The long expected Confederation of African Football (CAF) election, which takes place on Thursday 16th March in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, is set to produce some surprises if the latest opinion barometer is anything to go by. According to the youngest poll, the incumbent CAF president, Issa Hayatou of Cameroon is heading for a defeat in the hands of his challenger Ahmad Ahmad, the Madagascar’s football chief.
The 70-year-old Issa Hayatou, who has been the president of the CAF since 1988 is contesting to renew his mandate for a record eighth term. However, according to our investigations, unless something dramatic happens, Hayatou will most likely not extend his 28-year rule at the CAF. His challenger, Ahmad has surprisingly gathered a lot of votes from different African countries, including countries previously perceived supporters of the Cameroonian; the chances of Mr. Hayatou winning the hotly contested election has become significantly low. According to the rule, to win the Presidential race, an aspirant needs 27 votes from the 52 football federation delegates, who are expected to vote in Thursday’s CAF Congress in Addis Ababa. So far, Mr. Ahmed is said to have comfortably secured votes from more than 27 member countries.
The most recent reports have indicated that the support for Ahmad has gained momentum across all regions of the continent. It is revealed that the pro-Ahmad group will most likely win at least 13 of the 14 votes from the Council of Southern African Football Associations (COSAFA) come Thursday. That would be delegates from Angola, Botswana, Comoros, Lesotho, Madagascar, Malawi, Mauritius, Mozambique, Namibia, Seychelles, South Africa, Swaziland, Zambia, and Zimbabwe. Of course, the Madagascar-born Ahmad is from the COSAFA region, hence his likely landslide victory in this region. Pro Ahmad’s camp is equally doing strongly in the Council for East and Central Africa Football Associations (CESAFA), which comprises of countries like Burundi, Djibouti, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Kenya, Rwanda, Somalia, South-Sudan, Sudan, Tanzania, Uganda, and Zanzibar. Ahmed’s supporters strongly believe they will win at least seven delegates from this region.
It is equally believed that Ghana, Nigeria, The Gambia, Liberia, Sierra Leone, Niger Republic, Burkina Faso, Togo, Mauritania, all from the West African Football Union (WAFU) region, are solidly behind Ahmad’s candidacy. Even Morocco, Egypt votes – and perhaps Libya as well – might equally go for Ahmad; although, Tunisia and Algeria are 100% for Hayatou. Even though Issa Hayatou is from UNIFAC, comprising the likes of DR Congo, Equatorial Guinea, Central Africa Republic, Sao Tome, Congo, Cameroon and Gabon, Ahmad’s camp believes that they will win at least three votes from this region. That will take Ahmad’s haul to 31 votes. The calculation from Ahmad’s camp is that in the worse scenery, their boss will comfortably secure at least 29 votes from 37 countries. That would be two more than the 27 points needed to win the CAF Presidency battle.
Asked why he decided to challenge the sitting President Hayatou, Mr. Ahmed responded:
“I took my decision after hearing some federation presidents say they want change.”
The growth of democracy in Africa is not limited to politics. Recently, many Africans have expressed their desire to see some degree of democracy and more transparency in the football governing body. Like the former president of the Fédération Internationale de Football Association or “International Federation of Association Football” (FIFA), Mr Sepp Blatter, who once held enormous power at FIFA for 17 years before he was kicked out amidst corruption and bribery allegations, some believe equally that Mr. Hayatou is not immune to corruption – especially having in mind, the recent revelations of massive corruption within the FIFA. However, Mr. Hayatou has not been officially implicated in any of the corruption allegations. According to the FIFA published financial reports, the FIFA spent 30 million for its 35 member management committee in 2011. The former FIFA president Sepp Blatter, the only full-time person on the committee, earned a total sum of two million Swiss francs (1.2 million as salary and 800,000 Swiss francs as bonuses). That would be more than four times the yearly salary and allowances (combined) of the USA president. It was reported in June 2014 that the members of the FIFA committee unanimously increased their salaries from $100,000 to $200,000 during the same year. Worse still, following the 2010 FIFA World Cup in South Africa, according to the said 2014 report, $4.4 million in secret bonuses had been paid to the committee members. Despite all the revealed financial mismanagement, many strongly believe that the figure is just a tip of the iceberg. More millions of dollars must have been illegally not accounted for, some strongly argue. Furthermore, they believe that the corruption runs deep down from the FIFA to the various government’s football federations. Hence many people seriously doubt the innocence and incorrigibility of even the various government football chiefs.
Interestingly, a growing group of a new generation of African football chiefs has craftily perfected their watertight plan to uproot Mr. Hayatou. The question some are asking is: Are the plans of the so-called new generation African football chiefs indeed influenced by their honest desire to bring meaningful changes, including democracy and transparency into the CAF or are the chiefs secretly pursuing their personal aggrandizement and power?