FIFA Women’s World Cup. The junior tournaments were to help the less developed territories and it has worked wonders, with Nigeria winning five editions of the U17 World Cup and reaching the final of the U20 championship twice.
However, a most awful trait of his odyssey in administration has been a tendency to scheme and plot, and whittle down (brutally if necessary) any form of dissent alongside the dissenter. Not unlike, in the manner of the storied African dictators who litter all corners of the continent, including his own Cameroon.
Issa Hayatou’s political taste should have been clear for all to see all along: His choice of host nations for the Africa Cup of Nations has been enough indication. Check out: Algeria (1990), where Chadli Bendjedid ruled between 1979 and 1992; Senegal (1992), where Abdou Diouf ruled between 1981 and 2000 after serving as Prime Minister between 1970 and 1980; Tunisia (1994 and 2004), where Zinedine Ben Ali ruled between 1987 and 2011; Burkina Faso (1998), where Blaise Compaore betrayed a friend (Thomas Sankara) and then ruled between 1987 and 2014; Egypt (2006) which Hosni Mubarak ruled with a tight fist between 1981 and 2011; Angola (2010), where Eduardo dos Santos has been leader since September 1979; Gabon (2012 and 2017), ruled by Omar Bongo between 1967 and 2009 and since then by his first son, Ali; Equatorial Guinea (co-host in 2012 and host in 2015), where Teodoro Obiang Nguema Mbasogo has been President since 1979 after ousting his uncle (Francisco Macias Nguema).
The 2019 edition will go to Hayatou’s Cameroon, where Paul Biya has been President since November 1982, after serving as Prime Minister between 1975 and 1982. So much love for despots! While Hayatou has somehow evaded burdening his country with the responsibility of hosting even continental championships (before hosting the Africa Women Cup of Nations in 2016, Cameroon had not staged any African competition since the 1972 Africa Cup of Nations), the man has been smart enough to get Nigeria, South Africa and Egypt to take the burdens of even global competitions, to his own credit.
In the period that Hayatou has been in office, Nigeria has hosted the FIFA U20 World Cup (1999), FIFA U17 World Cup (2009) and co-hosted the Africa Cup of Nations with Ghana (2000). Egypt has hosted the FIFA U20 World Cup (2009), the FIFA U17 World Cup (1997) and the Africa Cup of Nations (2006). South Africa, not initially in his plans to host the 1996 finals but which was politically correct after the abolition of apartheid and the enthronement of multi –racial democracy, has also since then hosted the FIFA World Cup (2010) and the Africa Cup (2013).
Yet, Hayatou has refused to brook any form of opposition, or even encourage promising individuals (with proven capacity) from these territories that bail CAF out of precarious situation most of the time. Pray, why was it difficult for Hayatou to get the respected Nigerian, Patrick Okpomo, into the CAF Executive Committee before his death? Most of his contemporaries knew Okpomo to be highly versed in administration, and a good man to boot. In his days as Secretary of FECAFOOT, Hayatou was at the Nigeria FA to understudy Okpomo. But he never remembered or rewarded that!
The only Nigerian who made the Executive Committee before Amos Adamu was Oyo Orok Oyo (of blessed memory), who was on the board before Hayatou came into office. Even Adamu, who had built a reputation in Nigeria (being sole administrator of the FA when Nigeria first qualified for the FIFA World Cup, Director of Organization for the FIFA U20 World Cup 1999, played a key role in Nigeria’s football development as Director of Sports Development and as chief organizer of the 8th All-Africa Games), had to sweat hard before winning Hayatou’s confidence.
Even at that, it was said then that Hayatou preferred the pliant look of the Nigerian to the rebellious tendencies of the Ghanaian legend, Abedi Pele, who also wanted the available West Africa seat. Having said that, the story would be told one day of how Adamu was actually sacrificed, because the anti-corruption dragnet was heading decidedly towards Hayatou!
Whatever Egypt has been able to get in CAF is due largely to the fact that the headquarters of the organization is in that country. And pray, why has Hayatou consistently blocked the brilliant South African administrator, Dr. Danny Jordaan from the CAF Executive Committee?
Jordaan traveled the world twice to get South Africa to host the FIFA World Cup, putting his intellect and human and material resource management to stern test. He emerged with full marks. People who are versed, highly educated and fearless to express their views can never enter Hayatou’s ‘kitchen cabinet’.
“He cannot be trusted,” Hayatou has been heard to say of such people. Why would he trust a Jordaan, a former university lecturer, anti-apartheid campaigner and parliamentarian? People from Nigeria, South Africa, Egypt, Cote d’Ivoire, Ghana and such territories should be kept out of the suite, which appears to be his policy.
Why would he trust an Ibrahim Galadima (a former Nigeria FA chairman who stood for the FIFA Executive Committee seat in 2011) or trust Aminu Maigari (who as Nigeria FA boss, stood for election into CAF Executive Committee in 2013)? People want to know who plotted the political decimation of Ivorian Jacques Anouma, who dared to openly challenge him for the presidency.
It was said that the provision hastily smuggled into the Statutes (to the effect that only members of the CAF Executive Committee can vie for the CAF presidency) was meant to stop Anouma and Jordaan – and those forever-ambitious Nigerians! – from getting ideas. Even Mohamed Raouraoua, who moved a motion that has prolonged Hayatou’s reign, was dealt a cruel hand when he appeared to be ‘going a little to the left’.
The Algerian saw the handwriting on the wall and refused to stand for re-election into the FIFA Council. And when a certain Malagasy by the funny name of Ahmad Ahmad confirmed he would challenge Hayatou for the presidency in Ethiopia in March 2017, it was time to take the hosting right of U17 Cup of Nations away from his Madagascar!
Yet, he likes the markets in these territories because of the money they generate. A few years ago, CAF made a regulation that monies generated from TV rights for broadcast of qualifying matches should go into one pot, then shared equitably by all the Member Associations. Of course, it is no rocket science that the bulk of what goes into the pot comes from Nigeria, South Africa and Egypt, and not from Hayatou’s Cameroon, Somalia, Comoros, Guinea Bissau, Cape Verde or Sao Tome e Principe.
How many people remember that South Africa joined FIFA way back before World War I, and was a founding member of CAF – ejected only as a result of apartheid policy? Yet, the Francophone territories have been better favoured, by far, by Hayatou.
Even the broadcast rights to African championships have been handed to companies from only Francophone nations now and again (SportFive, Canal Plus, Lagarderie et cetera) His best friends have been Seyi Memene, Almamy Kabele Camara, Adoum Djibrine, Amadou Diakite, Anjorin Moucharaf, Farah Addo (of blessed memory).
Please, don’t get those Nigerians or South Africans close to me! On the field of play, there have been controversies. In 1988, only a few days in office, Mauritanian referee Idrissa Sarr as Nigeria encountered Cameroon in the Africa Cup of Nations final in Casablanca.
Sarr disallowed a marvelous Henry Nwosu goal and awarded the Lions a soft penalty converted by Emmanuel Kunde. In 2000, Tunisian referee Mourad Daami could not see that Victor Ikpeba’s penalty crossed the goal line in the final between Nigeria and Cameroon in Lagos. Fast forward to the present.
The moment Hayatou got hint that one Nigerian by the name Amaju Pinnick (incidentally a nephew of Patrick Okpomo) was interested in becoming a member of CAF Executive Committee, he sent out signals that ‘Nigeria is now enemy FA!’ What are the chances of Amaju Pinnick? Considering the role of ‘Big Brother’ that Nigeria has continued to play in the African continent, she definitely deserves a seat on the Executive Committee of CAF. On the field of play, Nigeria has won the Africa Cup of Nations three (3) times, finished as runner-up four (4) times and picked the bronze seven (7) times, out of a combined 17 appearances. In 17 appearances, Nigeria has won medals in 14.
No other country has this success/impact percentage! Also on the continent, Nigeria has won 8 of 10 editions of the Africa Women Cup of Nations, won the Africa U23 Cup of Nations, won seven editions of the Africa U20 Cup of Nations, won the Africa U17 Cup of Nations, won the Africa Beach Soccer Cup of Nations twice and is Africa’s perennial flag-bearer at the FIFA U20 Women’s World Cup and FIFA U17 Women’s World Cup competitions. Globally, Nigeria has won the Olympic football gold (1996, first African country to do so), won the U17 World Cup five (5) times, won the U20 World Cup silver twice, participated at the FIFA World Cup five (5) times (reaching the Round of 16 three times), won Olympic silver (2008), won U17 World Cup silver three times and made impact at the FIFA Beach Soccer World Cup. Nigeria has hosted the FIFA U20 World Cup, FIFA U17 World Cup, the Africa Cup of Nations, the Africa Women Cup of Nations (thrice) and the Africa U20 Cup of Nations.
Elsewhere, Nigeria played a huge role in erasing apartheid South Africa from the world of sports, was at the front-line to work out that country’s re-admittance into sports conditional on eliminating apartheid policy (God bless the souls of Abraham Ordia and Henry Edmund Olufemi Adefope) and has led peacekeeping forces in Liberia and Sudan, and has never been found wanting in joint efforts at sustaining sanity (as seen recently in The Gambia).
By all means, Nigeria is more deserving of a place on the CAF Executive Committee than Hayatou’s Cameroon, Mali, Zambia, Tanzania, Seychelles, Guinea, Chad, Benin Republic, Madagsacar and Burundi all aggregated together. No hyperbole. Nigerians should rise up and get behind the NFF President, Amaju Pinnick because this is a Nigerian Project.
Certainly, the NFF President has his failings, like any human being, but there is the need for a Nigerian in the CAF Executive Committee (since Adamu was ejected in 2010), and the young man from Delta State has the brightest chance. His opponent is Anjorin Moucharaf, for whom Hayatou threw hurdles in Maigari’s path, and for whom the Cameroonian is now building a wall against Pinnick.
Nigeria can win this, but only if we all come together and say a big ‘No’ to intimidation. How can anyone compare Nigeria’s robust contributions to the sustenance of the African fabric with those of Benin Republic?
The advantage this time, is that Hayatou has lost the shine at football’s high table. When Gianni Infantino came, he extended a hand to Hayatou (and to all the African FA chiefs who did not vote for him), but the former athlete scorned him. Sources have confirmed that Infantino has moved on. None of the names suggested by Hayatou for FIFA’s new committees made any of the final lists!
Come 16th March in Addis Ababa, it is Nigeria’s race to lose. We MUST not.
CAF PRESIDENTS IN 60 YEARS:
Abdel Aziz Abdallah Salem – (Egypt, 1957-1958)
Abdel Aziz Mostafa – (Egypt, 1958-1968)
Abdel Halim Mohamed – (Sudan, 1968-1972)
Ydnekatchew Tessema – (Ethiopian, 1972-1987)
Abdel Halim Mohamed – (Sudan, acting 1987-1988)
Issa Hayatou – (Cameroon1988)
– Reporting by [Nigeria] Vanguard