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17.05.2008 Football News

The FA’s Mugabe-Biya strategy

By Kwasi Gyan Appenteng/The Mirror
The FA’s Mugabe-Biya strategy
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I love sports, which is not a surprise. Ghanaians are sports-loving people, especially football. Millions of Ghanaian hearts came close to breaking when Cameroon took our national team, the Black Stars, out of contention for gold and spoilt the party when Ghana hosted CAN 2008.

It is, therefore, a little surprising that not many Ghanaians pay attention to the way football is administered in Ghana.

If people were paying attention, they might have questioned the manner in which the Football Association (FA) amended their constitution and extended their stay in office by a year. It is true that FIFA, the football ruling body, is notoriously jealous of the independence of its member national organisations, but that does not mean that the public and the media should not scrutinise the goings-on at the FA.

I am not alleging for a moment that the FA did anything illegal or unconstitutional although I am aware that there is a threat of a legal action against the amendment for some reasons. I am concerned that the FA and other public institutions are taking advantage of the country s very lax attitude to public policy procedures to undermine the democratic spirit of the time we are living in.

When Ghana decided to adopt multiparty democracy with the coming into force of the 1992 Constitution, it also adopted, by implication, core democratic values and principles as a way of life. This means that even public institutions that are not established directly by the constitution also have to respond to the democratic pressures that are driving the new political culture.

The Directive Principles of State Policy dictate that the principles will guide all citizens and institutions in applying and interpreting the constitution and any other law and in taking and implementing any policy decisions for the establishment of a just and free society.

Therefore, not even FIFA s famed protective cordon sanitaire thrown around the FA can or should prevent well meaning inquiry into the constitutional activities of the football body.

What is my beef? Well, it is like this.

The Congress of the FA adopted a new constitution and went to the polls under it in 2005. It elected an executive council, led by the president for a four-year term, which would have meant a new election in 2009. Then they amended the constitution a couple of weeks ago so that the FA Executive Committee would be elected every four years, but in the year following the World Cup, instead of the year before the quadrennial fiesta as was the case.

Incidentally, executives have to stay in office for an extra year until after the 2010 World Cup in South Africa. According to the FA, or the Congress the change is necessary to ensure that Ghana s World Cup preparations will not be disrupted with changes in FA personnel.

Now this is deeply ironic. The current FA Executive Committee took office in 2005, the year preceding Germany 2006 where the Black Stars made their maiden World Cup appearance. The current crop took over from the Nyaho Tamakloe administration, which had nearly overseen the qualifying process to the end. President Nyantekyi and his team did not appear unduly discombobulated by their coming into office in the middle of the World Cup preparation.

Indeed, Mr Nyantekyi and his colleagues guided the Black Stars to their most glorious performance on the world stage. If they felt disadvantaged in any way, they did not say then, and have not said since. There has been no analysis, certainly not in the public domain to suggest that Ghana s preparation for 2010 would suffer if the FA executives were changed in 2009.

In any case, if any personnel change would have to be resisted, it would be that of the head coach, but he has gone on the eve of the first qualifier against Libya. However, no one, least of all the FA, has suggested that we throw our hands up in despair, because our coach has gone. Why should we be worried about change at the top of the FA when we are able to cope with the sudden departure of our coach?

Perhaps the Nyantekyi s FA has borne a silent pain arising from its coming into office in the year before the World Cup and genuinely wants to prevent the same thing happening to its successor. However, in my opinion, the best thing for the FA to do was to change the constitution, but not to, in any way, enable the current executives to benefit from it.

In other words, the current FA could have amended the constitution such that the next FA executive would come into office in 2009, but stay until 2015, which would be one year after the World Cup following the next one in South Africa. This would have demonstrated to everyone that the FA was not taking the step for its own interest.

My point is this. In amending its constitution to change the year in which its executives take office, the current executive have left themselves open to the charge that they were motivated by self-interest rather than the interest of the Ghanaian game and the nation at large. There was no real pressure to do this and the logic behind it cannot be described as compelling without stretching a point.

Does any of this matter? If the FA chooses to amend their constitution in any way, they feel fit. Should it be of concern, to anyone, especially those outside football? Absolutely, the overwhelming interest in party politics has meant that the media and the public at large do not focus as much on how public institutions work as they should, and by drips and drabs, undemocratic practices can infest the entire body politic.

Let me repeat, however, that I am not saying for a moment that the FA has acted criminally, but they have violated a moral canon that underpins democracy and good governance. They are probably not the only body to do so, but football is a national passion so it has attracted attention while other public bodies would get away with it.

If President Kufuor decides to use the NPP majority in Parliament to amend the constitution to enable him extend his rule by one year because he is best placed to look after the oil that has been discovered in his time, I am sure there would be uproar, and rightly so. We should not allow our other public institutions to do things that we will not tolerate from high state officials or politicians in general.

Africa is replete with people who want to stay in office for ever, and, although I am not saying that our FA are anywhere near the Mugabe-Biya threshold, who knows? May be, our eternal African dictators were not born that way. They probably acquired the taste when they were first made class prefects ... or administrators of their local football association.

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