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CAF today is a shadow of its past – Bility

Before my first question, I would like you to give   me your opening reaction to the interview that I had with the CAF President in Djibouti, which you have read…

Hassan Musa Bility: They (Ahmad’s answers to your questions) were riddled with inaccurate information… Essentially, he said that the executive committee approved all the decisions that I was protesting against. This is not true. And that only two members are speaking against him. That is also not true. A good number of the executive committee are vibrant and highly opinionated.

Musa Bility

You are the only member of the CAF executive committee that has formally demanded for an investigation of the president’s conduct. Why has no one else in the executive committee made a similar demand?

Well, I’ll rather focus on the issues I have with the President and the statements he has made, which are in contrast with the facts of the matter. What others in the executive committee do or how they react [to governance issues] is for them to decide. I have to respect that.

All I know is that your interview with him has attracted my attention, because of his reaction to many points you raised with him, including the purchase of vehicles (for Ahmad’s personal use) and the [equipment] contract with Tactical Steel, which are contrary to the facts of the matter…

Can you tell me what you know about the purchase of cars for the CAF President, which he says was done with the approval of the executive committee?

I know nothing. I challenge anyone to show me any proof that the executive committee approved the purchase of four vehicles for the President of CAF. This issue has never been brought to us at any point in time. Absolutely not… I’m aware that the finance committee of CAF, which has statutory supervisory responsibilities over its finances, has not met in twenty months, since our last meeting in Cairo. They have not made any presentations to the executive committee for approval…

CAF’s Finance Committee has not met in 20 months? Have you, as an executive member of CAF, not demanded to know why?

But I’ve openly said that the institution has stopped working. What did you think I meant when I said the President has usurped the functions of all statutory committees? This reference was not only for the CHAN Committee (from which he has resigned as chairman).

It was about the entire institution… Yes, I have demanded for a full and comprehensive audit of the finances of CAF. And it has been authorized. The fact that a forensic audit has been authorised by the executive committee tells you that all is not well.

Mr Ahmad told me that any member of the executive committee that does not agree with the direction in which CAF is going is free to resign. What is your response to this statement?

That statement is totally out of order. Each one of us, including Mr President, was duly elected by the whole continent to serve Africa, not Ahmad. It is totally out of place for him to say this. He must be assuming that we are here to serve him. Well, he’s wrong. I will never surrender the mandate I got from my colleagues, because of his actions. That will be an act of abdication.

Let’s talk about the removal of Amr Fahmy from his position as CAF General Secretary… The official statement released by your organisation says that he was removed from his position for “misconduct”. Is this your understanding of what led to his removal?

To the best of my knowledge, the removal of Mr Fahmy had nothing to do with misconduct. The official CAF statement was inappropriate and contrary to the decision of the executive committee.

You were against the removal of Amr Fahmy. Why?

I’d rather not make reference to executive committee decisions that are not a subject of misrepresentation in the public. The issue of who voted for or against [Fahmy’s removal] is not matter of dispute yet.

What is your opinion about the leadership style of the CAF President, since he assumed the mantle of leadership in March 2017? He tells me that people have accused him of being too much of a democrat…

It’s been a great disappointment. The system Hayatou left has been completely dismantled. CAF today is a shadow of its past… To see that we have gone below the point at which we wanted change, is an excruciating pain… Yes, Ahmad is very ‘democratic’ during executive committee meetings, if the new meaning of democracy is that everyone is given the chance to freely express his or her concerns. This is true (that Bility expresses his views) but this is a must. The statutes of CAF are in hibernation mode right now.

Mr Ahmad told me that Ghana and Egypt were his main supporters, as he sought and won the presidency. What do you have to say, in response to this?

It is really regrettable that Ahmad will ever say that. Amaju Pinnick (the President of the Nigeria Football Federation and CAF’s 1st Vice-President) was total in his support for Ahmad. He financed the totality of the public relations. He made countless trips, within and outside the shores of Africa. He never travelled alone. Pinnick financed the trips of our foot soldiers… Some of the PR stuff that we did, Ahmad did not even know about it… Our comrades in COSAFA AND CECAFA (the Southern African and Eastern African regional football associations) were at the top of this struggle. They sacrificed everything.

The memorable endorsement by COSAFA was the turning point. They gave all of us the inspiration. How he didn’t even bother to mention these two zonal bodies, which stood at the heart of this campaign, is mind-boggling. Philip Chiyangwa (the former Zimbabwe FA President) was our General at the frontlines, who stood firm and indeed spent his money, making trips and consultations.

Sadly, our enormous contributions (to the 2017 CAF presidential election victory), are being relegated by Ahmad. We know exactly when and why Ghana and Egypt made an in-road to our mission of change. It is a story for another day…

What do you know about the forensic audit that the CAF executive committee has ordered? Who will conduct it? And when should the report be submitted to the executive committee?

I have no idea. We expect to hear more details on it at our next meeting. I think that will be in July.

Will you be at that meeting, demanding what progress has been made, regarding the conduct of the forensic audit?

Absolutely.

Have you seen a copy of the CAF circular, dated 7 May, calling for the holding of an Ordinary General Assembly on 18 July, at which elections for six CAF executive committee seats will be conducted?

Yes, I have.

Under CAF’s laws, member associations must be given 120 days notice before an Ordinary General Assembly is conducted. But it is very clear, from this circular, issued on May 7, that the statutory rule is not going to be met. What is your opinion about this?

I’m not a legal expert but it is tricky… It sums up the dilemma we face, when there’s no coordination at our level.

There are two arguments; the one you are making and the one that must address the issue of expired terms. How did we get to a point where [the management of] such an important event is allowed to become so embarrassingly delinquent? That’s the question.

It is a question that I should ask you, as a member of the executive committee… Are you saying that a 22-man executive committee did not take cognisance of this very important issue? What does that say about you and your colleagues?

This is not about the executive committee. It’s about leadership.

Don’t you think that there is something wrong if not a single member of the CAF executive committee raised this issue, in order to avert the legal quagmire that could result from the present situation?

That question should be addressed to those who are charged with the responsibility of continuous supervision of the Secretariat. The executive committee would be willing to step in when members are allowed to function in their respective roles. This is not the case and this is why we are in the situation that we are in.

Are you saying that executive committee members, who should be abreast of the statutes, don’t have the responsibility to point this out, since the secretariat failed to do so?

They must be functional, in order to lend their professionalism to the secretariat. This is not the case today.

Amr Fahmy was in charge of the secretariat until his recent dismissal (on 11 April). Was it not his responsibility to have brought this to the attention of the executive committee? Did he ever do so, and it was ignored?

He was ill during this period. He was not in office…

So, who should have brought this to the attention of the executive committee?

I believe that this matter is administrative, so maybe you should refer it to the President.

Mr Ahmad says only two people out of 22 on the executive committee are against his leadership. What is your own view of the prevailing situation on the executive committee?

It’s not about who’s for or against [Ahmad]. The question is are we not having a multiplicity of issues, ranging from financial to administrative?

What do you, as a member of the executive committee, know about the sponsorship contracts that CAF signed with VISA and 1XBET? Was the executive committee consulted before Mr Ahmad signed these contracts? He says he has the authority to conclude the transactions, based on CAF’s contract with Lagardere.

Absolutely not! You should ask him what he relies upon, to hold the position that he does? He doesn’t have the authority to carry out such an undertaking, without the express approval of the executive committee.

These contracts have never even been a subject of discussions at our meetings. This is the fact. We have minutes to back every meeting. There’s nothing whatsoever in there about 1XBet or Visa. The members of the executive committee are not kids; no one should take us for granted. The arbitrariness has gone beyond normal now. It has reached the point of unacceptability.

I am aware that you were invited by the CAF president to go on a trip to the Umra in Mecca, which you declined. But some FA presidents did. It is alleged that this was done from CAF funds. What do you know about this?

CAF is being run like a farm. In what world will this happen? Even the Saudi FA wouldn’t take the FA’s money to send people to Mecca… I know that some Moslem executive committee members went to Mecca. I’m a Moslem but I didn’t go. I have heard that CAF funds were used for this trip. These are the things the [forensic] audit (of CAF’s accounts) will help us appreciate.

Let’s address an issue that is specific to you and your country… Payments from CAF meant for the Liberia FA ($200,000) ended up in a bank account of a third party in Poland… What do you know about this? How did CAF money meant for your association, while you were still the Liberia FA president, end up in Poland?

This is a serious matter that borders on the credibility of CAF’s financial management system. How can money meant for Liberia end up in Poland?

In the first place, CAF does not make third party payments on behalf of member associations. Secondly, there’s absolutely no relationship between the Liberia FA and where the money was sent. How do you attribute a payment to Liberia that doesn’t mention Liberia?

Hopefully, the truth will come out. But I know this is an act of money laundering, perpetrated by those who authorised that payment.

That payment can only be made by the CAF administration. Has the specific person that was responsible for it been identified?

This is for CAF to answer. I’m a businessman of over 25 years. There is fraud all over this wire transfer. Those who sent the money know what I’m talking about…

What are your expectations for the Cup of Nations finals in Egypt?

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I think Egypt has done exceptionally well to prepare in such a short time. Hopefully, everything will be executed as seen so far. But they’ve done very well, so far.

And any final remarks, before we end this interview?

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Unless we move CAF from the brink of collapse and run it in accordance with our laid down rules, we should brace ourselves for more crises.

 

Osasu Obayiuwana, a lawyer and BBC broadcaster, is one of the world’s leading journalists on African football.

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