A sad, very disturbing, fact remains constant, over the decades I’ve covered the African game, which is fuelling my deepening pessimism about its future – the ruthless cultivation of a reactionary climate that is extremely hostile to the desperately needed transformation of CAF, the continent’s governing body, into an organisation that will finally command the genuine respect of the global fraternity and use its political capital in the interests of those it ought to primarily serve.
If anything can be taken away from its last congress in Cairo, it is obvious that the CAF political machine remains in the grip of the malevolent, who are determined to ensure that its bad old ways continue. A new dawn seems to be a very distant, if not impossible, prospect. It is a disheartening situation for those who seek the enthronement of good governance.
When a rule in CAF’s statute books for several years – the 70-year age limit for sitting on its executive committee – is wilfully changed, primarily for the benefit of its incumbent president, who is obviously keen to remain in office beyond 2017, when that longstanding regulation would have barred him from seeking a further term, it is indicative that the naked pursuit of self-interest reigns supreme.
With his 27-year reign as CAF president, unparalleled in the organisation’s history, Issa Hayatou is guaranteed a free run at the next CAF presidential poll, which could see him reach a 33-year milestone as head of the body, as the Cameroonian would have spent 29 years in power when the next election is due. The ‘sit-tight syndrome’ is alive and well.
And just in case the rest of the world has forgotten, only elected members of the CAF executive committee are eligible to contest the presidency, courtesy of a September 2012 rule change, at its extraordinary congress in the Seychelles.
Anyone expecting a CAF exco member to grow a pair of balls (pardon the pun) and mount a presidential challenge in 2017 might as well convince themselves that Qatar will win the World Cup in 2022. It’s a more realistic prospect.
That rule change in the Seychelles ensured that the bid of Ivorian Jacques Anouma, only an ex-officio member of CAF at the time, by virtue of his FIFA executive committee position, was ended and ensured Hayatou heartily celebrated his presidential silver jubilee in Morocco two years ago.
But as Anouma realised, ahead of the Cairo poll, seeking the CAF presidency was to exact an even higher price, losing his FIFA exco seat to Omari Constant, the president of the DR Congo Federation, who beat him resoundingly in the contest for the two FIFA positions contested at the congress. How Anouma will remain a relevant force in the business of the African game, following this defeat, remains to be seen.
Algeria’s Mohamed Raouraoua opted not to seek another four-year term on the FIFA exco, as it was an open secret that poor relations with CAF’s power brokers had guaranteed he would be humiliated at the Cairo polls, providing the opportunity for Tunisia’s Tarek Bouachamoui, a longstanding political associate of Hayatou, to take up his slot, obtaining the vote of every federation at the Cairo poll.
In contrast to the contest for the FIFA executive positions, the rest of the elective congress was a coronation. Every member of the CAF executive committee up for re-election, having done their work in the back-rooms and, most importantly, remaining in the good graces of the president, ensured they were returned to their positions unopposed.
Whilst I – or any other observer of African football affairs – are well within our rights to be scathing about the behaviour of many of those at the CAF top table, I’m just as dismayed about the electors – the FA/Federation presidents, who make up the General Assembly.
The manner in which they were clearly ‘whipped’ to vote – or not to vote – in line with the wishes of CAF potentates, clearly exposes their lack of courage or the absence of a moral spine, to act in the game’s best interests.
This being the longstanding manner in which the business of African football has been conducted, one would think my fury and dismay should be tempered by years of experience, having witnessed a repetition of the outrageous, the outrightly corrupt and the comedic over many CAF congresses.
But it hasn’t. And the moment it does, I know my days as a chronicler of African football’s comings and goings are well and truly over.
It would be very convenient, for those who thrive in the malaise of the African game, to see the few pesky reporters and columnists – who call them out on their misconduct and insist on a better quality of governance – get completely fed up with the never ending mess and quit reporting on their (mis)conduct, while they continue to have a field day.
But as dismayed and admittedly wary as I may be, as I continually ponder if Africa’s football leaders will ever see the errors of their ways, I’m not going anywhere just yet.
Osasu Obayiuwana, a lawyer and BBC broadcaster, as well as the Associate Editor of NewAfrican magazine, is one of the world’s leading journalists on African football. His regular commentary on the state of the African game can also be read at footballisafrica.com. Contact him firstname.lastname@example.org.
Osasu is also a member of FIFA’s anti-discrimination task force.