By Fred Edoreh
Oluwashina Okeleji’s article titled “The rise and fall of Amaju Pinnick”, as published in Newframe.com on August 21, 2019, was quite an interesting excursion into the soul of the Confederation of Africa Football.
It however miscarried judgment by focusing mainly on Pinnick’s non-retention as CAF 1st Vice President and stood virtue on its head by celebrating President Ahmad Ahmad’s raw misuse of political power to arrive at glaring failures while casting down Pinnick’s good conscience and courage to demand for best practices.
Ironically, the article pointed out in its conclusion that all four men now at the helm of CAF affairs “have allegations hanging over their heads but were found to be on the right side when weighed in the balance” and that “ in African football’s Game of Thrones, you win or you’re out.”
True, indeed, but that sadly underscores Africa’s retrogression in which performance is discounted and the impunity of leadership is hailed as valour as we fail to understand that the whole is the real loser. For, what is there to celebrate in Ahmad’s self preservation in power only brazenly used to run CAF down to the point that he himself succumbed to the imperative of FIFA take over of its governance? There lies the real question for Africa: how did Ahmad and his collaborators so disingenuously bring CAF to its knees? How else can we describe incompetence, failure and loss?
Interestingly, Pinnick had engaged him to stave off the imminence of the collapse but he refused to heed. Pinnick on his part also refused to deal, for, indeed, it is the poverty of the spirit to choose to be politically correct to earn position while you betray your whole continent, the football world and the change generation? On this, Pinnick should be held high for standing for noble values rather than be elevated through loyalty to filth.
His letter to Ahmad before the bubble burst speaks volumes of the cankerworm in CAF, the point of departure between both men.
“Through certain actions, knowingly or unknowingly, consciously or unconsciously the Statutes (our operational weapon) are being violated,” he alerted Ahmad.
“We started this journey with a clear vision for the proud footballing continent of Africa, with the full determination to take CAF to the next level! Two years have passed and…we no longer seem to be discussing football development, the new thinking, innovations and creative dynamism in the round leather game…We are stagnated, discussing only trivial and ethnocentric issues that are manifest minuses to football development…We need to be very careful, my President…We are sitting on a bombshell ready to explode and we need to act.
“This institution, we promised to protect, is greater than any of us and we want it to continue once we are gone. We came to leave a legacy and change African football; we can only achieve that if we respect the rules, and act in consonance with football ethic and the statutes…I am appealing to you from the deepest part of my heart to allow all committees to function like President Gianni Infantino does at FIFA…I also enjoin you to graciously and magnanimously allow all departments at CAF to do their job without interference. We also need to engage CAF legal and governance structures and indeed have extensive consultations before major decisions are taken.
“Mr. President, my deepest hope is for you to understand my motives as genuine and without an iota of anything sinister, but rather a true call for a change of direction and focus.”
If Ahmad had had wisdom enough to understand the loyalty in Pinnick’s “disloyalty” and the disloyalty of his loyalists, and heeded the clarion call, CAF certainly wouldn’t have come into the present dishonor of “Administration.” But he didn’t, and so, he fouled himself and betrayed Africa.
First, it was found that he revoked a supply contract to world renowned sports equipment company, Puma, and reawarded same at higher price to Tactical Steel, a middleman company owned by an associate of his aide. Beside that was an allegation of sexual misconducts at the CAF secretariat. These and other allegations are now subject of inquisition.
Few weeks after FIFA took over the governance of CAF, it has bursted an apparent broadcast rights racketeering suspiciously used to fleece the confederation and FIFA in bits. It has now been directed that broadcast rights of CAF games would be centrally managed by FIFA.
But by far the biggest disservice to Africa, not just its football, is Ahmad’s primitive tactics of pitching Francophone Africa against their Anglophone brothers in his bid to preserve himself in power. On this, Pinnick also cautioned.
“Football is a global language understood by all and it would be a shame for us not to use it to overcome all our differences. And by differences, I mean language barriers, religion, geographic zones etc.”
In retrospect, as the Change Team prepared to ease out Issa Hayatou’s old order, the Anglophone group were 100 percent in support that his replacement be made from the Francophone, in order not to hurt any feelings, even though Hayatou had reigned for about 30 years. This was the plan that eventually threw up Ahmad. Sadly, he is now hacking savagely against that unity in African football.
These are the things Pinnick stood against and, if that be described as disloyalty, it critically needs to be questioned to what values Ahmad owes his loyalty: self or the good governance, growth, progress and respect of Africa football? Here, Africa is on trial.
For those who suggest that Amaju may have been ambitious to take over the CAF presidency, it should be seen that, if he was, his best option would have been to allow Ahmad wallow in his filth which, though, he eventually chose to despite Pinnick’s early warnings.