Wise men warned that all that glitters is not gold. Four years ago, Africa was battling to dethrone Issa Hayatou from the helm of African football confederation (Caf).
The Cameroonian had ruled for almost three decades and there was a general urge for change. Hayatou was criticised for using an iron fist and lack of transparency.
The long plan to dethrone him finally hatched on March 16th 2017 when a little-known Madagascar Football boss and aa member of his Executive Committee (Exco) Ahmad Ahmad tossed himself into the ring and knocked Hayatou with a decent 34-20 in the ballot against the tides.
The Malagasy rode on “Team Change” mantra promising to usher in a “new dawn” to the management of the continent’s most-followed game.
“Henceforth,” Ahmad promised in his acceptance speech, “our Caf is starting a new era of history and we must all come together to take African football to enviable heights.”
So, who was Ahmad calling together and what heights has his administration lifted Caf to?
Ahmad has been accused of gross misconduct, misappropriation of Caf funds, abuse of power, breaching Ethics codes relating to duty of loyalty and several other cases.
But before we point out his deficiencies, it is imperative to investigate the conduct of his support system, mainly the executive committee, and if they had the morality to check on his conduct and keep him in line.
Ahmad picked Ghana FA boss Kwesi Nyantakyi as his first vice president in May 2017 without taking time to sieve the Ghanaians track-record with integrity checks.
An earlier investigative report by The Telegraph UK had accused Nyantakyi of fixing matches in Ghana’s build-up to the 2014 World Cup.
Nyantakyi served as deputy to Ahmad for only 17 months before Fifa handed him a lifetime ban from all football activities.
The ban followed an expose by Ghanaian investigative journalist Anas Anas who caught the Caf boss in a bribery sting.
He was filmed receiving $65,000. Anas duped Nyantakyi into believing he needed ‘a hand’ to fix a sponsorship deal for the Ghana FA that could have seen a company he owned receive millions of dollars in kickbacks.
Fifa found him guilty of violating code of ethics, misuse of power, bribery and corruption and banned him for life on 30th October 2018. The Court of Arbitration of Sports (CAS) reduced the ban to 15 years.
Ahmad replaced him with Nigeria FA’s Pinnick Amaju in July 2019. Amaju was one of the main actors that masterminded Hayatou’s fall and elevated Ahmad to the throne.
The Nigerian narrowly survived his predecessor’s predicament a year later when he was accused and charged at the Federal Court of Abuja with corruption and misappropriation of £8.4m Fifa grant. The Nigerian government later dropped the charges.
Amaju’s woes didn’t get better with that breather. His aggressive and ambitious approach cost him. He slowly started to develop a frosty relation with his superior at Caf.
By this time, Ahmad was struggling with allegations of misconduct, misuse of office and bribery. That escalated in June 2018 when he was arrested and questioned by French authorities on the eve of kick-off of the Women’s World cup in Paris.
He was questioned about a fishy sportswear deal that Caf had commissioned to a little-known gym equipment company, Tactical Steel. According to analysts, Ahmad felt insecure with his deputy who seemed not to be throwing his weight behind him and later decided to replace him with DR Congo’s Constant Omari in July 2019 after the expiry of his two-year term.
Amaju accepted the change but with some reservations.
“I accepted the decision of the president as it aligned with my own views, having considered matters surrounding the administration of African football which dovetailed into the Nigerian football space,” he tweeted.
Amaju is now among the lead campaigners for Patrice Motsepe.
In July 2019, the FA chiefs voted for six regional representatives to the Executive Committee.
Among them was Cecafa’s Moses Magogo, who was Magogo was voted in amid an ongoing investigation related to illegal resale of 2014 World Cup tickets.
The Fufa boss later entered a plea bargain and was suspended for two months in the period between October 10th and December 10th 2019.
War crimes suspect
In July 2017, Caf moved to amend its statutes. Among the many changes included barring members from holding both a Fifa Council and Caf Executive Committee membership.
This meant that Constant Omari who then was both at Fifa and Caf Exco representing the Central African Zone had to forego one.
He chose to maintain the Fifa seat. He was replaced by a controversial figure in an elective assembly in February 2018 in Casablanca, Morocco. The African FA chief, without a shame and ignoring warnings from human rights activists, picked war crimes suspect Patrice Eduardo Ngaissona to the Exco. He was the head of Central Africa FA.
Nine months later, the International Criminal Court issued an arrest warrant for the Caf Exco member. Ngaissona was arrested five days later on December 12, 2018. He is currently on trial at The Hague charged with crimes against humanity and war crimes committed through his time as leader of the Anti-Balaka militia group in CAR between 2013 and 2014.
Fifa banned him for six years and eight months for violating code of neutrality.
Fallouts in 2019
Amaju is not the only one who scratched Ahmad the wrong way and paid a price. Former Liberian FA and Caf Exco member Musa Billity faced Ahmad’s wrath after opposing him. Among the many issues he objected to was Ahmad’s decision to use Caf’s funds to facilitate Muslim FA presidents for a ‘minor pilgrimage’ to Mecca, a trip that later turned back to haunt the Caf boss.
Billity resigned from two Caf committees on February 1, 2019, citing bad governance and dictatorship by Ahmad.
However, the straw that broke the camel’s back was his move to try and block a joint Fifa and Caf Exco decision to install Fifa secretary-general Fatma Samoura as Caf ‘General Delegate’ in September 2019.
Fifa, in what was viewed as a retaliation, handed him a 10-year ban from all football activities the following day over misappropriation of Fifa funds meant for his nation.
Caf Secretary-General Amr Fahmy was also not spared. The Egyptian was the first to blow the whistle on Ahmad’s dubious transactions. He petitioned Fifa in March 2019 to investigate bribes paid into accounts of several FA presidents and lifted the lid on Ahmad’s dealing with Tactical Steel.
Ahmad had sanctioned purchase of football equipment from the French company that had no history of dealing in such commodity to a price that cost Caf in excess of $800,000. Ahmad fired Fahmy in April 2019.
From suspected match-fixers, a war crimes suspect, corrupt officials, Fifa bans to the Fifa takeover, the actions, reactions and non-reactions of the whole Caf political wing under Ahmad has dented African football.
The wheel has turned four years bringing with it another cycle with the same signs for Africa to change for the better or change to the same. The bearers of the exclusive voting rights, the 54 African FA member associations chiefs, will converge in Rabat, Morocco, on Friday to spin the wheel afresh.
Deputy fails the integrity test
Constant Omari assumed office as second in command in July 2019. He was transiently elevated to Caf presidency from November 23 last year to the end of January as Ahmad was serving a Fifa ban. Omari’s attempt to defend his seat at the Fifa Councilf fell flat after Fifa blocked his nomination, saying the Congolese had failed an integrity test and eligibility check because of an ongoing investigation. Though Fifa did not reveal the case under investigation, it is believed the Caf second-in-command is being checked for financial misconduct.
Candidates make vows ahead of Caf elections
Patrice Motsepe (RSA)
Forbes’ first Africa issue in October 2011 used Motsepe’s picture on the cover photo and ranked him among the top 20 most powerful men in Africa with a headline: ‘The man of mettle; Nationalisation, money and football.’
The 58-year-old owns Mamelodi Sundowns where Uganda Cranes captain Denis Onyango plays. His campaign theme, ‘Building African football to be the best in the world,’ outlines a 10-point programme with emphasis on reforming Caf, improving competitions, youth, women’s and grassroots football, investing in infrastructure, and refereeing standards. His biggest weapon is his profile as a self-made billionaire and says he will use his contacts to bring money to Caf.
Ahmed Yahya (MAU)
The Mauritania FA chief and an executive member of Caf was named the 2017 best football administrator and his national team the Team of the Year in 2018 for making it to their maiden Afcon.
Slogan: Commitment, determination and vision.
The 45-year-old promises to improve the status of both active and retired players, decentralise Caf to the zones like Cecafa to improve efficiency and proximities to the associations, improve infrastructure and quality of competitions as well as include all national teams in the group stages of Afcon qualifiers, clean up Caf finances and increase funding from the current $200,000 to $500,000 by 2023.
Augustin Senghor (SEN)
The president of the Senegalese football and member of Caf exco sees himself as a reformer, unifier, visionary and modern manager.
The 55-year-old promises to prioritise reforms at the continental football governing body’s legal and decision-making bodies, restructure the way the Executive Committee operates and appoint members basing on competence, ethics, zonal balance, linguistic components and increase women’ representation.
Senghor also promises to modernise football infrastructure, harmonise Caf calendars internally and externally (with Fifa and Uefa) to increase its competitiveness and appeal across the world.
Jacques Anouma (COD)
Anouma presents himself as the most experienced in terms of age and period in football. He attempted to stand against Issa Hayatou but was barred. He joined the Ivorian FA in 1991, and became president in 2002 up to 2011.
The former Fifa Council member hinges on three pillars: Modernity - Accountability – Transparency.
“The serious problems at Caf require that its next president devotes all his energy, time and intelligence to its rehabilitation,” he says. “The 8th president can’t have one foot in Caf and another elsewhere. It will not work that way. My experience, connections, solid knowledge of African football stand as my serious assets to lead Caf and meet its challenges.”
Caf presidents since Feb. 1957
Abdel Aziz Salem (Egypt)
Abdel Aziz Moustafa (Egypt)
Abdel H. Muhammad
Abdel H. Muhammad