Ahmad versus Hayatou: CAF Presidency at stake. Who wins?
*New Generation against the Old Order
*The hands of FIFA in African football
By Olajide Fashikun
Politics of age in FIFA: By ordinary practise, Hayatou would have been retired in 2015 but some folks went on to make FIFA lift the lid of football leadership beyond the 70 years age limit for its presidents. It was done to make sitting President, Joseph Sepp Blatter gain from the rule. CAF followed suit and Hayatou, who had planned to hand over to Dr Amos Adamu changed his mind.
By then, Adamu had been caught in the web and suspended for three years. That way, Hayatou returned and took the mantle of leadership he left for Patel. He then contested again for the seventh term, with the assurance that this 8th term would be his last.
Tsunami in FIFA: Unfortunately for Hayatou, his fellow henchmen in FIFA, President Sepp Blatter and Vice President Jack Warner had been swept out of office following corruption charges and a new man, Gianni Infantino, whose election he worked against, came on Board.
Infantino, a new breed and younger administrator felt he wanted his own team and generation and not to operate with weakened bones, in FIFA, made his first surprise appointment of a woman and an African, Fatma Samba Diouf Samoura from Senegal, the first in the history of FIFA, as Secretary General of the world football governing body.
As at the time of her appointment, Samoura, 54, was working as the UN’s Resident/Humanitarian Co-ordinator and UNDP Resident representative in Nigeria.
Tweaking the rule for just one man: At the sixth and seventh terms of Issa Hayatou, he ensured that the rules were tweaked to make only him be the sole candidate. By the Statutes of CAF only members of the Executive Committee can vie for the position of president.
With every Executive Committee member as Hayatou’s man and who may have benefited from CAF politics of patronage, none of them would nor challenged Hayatou.
Birth of the Ahmadian renegades: With the troubles at home arising from the warped electoral process that produced him, as soon as Infantino picked Fatma Samoura, the factional NFF leadership rushed in to cement a relationship with her right there in Abuja before she resumed in Zurich.
When he needed his sagging rating to be buoyed, Pinnick organised a costly gambit, brought Infantino to Nigeria and got some political scores. That done, 17 FA Presidents were invited without Issa Hayatou. They formed the basis for the removal plot of Hayatou.
However, the Lugardian technology of Hayatou seems heavily threatened. The old divisive programme of Francophone nations aligning with the Arab nations to forge majority decisions as against the minor Anglophones got a massive blow with Fatma Samoura from Senegal.
That was when the election which the Team Hayatou would have thought that, as usual was going to be a walkover for him as the sole candidate that would be returned unopposed, got a rude shock.
Hayatou may have gone to sleep, lowering his guard. Given also that he has a record of sleeping even in public events. While he was sleeping, he didn’t know the plan of the new FIFA president Infantino.
Shockingly for Hayatou and his cronies, the President of the Madagascar Football Association, Ahmad Ahmad, threw and sustained his cap in the race, is challenging Hayatou to the seat.
Hayatou has never had it this bad. To make matters worse, Infantino did some diplomatic campaigns visiting in a hurry some African nations to underline the call for change.
Pinnick needed this gamble. Back home, he has had one of the longest port election crisis since 1945 when football started. Ambassador Chris Giwa dragged him to the Supreme Court. To show he has the FIFA headquarters, he organised a ban ceremony for Giwa’s folks. He is reputed to have donated another ban to Dr Amos Adamu.
His ‘enemies’ did not see this quick wit early. By the time Hayatou and his followers realised it, they came together under the CAF Club and petitioned the Nigerian minister of Youth and Sports Development, Barrister Solomon Dalung about Pinnick’s open declaration that Nigeria would vote Ahmad at the election.
Pinnick-led NFF was also infiltrated. After a stakeholders meeting with the NFF Executive Committee, the minister declared that the country would back Pinnick in his election for the CAF seat while also giving him the authority to vote, in Nigeria’s interest, for the CAF president. Obviously, Hayatou and his cronies lost in the battle.
Ahmad responded by a Nigerian campaign: Pinnick’s adversaries squinted and postulated why Nigeria should vote Hayatou and not Ahmad, claiming that they don’t even know the Malagasy citizen, Ahmad, asking for their vote.
He was accused that he had not visited Nigeria to campaign and ask for our vote. Pronto! Ahmad responded with his visit to Nigeria during the week where he reiterated his reasons for challenging Hayatou visiting some senior government officials.
Issa Hayatou says he respects Ahmad Ahmad’s decision: This is the first time that Hayatou is admitting a serious challenge. This is also coming after COSAFA endorsed Ahmad as their preferred candidate to contest for the position of CAF president during the elections in Addis Ababa next month.
Hayatou admitted in Tshwane saying “if (Ahmad) decided to be a candidate in the elections, it means he thinks he has some chances.”
The Cameroonian, who was elected unopposed during the last CAF presidential elections, says he is not doing any special preparations ahead of the vote. An admittance of confidence or hopelessness?
“I am not preparing particularly, I am a fair player,” said Hayatou.
Hayatou tenure is up or extended: Most delegates in the election are likely to look beyond the factors that used to determine football politics in Africa. With the handwriting of Infantino from FIFA headquarters, they may be seeing a new power base and thus, switch votes.
A pundit said, “in life, limit is inevitable, especially in matters of politics, where voting and being voted for is capable of terminating the powers of a particular incumbent and changing the brain behind any achievement. Sometimes, changing the brain behind the success of an activity might be the beginning of a new dawn since change is a progressive trend.
Hayatou credits, how far can it take? However, before a change is made, there is the tendency that a consideration of achievements of the change-subject is made.
Consequently, the achievements of the long-sitting President of the Confederation of African Football (CAF), Issa Hayatou, to the success story of the body today, cannot be underestimated. Hayatou, who became the fifth President of CAF in Casablanca, Morocco, in 1988, has overseen successful FIFA World Cup appearances of Senegal, Nigeria, and Cameroon, his home country, in particularly.
He pushed for African places in the finals of FIFA World Cup to increase from two to five, with the 2010 World Cup in South Africa seeing the hosts garner an automatic sixth spot for an African team. Also, he has presided over the bid and the organising committee for the 2010 games, the first in Africa.
The African Cup of Nations’ finals expanded from 8 to 16 teams, in a confederation of over 50 nations in six zones and five regional confederations. Club competitions have undergone a similar growth in both numbers and scale, with more clubs participating in the African Cup of Champions Clubs, the CAF Confederation Cup which begun in 2004 for national cup winners and high-placed league teams, the CAF Cup, and the CAF Super Cup.
Success outside men’s football include overseeing Youth, Women’s, Fustal and Beach soccer competitions, which has physically revealed that Issa Hayatou had really contributed to the success story of CAF.
Two distinct factors have propelled Hayatou’s eligibility to again stand for election. The first is the fact that there is no term limit for CAF’s presidency, unlike FIFA; which made Hayatou to be re-elected unopposed during the last CAF presidential elections in 2013 and another is the cancellation of age-limit for any CAF officials who has reached 70 to step down. The former has paved way for Hayatou, who turned 70 last year, to stand a chance in the upcoming election.
He is already CAF’s longest-serving ruler, having led the organisation for 29 years.
But will the Shakespearean Ides of March symbolically, the middle of March, the 16th day in Adis Ababa, retain Hayatou or replace him with Ahmad?
Nothing points out to the fact that the 29-year long CAF President will have a smooth ride. He has a formidable opposition in the head of Madagascar’s Football Association, Ahmad Ahmad, a member of the CAF Executive Committee.
21 nations’ behind Ahmad. Can Hayatou survive? The Ahmad pundits claim that more than 21 member countries have pledged their votes and loyalty to Ahmad with more countries weighing their options on both candidates. North Africans have not indicated where their votes would go, but feelers show that Ahmad would divide their votes because of a recent face-off with the 71-year-old Hayatou.
It no doubt that Council of Southern Africa Football Associations (COSAFA), which has 15 members are for Ahmad, as Nigeria, Ghana, Senegal, the Gambia, and Sierra Leone are openly and solidly supporting Ahmad.
Also, the closeness of FIFA President, Gianni Infantino and Secretary General, Fatma Samba Diouf Samoura to the “New Generation” who wants to topple the “Old order” would be another blow to the Hayatou camp.
CAF will be celebrating her 60th year anniversary during the election and whoever wins the election will be limited to a maximum of three terms in office after CAF amended its rules last year.
Only members of the organisation’s 15-man executive committee can contest the presidential election, but qualified Ahmad and Hayatou are set to go.
Historical path of CAF Presidency: Since the 10th of February, 1957 when the Confederation of African Football (CAF) was founded in Khartoum, Sudan till date, only seven people have been presidents of the body. Two of them were acting Presidents.
First president was Abdel Aziz Abdallah Salem from Egypt who was in power for just one year from 1957 to 1958. He was succeeded by another Egyptian, Abdul Aziz Moustafa, who reigned for 10 years from 1958 to 1968.
A Sudanese, Abdel Halim Muhammad took over in 1968 and was in power till 1972 when Ethiopia’s Yidkatchew Tessema who reigned for 15 years and died in office in 1987 succeeded him.
The first acting president recorded in CAF’s history was a former president himself, Abdel Halim Muhammad, who saw out the tenure of Tessema and handed over to Issa Hayatou from Cameroon in 1988. Hayatou has been president of CAF since that time except when he briefly allowed Sukelu Patel from Seychelles to act for him from 2015 to 2016. This could have been due to failing health and the 70 year ceiling placed on candidates for the position.