.As Ahmad challenges Hayatou
By Tony Ubani in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia
The 29-year-old reign of 71-year-old Camerounian, Issa Hayatou will go through an acid test today at the majestic African Union Building in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.
At the 39th Ordinary Congress of the Confederation of African football, CAF, in Addis Ababa, the chance of a life time beckons on Madagascar’s Ahmad to beat the gangling Camerounian whose long stay in office coupled with his iron grip on CAF has thrown up a group of fiery younger generation who for the first time will present a serious challenge to Hayatou.
With all manner of intrigues being employed for and against, Ahmad survived what would have seen Hayatou win unopposed when the Executive committee accused him of flouting the rules of the election by holding political rallies under the guise of a birthday celebration. His sin included attracting FIFA’s President Gianni Infantino without a continental representative as it were in attendance at the so called birthday bash. Sports Vanguard which is among the world media covering the election gathered that the accusation did not go down well with the numerous Ahmad supporters.
Tempers flared and the hall became chaotic but the situation was brought under control when the accusation was dropped to signal that Ahmad would vie for the elections today.
As the FA presidents emerged from the meeting, meeting in groups and finalising their strategies, one thing was clear — that the Lion of African football(Hayatou) has lost control of his pride that he held tenaciously for almost three decades.
According to one of the architects of change for the CAF election; “Hayatou has tried his best but complained of his style of his distaste for dissenting views and his vindictiveness for such individuals.
There are also palpable fears that the former Camerounian athlete will unleash terror on his political opponents if he survives and turns the table against the storm that has gathered in Addis Ababa.
One other observer noted that Hayatou may have lost it when Africa’s political leaders in an Africa Union meeting in this same Ethiopia disparaged his leadership of African football. That may have given teeth to the number of African countries who have flashed the green light to go for Change.
The ‘almighty’ Hayatou may still pull one of the biggest surprises to use his power of incumbency to bounce back. For a man who learnt his acts of governance from former Secretary General of the Nigeria Football Association, late Patrick Okpomo, he has not shown gratitude to the country that imparted the knowledge to him. Interestingly, while Hayatou was learning his trade from Okpomo, Pinnick was equally growing up under the roof and tutelage of Okpomo. The experiences garnered under Okpomo will be at play in deciding who rules African football.
One other thing that played out here was the unfounded rumour that Nigerian Government has made a U-turn to vote for for Hayatou after Sports Minister told FA President, Melvin Amaju Pinnick to vote for anybody that will be beneficial to Nigerian football. That volte face has since been discovered to be a distraction as Senate Committee Chairman, Senator Obinna Ogba who is the head of Government delegation is on ground and does not go against the tide of events here.
Importantly, too, Pinnick will also be going for a place in the now elusive Executive Committee of CAF. Three former NFF Presidents, Sani Lulu, Ibrahim Galadima and Maigari had tried their hands on the Executive Committee but failed to get to that position. Their failure was not because of incompetence but largely due to Nigerians who worked against them.
That scenario is at play here against Amaju so much so that a bitter African official asked “why are you people in Nigeria always against your fellow Nigerians?
Some Nigerian moneybags who support Hayatou have vowed that Pinnick will not get to win a seat on the CAF exco. And if their wish backed with their money comes true, it leaves Nigeria, a giant in Africa, a powerhouse in African football holding the horns of the cow for little countries who find it difficult to pay their dues milking the cow and determining the fate of Nigerian football in the Boardroom. God save Nigeria!