Until Tuesday, Issa Hayatou, in his 25th year as president of the Confederation of African Football (CAF), was, at least in theory, at risk of being at the end of an unfavourable decision, from the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) in Lausanne, which could have stood in the way of getting another four-year term in office, that would take the Cameroonian’s tenure to a near 30-year stretch.
No longer. With CAS ruling that the case brought by Ivorian Jacques Anouma, the FIFA executive committee member – who wanted to challenge Hayatou at next Sunday’s election – lacked merit, the continental fraternity is guaranteed a coronation at the Palais De Congres in Marrakech.
Anouma, who sat on the CAF executive committee, as an ex-officio member, courtesy of his FIFA position, “had never been a member the CAF Executive Committee,” CAS says.
This ruling also means Egypt’s Hani Abou Rida and Burundi’s Lydia Nsekera, two other FIFA exco members that participate in CAF executive committee meetings, but cannot vote, have no legal standing within the CAF executive committee.
The only FIFA executive committee member that is the exception to this rule is Mohamed Raouraoua, the president of the Algerian Football Federation, who was separately elected to the CAF executive committee.
“The current situation in Africa is really a strange one,” said an Anouma aide, following CAS’s ruling.
“It is only in Africa, it appears, that members of the FIFA executive committee are not regarded as members of the executive committee of their continental federations.”
There is certainly merit in his argument.
CAF, for several years, had publicly described and acknowledged FIFA executive committee members that attended executive committee meetings as being its “ex-officio” members.
An “ex-officio” is legally defined as a member of a body (a board, committee, council, etc.) who is part of it by virtue of holding another office – the legal logic, of course, being that he or she is an integral part of it.
The Latin term, meaning literally “from the office”, and the sense intended is “by right of office”, dates its use back to the Roman Republic.
But the ruling of CAS, which states “Anouma did not meet these [presidential election] criteria, because he had never been a member the CAF Executive Committee,” has certainly sounded the death knell for the long-established precedent.
Knowing he has come to the end of the legal road, Anouma’s acknowledgement of defeat was particularly sombre, even with his parting warning shot.
“…Despite our great disappointment [about the CAS verdict], our determination to make a real change in the management of African football remains intact… We remain convinced that despite everything, a new vision for African football is more necessary than ever,” he said.
In the meantime, the battle for other CAF executive committee places, are expected to be particularly fierce, especially in the Western and Southern African regions.
After his inability to win a place on the CAF and FIFA executive committees, at the 2011 CAF elective congress in Khartoum, Sudan, Danny Jordaan, the CEO of the 2010 World Cup Organising Committee and vice-president of the South African Football Association (SAFA), is going for a second shot at winning one of the Southern African regional seats on the CAF board.
But with six candidates, including Seychelles Suketu Patel, CAF’s first vice-president, in the contest, there is no easy route to the top.
And the fact that Molefi Oliphant, the former SAFA president, currently sitting on the executive committee as a co-opted member, would be forced to step down (no country is allowed to have more than one person on the CAF executive committee) , will hardly ensure that the support from his national base is secure.
Furthermore, internal divisions within COSAFA, the Southern African regional body, are deep and longstanding.
And the same applies to WAFU, the West African Football Union.
The decision of Mali’s Amadou Diakite, the disgraced former FIFA executive committee member, to stand for one of two available regional seats, following the expiration of his FIFA ban last year, has certainly sent tongues wagging, not least in his home country.
It is expected that Augustin Senghor, the straight-talking and blunt president of the Senegal Football Federation, gradually earning a reputation as being one of the ‘new-breed’ leaders that African football needs, will offer strong opposition.
And Nigeria, the continental kings on the pitch, after their victorious run at the just-concluded Cup of Nations in South Africa, also hope to make their return to the corridors of political power in Cairo.
Should Aminu Maigari, president of the Nigeria Football Federation defeat his two opponents – Benin’s Anjorin Moucharafou (a known acolyte of Hayatou) and Niger’s Hima Souley – it will mark the return of Africa’s most populous country to the CAF board since 2010.
Amos Adamu, the former Nigerian CAF and FIFA exco member, was banned from all “football activities” following the expose of the Sunday Times of London, who filmed him accepting a bribe in exchange for his vote for the 2018/2022 World Cup host. His ban does not expire until late this year.
But the biggest question for CAF, which the forthcoming congress cannot answer, will be what happens in the A.H (After Hayatou) years.
Hayatou will, by CAF statutes (assuming they are not subsequently altered), be compelled to step down from his position in 2016, on attaining the retirement age of 70, even with one year of his tenure unspent.
Those with their eyes on the presidency are looking forward to that milestone, when they can freely express their ambitions, which, for now, are only uttered in hushed tones.
Until then, the wily Cameroonian rules the roost.
Osasu Obayiuwana, a lawyer and BBC broadcaster, as well as the Associate Editor of NewAfrican magazine, is one of African football’s leading journalists, whose regular commentary on the state of the continental game can also be read at footballisafrica.com. Osasu will be reporting all the news from the CAF Congress in Marrakech for insideworldfootball.com, starting Friday March 8. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org