Hours to the Confederation of African Football elections, pendulum has swung in favour of incumbent CAF boss Issa Hayatou as he secured overwhelming endorsement of many African heads of state which could guarantee him retention of his position.
Hayatou seemed to have been rattled as his challenger in tomorrow’s election Ahmad Ahmad, at a time, appeared to have garnered enough support to stop him from securing his eighth term in office.
It is instructive to note that some African football federation presidents that constitute the electorate had declared their support for Ahmad’s candidature but a new report has revealed that political realities have considerably changed in favour of the incumbent.
It was learnt Tuesday morning that while Ahmad, who is the President of Madagascar Football Association, and the ‘change movement’ lobbied their colleagues from other countries, Hayatou was playing high wired politics that involves selling his candidacy to governments in Africa.
A source said that Hayatou had used his connection in world football to reach out to several African Presidents who had mandated heads of their football federations to vote for the Cameroonian on the elections day. “Hayatou is a principality in African football and it won’t happen to easily remove him.
Do you think he is a fool that will sit down and do nothing when all the younger elements are making noise about the moves they have made,” a source who is very close to the CAF boss said.
“It would have been better if they had not disclosed their strategy; and that Hayatou has not postponed the elections means he was sure he would win. I can tell you that he has spoken to virtually all the heads of states of those countries that will fea ture in the election and had gotten assurances that their football chiefs would vote for him. I can tell you that many countries, including Nigeria would cast their ballot for Hayatou.”
Surprisingly, few hours after the source disclosed that the Minister of Sports Solomon Dalung, at a forum in Abuja, confirmed that Hayatou and not Ahmad was the candidate that Nigeria Football Federation Amaju Pinnick must vote for.
This was a shocker as Dalung had earlier told Pinnick, who is the biggest voice in Ahmad’s camp, to go ahead and vote for candidate of his choice.
Dalung said the Presidency had ordered that Nigeria’s international relation with Cameroon must not be destroyed by football politics, hence the decision to back Hayatou and this dramatic turn of event has thrown Ahmad’s camp in disarray, New Telegraph learnt. Dalung told journalists in Abuja that: “I told them the country’s position is to vote in favour of our national interest.
The Federal Government has made it categorically clear that, in view of the fact that Cameroon has been a major key player in the war against insurgency and the involvement of that country in fighting for the stability of Nigeria, it will be against the foreign interest policy of Nigeria to abandon Cameroon.
“The Acting President (Yemi Osinbajo) directed that if Hayatou will get only one vote at the election, it must be from Nigeria. We should stand with Hayatou and I have communicated that to the NFF as the directive from the Federal Government.
“The support for Cameroon is a product of extensive consultation amongst the concerned agencies like the Foreign Affairs Ministry and the Presidency.” Aside from the battle for president seat, CAF Executive Committee members will also be elected for North Zone, West A Zone, West B Zone, Central Zone, Central-East Zone and Southern Zone. Pinnick is also gunning for a spot in the continental body.
How Countries support the two candidates
Nigeria: Despite a reported intention to vote for Ahmad, the NFF are now expected to throw their weight behind Hayatou. According to AFP, NFF chief Amaju Pinnick has been urged to support the Cameroonian in order to repay the Central African nation for their support in the battle against Boko Haram. Prediction: HAYATOU
Liberia: FA chief Musa Bility, while stopping short from revealing his vote, has hinted that he with throw his weight being Ahmad after confirming that he believed Africa was “ready for a change”. Prediction: AHMAD
Uganda, Tanzania, Rwanda, South Sudan, Burundi, Djibouti, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Somalia, Sudan: All have been tipped to be planning to back challenger Ahmad, but regional body CECAFA outlined their decision to vote—en masse for Hayatou during an extra-ordinary meeting in Libreville in February. Will the individual nations within CECAFA stay true to their word in Thursday’s vote?
Kenya: Federation chief Nick Mwendwa is keeping his cards close to his chest, and refused to reveal who the Kenyans were planning to back in Thursday’s vote. There’s evidence that the East Africans are floating voters; Ahmad reportedly visited Nairobi in secret several weeks ago, although Mwendwa may feel ‘forced’ to vote for Hayatou, according to local sources.
Zimbabwe: Phillip Chiyangwa has made no secret of his opposition for Hayatou’s reign, and it would be a major surprise if the Zimbabwe Football Association didn’t back Ahmad on Thursday.
The rest of COSAFA (Namibia, Mozambique, Zambia, Angola, Mauritius, Malawi, Botswana, Comoros, Lesotho, Madagascar, Seychelles, South Africa, Swaziland). Following in the footsteps of their President, Chiyangwa, expect the rest of the Council of Southern Africa Football Associations to back Ahmad. Earlier this month, the regional bloc already confirmed that they would be planning to support ‘their’ candidate, although again, it remains to be seen if all members will follow suite.
…we didn’t pressure Pinnick to vote Hayatou – FG
The Government of Nigeria has quashed reports that they pressured Nigeria Football Association (NFF) President Amaju Pinnick to vote for Issa Hayatou in the forthcoming presidential polls.
With political subterfuge in full swing, agency reports indicate that the Nigerian government has mandated NFF chief, Amaju Pinnick to switch his allegiance from Madagascan challenger Ahmad Ahmad to the veteran Hayatou, who is seeking to extend his 29-year reign at the top of African football.
Intriguingly, Pinnick, who has been at the forefront of the campaign to dislodge Hayatou, is also contesting a place on the Confederation of African Football (CAF) executive committee on the same day as the presidential election in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.
Refuting reports that it had intervened, the Nigerian Sports Ministry said it simply clarified that it had only advised Pinnick, to “preserve the special relationship between Nigeria and Cameroon.”
Code, of course, for diplomatic and political pressure since both Nigeria and Cameroon are fighting Boko Haram insurgency in the region.
Indeed, sports Ministry spokesperson Nneka Anibeze was quoted as saying that the sports minister Solomon Dalung “believes that Hayatou’s Cameroun has been and will continue to be more useful to Nigeria than Madagascar, but that does not translate to an order on the NFF to vote for him.”
Only last month Dalung had told local media that Pinnick would be given carte blance to vote for either candidate. “We believe that he is in a better position to know about the politics of CAF than all of us,” Dalung said at the time.
But tellingly Dalung added: “He should as a matter of fact think of what the country stands to gain from whatever decision he takes concerning this election. I also urge him to eschew personal interest if any, as the nation’s interest should come first in whatever we do.”