Crucial week for Hayatou

JOHANNESBURG - The African football stands on the threshold of history on March 16 in the Ethiopian capital of Addis Ababa when the 39th Ordinary Congress of Caf gets underway.

This is the date that will usher in a new Caf Executive Committee and hopefully a new president.

Issa Hayatou from Cameroon, a 71-year old who has been in charge of African football for over 29 years is up against 57 –year old Ahmad from Madagascar.

In 29 years, Hayatou has ruled and determined the direction that African football should take, he has been ruthless and crushed political opponents in brutal fashion.

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His word has been law and while fierce loyalists and foot soldiers have been richly rewarded, those seen as ‘ambitious’ and ‘untrustworthy’ as a result of independent views/progressive demeanour are squashed without mercy.

Under his rule, everywhere you go, people talk of being Anglophone, Lusophone or Francophone. The Francophone buddies are the fortunate ones, and even within that bloc, the Cameroonians are most privileged.

While it is common to find reports of Hayatou visiting Chad, Cote d’Ivoire, Gabon, Togo and Cote d’Ivoire, you would never catch him napping in places like Nigeria, Ghana, Liberia, Kenya, Uganda or Tanzania, except if those territories host African football championships. Are they not part of the African continent?

A recent revelation about Hayatou’s preferred algebra for distributing Africa’s seven seats in the Fifa Council is most disturbing.

The Cameroonian will take one seat, with three more reserved for his fellow French –speaking friends: perhaps Guinea’s Kabele, Constant Omari (RD Congo/SidyDiallo (Cote d’Ivoire) and Lydia Nsekera of Burundi, whose place is sealed as she is the only woman.

He has offered two to the Arabs: Hani Abo Rida of Egypt and Tarek Bouchamaoui of Tunisia. Africa’s 20 English –speaking countries (out of the 54) will have to make do with only a seat, to be contested by Ghana’s Kwesi Nyantakyi and Tanzania’s Leodegar Tenga.

At the recent summit of the African Union in Addis Ababa, in January 2017, Hayatou’s leadership of Caf was handed a dressing down.

The body was referred to in scathing language, as Africa’s political leaders expressed disdain for the state of African football and its visionless leadership.

Hayatou has tweaked the Statutes to favour his position or to disfavour those who nurse ambition. Cleverly and without appearing to be the sponsor, he got the Caf Executive Committee to pass the amendment to the Statutes that only members of the Committee could stand for the position of Caf president.

This was the smart card used against the Ivorian Jacques Anouma, the well-to-do former president of Ivory Coast FA and and WAFU.

Pursuing his policy of intolerance to dissent and dissenters, Hayatou blocked Anouma from the Caf Executive Committee and heaved him out of his Fifa Executive Committee seat.

The Statutes also had a provision on age, such that anyone above the age of 70 would not be able to stand for election as Caf president. Hayatou took care of that by railroading a proposal for amendment through the Congress, to say that this was no longer a barrier.

Yet, 29 years ago, Hayatou was at the vanguard of the campaign that effectively knocked out Nigeria’s Oyo Orok Oyo from the CAF Presidency. The two persons in the race, following the demise of the brilliant Tessema, were Oyo and the Sudanese, Halim Mohamed. Both men were advanced in age.

Hayatou launched a campaign of hate against the two, insisting that the times called for youthful, dynamic and visionary leadership, and not geriatrics. Africa saw reason with him and gave him votes.

Today, the same man is sticking stubbornly to the chair even after surpassing the biblical allowance for human existence.

But will he survive what many people say is a hurricane coming from Madagascar and being propelled by Zimbabwe’s Philip Chiyangwa.

We are days away from witnessing a watershed era in African football.

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