It is barely 17 days to the 2017 elections into executive positions of the Confederation of African Football (CAF) in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. But the battleground appears to have shifted to Abuja, capital of Nigeria.
The Nigerian sports minister, Solomon Dalung, has summoned an emergency meeting of the board of the Nigeria Football Federation, NFF, on Tuesday, in his office.
Although the agenda is not disclosed, there are palpable signals that the March 16 CAF election is the cause of the meeting.
Just hours before the press release announcing the summoning of the meeting, a group of Nigerians with vested interest as members of various committees set up by CAF President, Issa Hayatou, issued a statement pointing to its consultations with ‘stakeholders’ and the sports ministry on why NFF president, Amaju Pinnick, should not be against Hayatou.
While conceding that everyone has a right to self determinism, it is also not out of order for Pinnick to hold a view contrary to that of any group.
A single vote, Pinnick will cast should not turn the Nigerian territory to battle ground. Anyone could use his reach to get across to other electorates to counter whatever view Pinnick has instead of stifling his voice.
Whether he speaks it out or not, he already knows where his votes will go in all the various positions at stake.
Causing the sports ministry to force an executive meeting, on the surface, amounts to ‘governmental interference’ into an entirely football matter.
That in itself is an infringement of the words and spirit of Article 12 (3) of the CAF Statutes as signed by President Issa Hayatou on September 29, 2016. Therefore, Issa Hayatou’s apologists should help in preserving the Statutes that the CAF President signed.
For clarity, Article 12(3) of CAF Statutes states: “Every member association (in this case, NFF) shall ensure that its affiliated clubs can take all decisions on any matters (sic) regarding membership independently of any external body (in this case, the Ministry of Sports and Federal Government)”.
On this ground, the meeting summoned by the Nigerian sports minister clearly violates the CAF Statutes. The Article 18 (2) of FIFA also speaks clear on this.
From reports gathered ahead of the supposed and government-forced meeting of the NFF, the president of the board will be coerced into recanting or risk an impeachment which may knock him out of the CAF election and technically offering the Western Zone B seat to the Benin Republic candidate – Moucharaf Anjorin.
Back to the concerns of the Nigerian members of CAF committees, they alleged in their statement that “no Nigerian member of CAF has been consulted nor informed out of courtesy about the ambitions of the NFF President”.
Is that enough reason to discredit him for his views? How did they help Ibrahim Galadima and Aminu Maigari when they contested for similar positions? What then assures that if they had been consulted, they will help Pinnick to achieve success?
Also, they assert: “We do not remember Mr. Ahmad visiting Nigeria to solicit or canvass for votes nor do we have any record of Mr. Ahmad’s pedigree in the running of football in Africa that would have led Mr. Pinnick to dangerously throw all of Nigeria’s eggs in his basket. We stand dangerously threatened…”
Again, it is a point out of order. Outside official assignments, did Hayatou ever visit Nigeria to solicit for votes?
Recall the events leading to the 2002 FIFA Presidential Elections which Issa Hayatou contested. Because of him, the then FIFA president, Sepp Blatter, who was seeking a second term in office, was denied entry into Nigeria as he came to lobby.
Nigeria dangerously aligned with Hayatou, yet Blatter won! Could someone explain the meaning of the statement: “We stand dangerously threatened…”
Who are the ‘we’? Is it for fear of losing positions in the various CAF committees that the group must now destabilize the structure of the NFF by causing the Nigerian government through the minister to interfere in a purely football matter?
It was also stated that the group has no record of Mr. Ahmad’s pedigree in running football in Africa. The scripture says, seek and you shall find. He has been a CAF Executive member for more than two years, the same number of years that a green horn Hayatou had before assuming the presidency in 1988.
It is a twist of facts to declare that Issa Hayatou helped Etubom Oyo Orok Oyo to get into CAF and FIFA! For the records, Oyo O. Oyo became a CAF Executive Committee member in 1972 when Hayatou was still an athlete! The revered Nigerian football administrator became a FIFA executive committee member at the CAF General Assembly held at the National Theatre in Lagos in March 1980.
That time, Hayatou had not ventured into high profile football administration. It is an irony of fact that Oyo O. Oyo lost his seat in FIFA to Gambia’s Omar Sey at the election that produced Hayatou as CAF president in Casablanca, Morocco.
Rather than saying that Hayatou helped Oyo to CAF and FIFA, it is better to say that Hayatou eclipsed Oyo out of FIFA.
CAF under Hayatou has manifested dictatorial tendencies, such that had seen Madagascar being stripped of hosting rights of U-17 AFCON, presumably because a Madagascan challenged Hayatou for the presidency.
We all saw how the playing field was altered just to oust Cote d’ Ivoire’s Jacques Anouma from contesting the CAF presidency. This is where the statement of the Nigerian CAF committee members comes into focus: “We stand dangerously threatened…” One can now understand the fears.
Two years ago, CAF Congress voted to change the statutes which had stopped officials above 70 years from serving in the executive committee.
That change allows Hayatou who will be 71 in August to contest and serve for a record setting 33 years as CAF president.