As it appeared the curtains were abruptly coming down the scandal-laden reign of Confederation of African Football (CAF) leader, Ahmad Ahmad, the presidency of the continental mother body has lurched into more controversy as the race to find his successor intensifies.
CAF is synonymous with tumult but the commotion stakes have been escalated as the elections to choose the new leader in place of the beleaguered Ahmad administration draw closer.
Ineligible for the elections set for March 12 during the CAF 43rd Elective Ordinary General Assembly in Rabat, Morroco, Madagascan Ahmad is bowing out in disgrace.
Ahmad (aged 61) was the seventh president at the helm of CAF since its founding in 1957 in Sudan.
His presidency of the 56-member football mother body headquartered in Egypt ended last November after FIFA handed him a five-year ban for financial misconduct.
This brought to an abrupt end to a presidency that at its beginning in 2017 promised so much in terms of reforms after more than 29 years of authoritarian rule by the Cameroonian, Issa Hayatou.
Taken at face value, the “examination of candidatures” for the CAF presidency is aimed at having an incorruptible individual for the position yet in essence it is a strategy aimed at keeping the status quo by retaining members already in the CAF executive committee or other structures by virtue of heading their football associations.
The CAF Governance Committee, led by its President, Michel Kizito Brizoua-Bi, is spearheading the exercise and met in the Egyptian capital, Cairo, on January 5 and 6 to “carry out the eligibility checks” of the candidates for the most powerful position in African football and members of CAF Executive Committee.
“These checks are still ongoing, and their results will be communicated usefully,” Abdelmounaim Bah, the CAF Acting General Secretary, stated.
There apparently is more to the so-called eligibility checks than meets the eye.
While five individuals are vying for the presidency (oddly, Ahmad was interested in another term), two have been approved. These are Augustin Emmanuel Senghor (55), the Senegal Football Federation president and Jacques Bernard Daniel Anouma (69), the honorary President of the Ivorian Football Federation.
Senghor has been member of the CAF executive committee since February 2018.
Fellow aspirants, Ahmed Yahya (44) President of the Mauritanian Football Federation and Patrice Tlhopane Motsepe, President of South Africa’s Mamelodi Sundowns (58), have their candidatures hanging in the balance with CAF classifying them as “candidates for the Presidency requiring additional checks.”
Motsepe and Yahya are more prominent as businessman, raising speculation by some critics that the checks are a ploy to sideline them.
They have to wait until the end of January to know of their fate. A hearing of these two candidates will be organised in Cairo on January 28.
Apparently, the endorsement of the old guard in Anouma and Senghor and continued scrutiny of the other two candidates, amounting to barring of fresh ideas, would ensure there is no change at CAF setup.
The fact that these are additional checks indicates that an earlier process, in this case the checks led by Brizoua-Bi committee on January 5 and 6.
This raises questions around the necessity of the additional process. CAF raises eyebrows by announcing publicly that the other candidates are to be checked thoroughly and cleared.
In addition, Yahya is a Member of the Executive Committee which under normal circumstances must be valid enough to endorse his candidature.
Yahya was named the continent’s best football administrator at the 2017 CAF Awards in Accra, Ghana. This itself ought to be another plus for his candidature. He has also received praise from FIFA.
While he is not in the top echelons of CAF, Motsepe is a world-renowned entrepreneur who sits on boards at blue chip companies, which indicates he has gone through such checks before.
The pair thus is widely believed to be corrupt-free.
A school of thought suggests inequality of selection of candidates is part of maneuvers to elbow the candidate from Southern Africa out of the race and shift influence to the West.
Ironically, the south catapulted Ahmad to the presidency in 2017.
The Council of Southern African football Association (COSAFA) is the second-largest CAF regional federation (14 members) behind the West African Football Union (WAFU).
“All these so-called additional checks at the moment have Anouma and Senghor as favourites. Should they remain the two eligible candidates, wither way the race for the election goes, the presidency will head to West Africa,” according to Youssef Kamel, the Cairo-based analyst.
Alexandre Siewe, the CAF Director of Communications, said, “Their (Motsepe’s and Yahya’s) candidatures were deemed admissible. However, the committee considered that further checks are necessary before a final decision.”
He said the Governance Committee “scrupulously” analysed the candidatures received on the basis of the report drawn up by an international and independent company of investigation services, specialised in the controls of integrity.
By stating to the world that the two candidates are to be subjected to more scrutiny, CAF has created inequality among the candidates and ultimately cast doubt on the credibility of the upcoming election.
This evokes memories of the dark sides of the Ahmad presidency, which the football mother body purportedly is eager to banish.
Thus, with an election process already dubious, the dream of a new, clean CAF for now remains a pipe dream.
This article was first published by CAJ News