Two years ago I advised former FIFA president, Mr Joseph Sepp Blatter, not to re-contest for the seat after holding the office for 16 years. The voice of an ordinary former football player from Africa was too small to influence his decision to hold on to the most powerful office in the world with all its perks and immunity.
He went ahead and contested, won the elections but, ‘lost it’ after only a few days in office, as he was made to face the most humiliating period of his life following charges of financial impropriety that consumed him as well as the organization he headed in an unprecedented corruption scandal that his omnipotent office could not shake off despite the absolute power that he commanded and that had kept him in office and had given him immunity against any form of interrogation, inquest, investigation or prosecution!
Unfortunately, the elements took sides and conspired against him. Today Sepp Blatter is remembered more for the reasons for his fall from the top of FIFA than for all his good works through the years as president.
In the course of sending my humble advise to Sepp Blatter I also extended a similar one to Issa Hayatou, the Cameroonian president of the Confederation of African Football, CAF, who was at the time busy putting in place amended rules that would ensure he could continue as CAF president if he chooses to contest when the elections for that office comes up in 2017.
Issa had held the office of CAF president for 26 years at the time.
Knowing the penchant for African political leaders to remain in office forever, and seeing how Issa was following in those footsteps within CAF, I admonished African football federation presidents to ‘save’ him from himself and stop him from contesting for another term of 4 years.
Well, it appears that my humble advice may not be heeded after all.
In the media grapevine, there are stories flying around that some foot soldiers are already combing the boardrooms of football federations in Africa in search of support for Issa’s return early next year to contest once more as president of CAF.
I do not want to believe that Issa may be the puppeteer in this grand scheme even though there is no smoke without fire.
Phase one of the plot was perfectly executed two years ago at the CAF General Assembly. It was the amendment of the statutes that once put the age limit at 70 for eligibility to contest for the CAF presidency. The age limit was removed from the statutes. The alteration was unanimously approved.
It became very suspicious that it was all Issa’s scripted plot. He will turn 70 on August 9, 2016, and this amendment will now make him eligible to contest. It had to be altered to accommodate him.
To further ensure his return another rule was introduced making only members of the Executive Committee of CAF eligible to contest for the Presidency.
Without question those amendments were designed to fit the scripted plot that would give Issa leeway to return as CAF president for another 4 years should he choose to contest.
I am wondering now what exactly Issa would want to achieve by choosing to remain in office for another 4 years with the challenges of his rather precarious health, his promise to make the last election his last, and the fallouts from FIFA’s recent travails under Sepp Blatter to consider.
Issa’s health is failing. For several years now it is known that he has suffered health challenges that have slowed him down to ‘crawling’ levels.
At almost 70, he looks ten years older and very frail.
Secondly, it is unlikely he can pass any form of scrutiny over his affairs in CAF, in FIFA and in the IOC. Several allegations still hang over him.
Incidentally, he does not appear to have prepared anyone to succeed him. At a point in the past, everyone thought his close fraternization with Nigeria’s Amos Adamu was an indication that a successor had been found and that Amos was being groomed.
Unfortunately, the very ambitious Adamu was caught in the web of one of FIFA’s numerous financial scandals and swept away. Since his global suspension from football matters, he has been marooned on the island of regret.
When Amos Adamu recently raised his voice to publicly campaign against my candidacy to contest for the office of FIFA president last year, he was quickly reminded by FIFA of his status and warned to keep off any football matters. Since then he has gone into hibernation!
So, with no apparent successor in the horizon, Issa Hayatou is been prepared by his numerous friends in and around CAF to contest again and keep them in the corridor of African football enjoying the perks that being friends with the CAF president guarantees, particularly appointments into CAF committees and events.
That’s what is looming. The rumour mill is filled with hints that phase two of the grand scheme has started.
My admonition is this: Issa has served African football well and long enough for him to retire a fulfilled and very happy man. With his appointment as Acting President of FIFA last September to supervise the elections that brought in the body’s new president, Gianni Infantino, he has carved a niche for himself as the first and only African to occupy that position in history.
He should be contented with that and graciously pass on the CAF baton. He should not bequeath a legacy of self-perpetuation in the office to the next generation. He should learn from Sepp Blatter’s travails to leave office when the ovation of his achievements is still loud.
Beyond what Issa does or does not do, other presidents of football federations in Africa must wake up and do the needful – identify, support and elect a new leader with the right credentials in qualification, vision and integrity to guide the confederation through the storm of change blowing through football’s global administration.
Issa can also do well by introducing reforms into CAF by leaving the body with statutes that will install a truly free, equitable and transparent process of elections that will attract qualified and interested stakeholders to participate in electing the best candidate in the continent.
That should be his crowning legacy to African football administration.