Ahead of the CAF election which holds in 10 days time, President Issa Hayatou is already a record holder. He holds the record for longevity in the CAF executive committee having been there for 31 years, 1986 to 2017.
This is apart from being the president for 29 years now. Before this year, the record holder was his predecessor as president, the late Ethiopian, Ydnakatchew Tessema, executive committee member from 1957 to 1987 and president from 1972 to 1987 – 15 year tenure.
Outside the continent, the longest tenure, of course that was in the ages past, was that of Jules Rimet, who presided over FIFA for 33 years.
One can link that also to the ancient era of the founder of Modern Olympics, Pierre Baron de Coubertin who led the movement from 1896 to 1925.
In modern days, owing to the dynamism of running international sports bodies, long tenure is no longer reasonable. There are more issues to be dealt with now than in the ancient days.
Physical agility is as essential as the mental alertness which we all know diminish with age.
Even, the late Joao Havelange who sat on the saddle of FIFA administration, had to plead in 1994 that the election of that year was going to be his last tenure.
He stepped down at the next elective congress in Paris in 1998. Yet, his 24 years are not comparable with the 29 years that Hayatou has ruled CAF.
In all honesty, Hayatou brought some positive changes into CAF, especially in the reorganisation of competitions. This brought about increase in the number of competitions.
But those were in his younger days. He assumed office after two years as the youngest member of the executive committee. He was then 42 years.
Age was one of the important factors that worked in his favour to defeat the then acting CAF president, Dr. Abdel Halim Mohammed of Sudan, who acted for Tessema who had stepped down on health ground prior to his death later in 1987.
At the time, CAF needed a new lease of life. Dr. Abdel Halim Mohammed was 78 years as against Hayatou who was 42.
With old age, we are now witnessing diminishing returns in the continental football administration. The globe was awash with photographs of Hayatou dozing off in the middle of a FIFA meeting he was presiding over, while he was acting president last year. Imagine if the meeting had in that unguarded moment passed important resolutions while the president had dozed off.
It is obvious, the soul is willing, but the flesh is weak. It is time for the record holder to preserve his dignity and be an eternal hero and the first African sports administration’s statesman.
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 and the longest tenure by a sports administrator in the world.
Are we aiming to enter the Guinness Book of Records? What is the objective? Is it for personal record setting or the overall re-engineering of football administration in the continent?
When the horse is too old to pull the cart, the slaughter man decides its fate. Let this not be Hayatou’s case.