Issa Hayatou: When African Football Resists Democratic Wind of Change, By Jibrin Ibrahim
As we await the forthcoming CAF elections, Issa Hayatou should remember other African dictators who had been in power for very long and thought that they could rule forever. He should remember Yahya Jammeh of the Gambia, Blaise Compaore of Burkina Faso, Abdoulaye Wade of Senegal, Tandja of Niger and Gbagbo of Cote d’Ivoire.
Issa Hayatou, the permanent dictator of African football has been in power and absolute control since 1988. The Cameroonian was re-elected unopposed during the last Confederation of African Football (CAF) presidential elections in 2013. Before changing his mind and contesting in 2013, he had earlier promised he would not contest. Not only did he contest and win, he ensued that all those “plotting” to contest against him were thrown out of the organisation.
The CAF President and permanent dictator of African football is now 70 years old. To ensure he remains on the seat, he changed the rule barring people over 70 years old from holding office in 2015. He is now ready again to rule CAF until at least 2021, if he wins the forthcoming election. It is interesting that although CAF has changed its Constitution and made a provision that the maximum number of terms in office for any president will now be limited to three, and he has had eight terms, he insists on remaining in power. The dictator however decided that this new provision would only come into effect in 2021. His main reason for remaining in power is that his 29 years at the helm of CAF has not been enough to carry out all the reforms he feels are necessary to improve African football. It is what all-African dictators before him have said; that they need more time to fulfil their great mission, and, of course, no one else is considered good enough to carry these out, as well as themselves.
A certain Ahmad Ahmad from Madagascar has however said he does not believe that only Hayatou can run African football. He has therefore come out to contest against Issa Hayatou in the March 16, 2017 CAF elections. Ahmad is the president of the Malagasy Football Federation. In an immediate reprisal attack, Madagascar was stripped of the hosting right for the 2017 U-17 Nations Cup after the Executive Committee met in Libreville, Gabon a week ago. CAF gave no reason for this strange and arbitrary action.
There are indications that the new FIFA president, Gianni Infantino is fed up with the unending Hayatou dictatorship and is providing support for the Ahmad bid. The 29-year dictatorship of Issa Hayatou may therefore end next month. COSAFA, the Council of Southern Africa Football Associations has decided to back Madagascar’s Ahmad. FIFA President, Infantino, in an apparent action to back the bid, has invited 20 African football association presidents to a summit in Johannesburg next week on youth and women’s football. President Issa Hayatou has not been invited to the event. This is to be followed by a one-day meeting in Harare on February 24, which is organised by the new COSAFA president, Philip Chiyangwa‚ who is one of the strong supporters of Ahmad. In a desperate move, Hayatou has warned that no region has the right to invite football leaders from other regions to meetings without going through CAF. He is threatening to sanction them. Observers are perplexed that Hayatou is incapable of understanding the wind of change in international football, leading to the removal of old and corrupt leadership. In response, the organisers are reported to be calling their meetings informal celebrations to celebrate the host, Chiyangwa’s 58-birthday ceremony. This move is to avoid Hayatou’s sanctions, which in the past had led to the suspension of contenders who had dared to seek to stand against him.
Hayatou’s strength has been reported to be his success in spreading the fruits of corruption within the leadership of CAF. Would the fall of his erstwhile master, the disgraced Blatter provide conditions for a similar transition in African football, is the question? Meanwhile, all eyes are on Nigeria’s NFF president, Amaju Melvin Pinnick to see which side he will be on.
The IOC blamed Issa Hayatou in December 2011, after being implicated in a corruption case in connection with FIFA’s former International Sport and Leisure (ISL) marketing agency. Last January, the Egyptian Competition Authority referred Hayatou to prosecutors on suspected corruption in the award of broadcast rights to the Lagadere Sports Media Company without due process. Hayatou’s strength has been reported to be his success in spreading the fruits of corruption within the leadership of CAF. Would the fall of his erstwhile master, the disgraced Blatter provide conditions for a similar transition in African football, is the question? Meanwhile, all eyes are on Nigeria’s NFF president, Amaju Melvin Pinnick to see which side he will be on.
For too long, FIFA and football administration at the global, continental and national levels have been one of the most illuminating case studies of the subversion of democratic accountability. It took a titanic struggle to remove Sepp Blatter from the FIFA Presidency. Blatter, like Hayatou, had through the years removed all those who tried to contest against him in 1998, 2002, 2007, 2011 and 2015 en route to being president for life until the Americans messed him up. Through the years, those who have tried to contest his power have found themselves excluded or marginalised one way or anther. In as many countries and continental federations as possible, he had succeeded in reproducing this tradition of mafia executives who cannot be removed.
As we await the forthcoming CAF elections, Issa Hayatou should remember other African dictators who had been in power for very long and thought that they could rule forever. He should remember Yahya Jammeh of the Gambia, Blaise Compaore of Burkina Faso, Abdoulaye Wade of Senegal, Tandja of Niger and Gbagbo of Cote d’Ivoire. In Congo, Congo DRC, Burundi, Rwanda etc., other presidents are today trying to ensure they rule forever. Their prayer everyday is that they will succeed in remaining in power forever, after all their citizens are only fans busy watching European football. They believe that in the end, no one cares about African football, so they can run it forever, enjoying the huge revenues that now accrue to African football through the world system. Maybe, just maybe, African fans of European football should start looking at what is happening to African football, which is being underdeveloped by its leaders.