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A Little Of The Buharic Change Is Needed In CAF!

By Segun Odegbami
25 April 2015   |   5:11 am
I have been in some kind of unusual mood these past few weeks since the Nigerian general elections started. I am one of those Nigerians that believe that the country is not harnessing its potentials to the maximum.
Football- Image source mgalba

Football- Image source mgalba

I have been in some kind of unusual mood these past few weeks since the Nigerian general elections started. I am one of those Nigerians that believe that the country is not harnessing its potentials to the maximum.

I also believe that Nigeria’s football, in particular, mirrors the country’s evolution – one of immense resources and squandered opportunities.

With the elections, a time to choose new leaders and a new course, my prayer has been that a storm would blow across the country, wipe away a lot of its past failures and bring forth a new season.

Things have been so badly managed (the carcasses of decaying facilities and infrastructure tell the story) that any form of change could never be worse than how things have become in Nigerian sports with intermittent modest successes lighting up the darkness.

As far as I was concerned this is the worst that Nigerian sport has ever been and I cannot blame anyone!

For a person, who witnessed the foundation in sports laid after the Nigerian Civil War, the phenomenal growth through the two and a half decades after that, and witnessed how all of the great promises started to wane and plummet to the abysmal unrecognizable levels of the present, things could not be worse. I know what I am talking about!

That’s why change, a major political change, has become a most welcome relief. Hopefully, football and all of sport will benefit.

CAF General Assembly
Immediately after shaking off the tensions and pressure of the elections, I plunged headlong into what was going on at the General Assembly of the Confederation of African Football (CAF) that held some weeks ago.

I have been waiting for violent reactions from stakeholders across the African continent in particular about what went on there. The silence has been deafening!

Something must either be wrong with me or with my way of thinking, I told myself.

As I usually did under circumstances like this, I sought another opinion from a respected colleague in the study of African football. This time I reached out to Osazu Obayuwana, former BBC journalist, respected member of the FIFA Ad-hoc Committee on Racism, erudite lawyer and sportswriter.

I asked him about the developments from the CAF General Assembly. I should not have asked.

He was looking for another line of work to go into, he told me. Reporting football, particularly its administration, upon which the plank of development rests, has become a pain.

Football is now so rotten he is contemplating not having any part to play in it any more. Everything is wrong with the game, he said.

And he went on and on decrying and enumerating the decay in all aspects of the game on the continent. By the time he came round to the CAF general assembly there was bile in my throat!

And I had thought I was alone thinking about the state of the game. A particular issue sums up the CAF general assembly.

Several months ago I warned Africa about what was to happen. The assembly has now amended an article in the statutes of the confederation.  It removed age restriction for those who want to contest for the presidency of CAF.

Meanwhile, the out-going President, Issa Hayatou, at 69 years of age, has only one more year before he attains the retirement age of 70 prescribed in the previous statutes.

That amendment was done and it makes him eligible to contest AGAIN at the next Congress in 2017, setting the stage for his re-election after having been president since 1988. Yes, Issa Hayatou has been president for 27 years!

Now weak, ailing, and physically needing support of aides at functions, he has supervised the change in the statutes.

The tragedy is that none of the Federation presidents across the length and breadth of the continent had the guts or temerity to raise an issue about the motivation and rationale behind the amendment.

Yet these are the same people who in private would mourn the tragedy of the continent’s collective poor state.

They not only endorsed the amendment they also became co-conspirators by also endorsing FIFA President, Sepp Blatter’s bid to seek re-election as president of the World football governing body.

If Blatter at almost 79 (10 years older than Hayatou) and a part of FIFA for 40 years (13 years longer than Hayatou even though as President for only 12) can change his mind after announcing to the world he would not seek re-election again in 2011, why would Issa not aim higher and longer?

Ydnektchew Tessema, the former President of CAF, died as president at age 66 after serving for 16 years. Issa succeeded him. I will not be surprised if an article is soon introduced into the statutes permitting a life presidency for CAF!

There could not have been a better demonstration of the brazen application of the power of incumbency than what transpired at the CAF general assembly. It is the direct antithesis to true democratic practice.

Beyond that how could all 56 African football federations have endorsed Sepp Blatter without even giving any of the other FIFA presidency contestants any opportunity to even discourse their vision and plans for African football?

It is ludicrous. What are two respected elders of football, who have served the game very well through many decades of dedicated service, still looking for by seeking to perpetuate themselves in office? What additional legacy would they be bequeathing the world through this obviously retrogressive act that shows that leaders can use the power of incumbency to govern football for as long as they desire?

This sets a bad example for the next generation of football federation administrators.