If you believe this write-up, you will believe anything.
Excuse my lack of the facts on the matter because, since Issa Hayatou lost his seat as president of the Confederation of African football CAF, I lost my appetite for the politics in African football. With his exit, my 10 years struggle against self-succession and perpetuation in office by Issa that lasted almost 3 decades came to an end. I had vigorously campaigned against both Sepp Blatter and Issa Hayatou because I strongly believed that their endless stay in office was fueling deep corruption in both FIFA and CAF. Corruption became a scourge that infected all of football as events in recent years now show with the levels of scandals around the world. Even in Local Government Football councils, State associations and national federations in Africa, it became the norm that leaders wanted to remain in office and to milk the system forever. So, with Issa and Blatter gone and my primary mission accomplished, I retired into my other narrow interests and did not follow football politics as I used to, until now!
Now, unbelievable drama is playing out in Egypt within CAF on the eve of the 32ndedition of the African Cup of Nations. It is mindboggling. Issa Hayatou must be chuckling in amusement in his home in Yaounde, Cameroon, at the level CAF has sunk after his exit. To think that CAF have actually invited FIFA to come and take over its operations for an interim period of 6 months to enable the equally inexperienced FIFA to reform it, is humiliating and preposterous! It is like asking Africa’s colonialists to return to Africa and run their former colonies again for a short while because the people are unable to provide good governance for themselves. Reading through the reports from Cairo makes me feel like asking CAF members to go back and apologizing to Issa and possibly beg him to come back.
For over 10 years I was so vocal in criticizing Issa that he angrily and unceremoniously removed me one day as a member of the Players Committee of CAF, a position he had offered me for 6 years without any solicitation or recommendation by the Nigeria Football Association. That’s how vindictive he became against all those that did not openly show absolute loyalty to him. So, CAF under Issa became a racket, a secret organization whose inner workings were known only to a caucus, until Issa lost out in his power struggle with Giovanni Infantino for the soul of world football. Issa did not support Infantino’s bid for the FIFA presidency. He supported another contestant. Unfortunately for him, several of his loyalists in CAF turned against him and supported Infantino to become FIFA President. This ‘rebellious’ group of federation presidents of over 30 African football federations, forged into a powerful unit with Nigeria’s Amaju Pinnick as one of the arrowheads. One of the members also was a certain Ahmad Ahmad from Madagascar, the man who would eventually be chosen to contest against Issa. This group helped install Infantino and he is forever demonstrating his gratitude at every opportunity since then. That’s what he did when it was time to halt the Issa Hayatou dictatorship. Infantino supported this same group and they did the damage. With Infantino’s full support they rallied around the most harmless contestant, the only one brave enough to indicate that he would contest against Issa, Ahmad Ahmad, and were guaranteed exalted places in a new CAF. That’s my theory now, that the plot was hatched and effectively executed. And that the only aspect unknown to Infantino about the plot must have been that there was a secondary plot. To the leaders of the CAF group, Ahmad was only a stop-gap, a pawn on the chess board, a lame duck, a decoy to hide their main objective – the CAF Presidency. A few of the key players were also eyeing the CAF presidency themselves, including, I suspect, the federation presidents of Ghana and Nigeria. Ahmad, without any solid grounding in African football administration, and with his country not amongst the giants of African football, was used as a sacrificial lamb to challenge and to humiliate Issa. The plan would have been that a weak Ahmad would be so bad as an administrator, or so weak politically that he would serve a single term and be easily defeated in the very next elections by any one of the ‘players’ waiting patiently and strategically on the ‘substitutes’ bench.
All of that was the plan in my conspiracy theory analysis.
Now there is a reality playing out in Cairo. It was never going to be easy to remove a president that has tasted power and known its ‘sweetness’. It will not be easy with Ahmad even as sins mount: he pulled the tiger by the tail when he sacked Amry Fahmy, a member of one of the most powerful football families in Egypt involved with CAF for almost as long as the organization has existed; he has been luxuriating and living on the fast lane with newly purchased expensive cars for his personal use; he allegedly sexually harassed a female exco member from Mali, Mariam Diakite; he is being investigated by Swiss authorities for a reported financial fraud in a deal with a sports manufacturer; under his watch the final match of the 2019 African Club Championship has deteriorated into a sham without a possible acceptable end to either of the two teams, demonstrating CAF’s gross incompetency in organization; and others. These charges, true or not, have become a big baggage for Ahmad. They have revealed how weak a president he is. This past few days the latest twist to the tale has been introduced. It has left most of Africa in shock and perplexity – CAF’s invitation of FIFA to intervene by taking over most of its operations.
Infantino is not aware of this secondary plot. His main concern will now be how to justify supporting a man with such little administrative capacity, character and experience. He must have chosen now to do what he can to save Ahmad by intervening directly. If he knew of a plan to oust the man after one term he would not have sold or bought the idea of inviting FIFA to take over the operations of an independent organization that is not affiliated to it. What is going on now in Egypt is the execution of Infantino’s redemption plan – sending Fatma Samora, FIFA General Secretary, with a fancy new title that has no meaning to Cairo to save CAF.
Three things cross my mind as this drama in Cairo continues to unfold. The first has to do with Samora. I hope that this will not mark Samora’s gradual replacement as FIFA General Secretary when all this settles.
The second is what would happen should the federation presidents refuse to approve the Executive Committee’s decision to invite FIFA.
The third is this: who will replace Ahmad should this plot thicken enough to see his ouster as President of CAF? This must be the weakest CAF exco in the 62 year-history of CAF.