Nigeria and the CAF executive seat
By Paul Bassey
If I had my way, I would have banished this topic to the recesses of my personal history. In the words of the NFF President Alhaji Aminu Maigari, I would have taken this as one of those experiences needed to guide one through the slimy maze of one’s sojourn on earth.
Unfortunately for me, since I came back from Marakech, Morocco I have been inundated with calls from my colleagues, wanting to know “what really happened “. As an eye witness I owe my culture medium an explanation.
Albert Einstein is quoted as saying that the world is a dangerous place to live in, not because of the people who are evil, but because of the people who don’t do anything about it!
When the Nigeria Football Federation nominated Alhaji Maigari to contest the CAF elections there were some dissenting voices. Some of us in the FIFA and CAF fraternity believed there were not enough consultations and demanded explanations, which were duly given and accepted.
I remember an opinion I granted the Sun Newspaper before the elections, that “Nigeria does not need the Nations Cup to buoy up its desire to be on the Executive Committee of CAF, that given our contribution to the development of African football through the unparalleled support given to CAF, and the credible representation of the continent on the world stage at all levels, the CAF executive position should be our birth right.
I followed it up with the fact that over time, the battle to get on the CAF Executive has been won and lost not on the continent but within and called on all involved to close ranks and support NOT Alhaji Maigari, BUT Nigeria. I know, because by God’s grace I am the oldest Nigerian member of CAF alive.
I was there in 1988 in Morocco when Late Etubom Oyo Orok Oyo was abandoned by his country as he sought to retain his FIFA Executive Committee seat and predictably, he lost to Omar Sey of Senegal.
Again in Burkina Faso in 1998, the country plotted behind his back to remove him from the CAF Executive Committee after they had promised him support. Late Oyo’s widow is alive to tell the story.
The story of Dr Amos Adamu we all know. To be able to succeed, he had to short circuit the system, go solo and bull doze his way to the top. But how can I forget his encounter with the late Sports Minister Mark Aku who in Mali in 2002 challenged Dr Adamu and told him point blank that he was not in support of him as a person. That he believed Patrick Okpomo was better qualified, but that since Dr. Adamu had already filed the papers and was representing Nigeria, he as minister was condemned to back and support him!
Fast forward to Sudan 2011 and the country’s attempt to replace Dr Adamu on the CAF Executive by Alhaji Galadima. When contacted the CAF President told then Sports Minister Professor Ladoja to go and consult with Dr Adamu because as far as he was concerned Dr Adamu had filed an appeal and his position could only be declared vacant if he relinquished it.
Professor Taoheed Ladoja incidentally, Dr Adamu’s friend spent fruitless hours in Sudan on the phone trying to convince Dr Adamu to let go, pending when his suspension by FIFA will be lifted. Perhaps rightly, Dr Adamu refused to yield. He said he was disappointed that his country was already declaring him guilty even when he had taken his case to the Court Of Arbitration for Sports ( CAS ).
The rest is history, as Dr Adamu lost the appeal and Nigeria was blocked out of CAF for another two years. This year, the NFF put forward Alhaji Maigari. When I was consulted, I told the NFF President again and again to consult widely with Nigerians in CAF and FIFA especially Dr. Adamu who it was rumoured was supporting Moucharaf because he was expecting to come back after the lifting of his suspension this year.
Maigari did, got in touch and asked for support . One of those who felt aggrieved , General Oneya gave him his support while Dr Bolaji Ojo Oba was reconciled by the intervention of the Sports Minister.
On getting to South Africa, I was shocked to hear that a Nigerian had gone to CAF to say that Maigari did not enjoy the support of his country and that his candidature was not valid. The NFF President then rallied the Sports Minister who met the CAF president and confirmed that The NFF President was indeed the country’s candidate.
When we got to Morocco, the rumour of Alhaji Maigari not standing a chance and Moucharaf Anjorin being the anointed candidate of the CAF President ruled the waves, so in company of Linus Mba and Aisha Falode we sought audience with the CAF President. He graciously granted us audience and emphasized that he would have loved a situation where Nigeria, Benin and Niger would have sat down to sort out their differences and present a common candidate who for him would have been Nigeria.
“ I wish I had been approached on this. I wish someone had sought my opinion and I would have gladly asked for a Nigerian representation. Unfortunately it is too late in the day, so I wish all of them luck in the elections tomorrow” Hayatou said.
We left feeling quite satisfied and continued with the campaign.
By midnight on Saturday, less than eight hours before the elections an emergency meeting was called by the NFF President to present to us a disturbing news to the effect that while we were busy campaigning, back home, all manners of buttons were being pressed to discredit the Nigerian delegate.
I am not garrulous. I have a strong journalism background one that does not rush to the press with rumours. One that wants to verify all sources of news before publishing, so I asked a lot of questions and the answers I got were enough to “ lead my paper” as we are wont to say in print journalism.
At this stage I would have passed the pen to Mike Itemuagbor, Managing Director of topmost Marketing firm Pamodzi Sports Marketing who was perhaps more devastated than myself and reacted accordingly.
While answering a question by Toyin Ibitoye of Channels TV, I said the election was not about Maigari, it was not about self, it was about Nigeria. I also believe it would have been better to tell the NFF President not to run than to goad him on to failure. Its all about honour and sincerity.
Now we have to wait another four years. In two years, Ghana’s Kwesi Nyantakyi will be up for reelection. If we could not beat a Moucharaf, a Francophone, is it an Aglophone, an incumbent member of the Executive that we will beat? Forget it.
If you believe I have still left a lot of questions unanswered, you are right. You needed to be at that meeting in Maraakech that took till 4am Sunday morning March 10 to get all the answers. Unfortunately, you were not there and my space has run out.
See you next week.