When a leader refuses to bow out honourably, after 29 years in office – even when the handwriting, to depart, is clearly on the wall – he will be humiliated out.
The election defeat I witnessed, at the headquarters of the African Union in Addis Ababa – by an unexpected margin of 14 votes (34 to 20) – was a resounding, clear message that Issa Hayatou’s time as CAF president was well and truly over.
Those that have read my journalism, over the years, know I have been an ardent critic of how Hayatou did many things, as president of CAF.
That has been primarily responsible for why he has refused to grant me an interview since 2004, 13 years ago.
Hayatou made it very clear to me, in Libreville, during the last Africa Cup of Nations in Gabon, that he was hurt by what I have said about him, particularly my description of the 2013 CAF elective congress in Morocco, as being reminiscent of a political gathering in North Korea.
It may surprise many to hear that I am not gloating over Hayatou’s unceremonious exit, despite the fact that he made grave leadership errors and is primarily the architect of his own misfortune, here in Addis Ababa.
Madiba – the late Nelson Mandela – warned us against such cruelty to others. Gloating is not noble and decent.
Mr Ahmad, who has been given a clear mandate, now has the mantle of leadership and must prove to Africa that he can act COMPETENTLY and INDEPENDENTLY as CAF president.
He must show that he is ready to be a fighter for Africa’s interests, even if it means going head-to-head with the FIFA leadership on occasion, which clearly supported him to win this election.
In an ideal situation, Mr Hayatou should have stepped down last year – on reaching 70 – and allowed an open, free and fair presidential election.
But we are where we are and Mr Ahmad is the new president. I hope he will prove himself worthy of what 34 FA presidents have decided to give to him.
Some words of caution: While reform and change is desperately needed at CAF, let the good things from the Hayatou years not be tossed away. The baby should not be thrown out with the bathwater.
Many staff in CAF will be frightened about their futures. For certain, let the incompetent ones be shown the door. But those that have demonstrable competence must be allowed to remain. A policy of victimisation, in the name of “change,” will do CAF tremendous damage.
The self-serving conduct of key Hayatou courtiers played a key role in his unceremonious exit, as they egged him on to seek another presidential term, even when it was obvious that it was time to depart and he could have devised a more honourable exit.
Mr Ahmad will be well advised to choose counsellors and advisers that will tell him the unvarnished truth, so that he can be an ethical, visionary leader that the continental football fraternity will respect and the entire world will reckon with.
Only then can he truly be a different kind of leader, one that will take the managment of CAF, and the African game, to new plateaus of performance. I wish the new president the very best of luck.
But, as it would surprise no one, I will continue to hold the chief guardian of the African game accountable for how he manages the patrimony of the continent. If there is clear evidence that he has come up short, I will not hesitate to say it.
By: Osasu Obayiuwana