Politics Sports

Fear Looms Over Possible Annulment Of FECAFOOT Elections By TAS

Samuel Eto'o and delegation
  • Calls Mount For Biya To Intervene, Save Eto’o’s FECAFOOT For Interest Of Cameroon Football
  • Observers Blame Eto’o’s Entourage For Failed Plot To Knock Out Abdouraman

By Joe Dinga Pefok

There are increasing calls for President Paul Biya to intervene and save the leadership of football icon, Samuel Eto’o Fils, at the Cameroon Football Federation, FECAFOOT. 

The calls are coming amid looming fears that a ruling that the Court of Arbitration for Sports, commonly known by the French acronym, TAS, is scheduled to deliver at the end of May 2022, might annul the December 11, 2021, FECAFOOT elections that ushered in Eto’o as President.  

Eto’o Fils took over the management of a FECAFOOT that had been in a crisis for a decade; a crisis that had caused TAS to annul the elections of two former Presidents of FECAFOOT, Tombi Aroko Sidiki, and Seidou Mbombo Njoya.

Before running for elections last year, Eto’o Fils doubted the legality of the elections that was challenged by some parties who termed it illegal. Before declaring his candidature, Eto’o addressed a correspondence to the Secretary-General of the world football governing body, FIFA, to find out if the FECAFOOT elections were legal. He explained that he did not want to get himself involved in an illegal election that could be annulled afterwards.

Unfortunately, the Secretary-General of FIFA didn’t respond to Eto’o’s correspondence. This was apparently because the President of FIFA, Gianni Infantino, and the President of the Confederation of African Football, CAF, Dr Patrice Motsepe, did not want Eto’o to be FECAFOOT President. The two had instead proposed that Eto’o should be Vice President to Seidou Mbombo Njoya, a proposal the football legend rejected.

 The Five Petitions At TAS

When FECAFOOT elections took place at the national level in Yaounde, a total of five petitions against the elections had been received and registered  by TAS.  Three of the petitions were filed by one of the candidates, Emmanuel Maboang Kessack, a former player of the Cameroon national team. 

The other two petitions were filed by members of the famous 2009 Executive Committee of FECAFOOT led by Senator Dr Albert Mbida, and supported by strongman, Abdouraman Hamadou Baba, President of Etoile Filante of Garoua. 

Alleged Cases Of Fraud 

In his petitions, Maboang alleged that the FECAFOOT elections at Divisional levels were marked by fraud. He cited that several fake Third Division clubs were created in many regions by the then Interim Executive Committee of FECAFOOT headed by Seidou Mbombo Njoya. He said the fraud was done so that the Presidents of those fake clubs could influence the elections at the Divisional level in favour of Delegates that were supporters of Seidou Mbombo Njoya. 

Maboang revealed that these Third Division Leagues did not function last year and, even the year before, ‘elected’ delegates from these leagues participated in the FECAFOOT elections at the regional levels. 

Maboang, who had been a candidate in the FECAFOOT elections before, explained to local media that, during his first participation in FECAFOOT elections, he realised that fraud takes place in the elections at the level of the base and not at the national level as many people think.   

Maboang said he was certain that TAS would annul the elections. Even on the eve of the December 11 election, Maboang, who by then had accepted that he would withdraw his candidature to support Eto’o’s candidature, still repeated that TAS would cancel the election. 

CCA Ruling 

Maboang also filed a case at the ‘Chambre de Conciliation et Arbitrage’, CCA, in Yaounde, against the candidature of Seidou Mbombo Njoya. He won the case, meaning that the candidature of Seidou Mbombo Njoya was supposed to be disqualified.

However, the then Interim Bureau of FECAFOOT headed by Seidou Mbombo Njoya rejected the ruling by CCA, and filed an appeal at TAS. However, FECAFOOT did not pay the fee of 1,000 Swiss francs that was demanded by TAS for the appeal to be registered. 

Two Petitions Filed By 2009 Exco

In their petitions, the 44 members of the famous 2009 Executive Committee of FECAFOOT insisted that the new Constitution of the federation, adopted by the Interim Executive Committee headed by Mbombo Njoya, and which was used to organise the FECAFOOT elections of last year, was illegal. 

It should be noted that the 2009 Executive Committee, which has insisted that it remains the real legal Executive Committee of the Federation, had, after the FECAFOOT elections of 2018 that ushered in Seidou Mbombo Njoya and team, petitioned TAS that the elections were illegal.

TAS in this case found a serious fault in the FECAFOOT Constitution that was used to organise the elections, and annulled the elections. In a rather controversial decision, FIFA designated the same Seidou Mbombo Njoya-led team to serve as Interim Executive Committee of FECAFOOT, with the mission to, among other things, adopt a new Constitution for FECAFOOT as well as organise fresh elections. 

But, again, the 2009 Executive Committee last year filed petitions at TAS, insisting that the Interim Executive Committee that was set up by FIFA was illegal, and that the Constitution that was adopted by the General Assembly was also illegal. The 2009 EXCO also held that the FECAFOOT elections that were then being organised by Interim Executive Committee from the base (Divisional levels) were illegal, and even urged TAS to suspend the December 11, 2021, FECAFOOT elections.

The 2009 Executive Committee

Worth noting that the 2009 Executive Committee of FECAFOOT initially had as President, Iya Mohammed, who was later jailed over alleged embezzlement at SODECOTON, where he was also General Manager. The 1st Vice President of the 2009 Executive Committee of FECAFOOT, John Begheni Ndeh, had since gone on retirement and moved to the United States of America, due to the Anglophone Crisis.

Out of the 67 members of the 2009 Executive Committee of FECAFOOT, only 44 are still around. However, the number available still constitutes a majority. The group designated Senator Dr. Albert Mdida as their leader. 

Strongman, Abdouraman Hamadou Baba

It is worth noting that strongman, Abdouraman Hamadou, was not a member of the 2009 Executive Committee of FECAFOOT. Abdouraman was brought to work at the FECAFOOT Headquarters by Iya Mohammed, and had to leave when the Iya-led Executive Committee was illegally pushed out following Iya’s imprisonment.

Though not a lawyer by profession, Abdouraman came to impress many people with his sound mastery of FECAFOOT texts. The 2009 Executive Committee, which later came to be led by Senator Albert Mbida, struck a deal with Abdouraman to serve as their representative in cases filed by the group at TAS. A legal document was given to Abdouraman for that purpose. That was how Abdouraman came to be the one representing the 2009 Executive Committee of FECAFOOT in cases they filed at TAS. 

TAS Delays Judgements

TAS did not rule on the five petitions that were filed by Maboang and the 2009 Executive Committee of FECAFOOT, before the December 2021 FECAFOOT elections at the national level, as the complainants had prayed. The complainants had requested that either TAS ruled on the matters before the December 11 elections, or suspend the electoral process. 

A day before the scheduled FECAFOOT elections, TAS issued a partial ruling signed by the President of the Chamber of Arbitration and Appeal of TAS, Corinne Schmidhauser. In the partial ruling, TAS simply rejected the demand by the complainants to suspend the electoral process.

Interestingly enough, TAS argued that, if the electoral process was suspended, FECAFOOT would be without a President whereas Cameroon was about to host the African Cup of Nations, AFCON, which the court said was not good. 

Fear Changes Camp

After the FECAFOOT elections of December 11, 2021, in Yaounde, fear over the five petitions at TAS changed camp. The camp of incumbent Seidou Mbombo Njoya, who lost the election for the post of President of FECAFOOT, no longer feared or cared about the five petitions at TAS. Some of the supporters even expressed the wish to see FIFA annul the entire FECAFOOT elections. 

When the Samuel Eto’o camp won the elections, it became panicky about the petitions at TAS. 

Need For Reconciliation

After the FECAFOOT elections of December 11, 2021, the new President of FECAFOOT, Eto’o Fils, expressed his readiness to work for the reconciliation of all the factions in the protracted crisis in FECAFOOT for the general interest of Cameroon football. 

Even Seidou Mbombo Njoya made a similar call on Election Day.

Maboang Withdraw Petitions From TAS

Maboang formally announced the withdrawal of his candidature to support that of Eto’o Fils on Election Day. When Eto’o officially took over FECAFOOT, he appointed Maboang as ‘Charge de Mission’ at FECAFOOT.  Maboang then withdrew his case.

On April 14, 2022, TAS officially granted Maboang’s request to withdraw the three petitions. 

The Two Other Petitions

Moves by Eto’o Fils to get the 2009 Executive Committee of FECAFOOT to withdraw the other two petitions at TAS started on well, but later ran into a storm. 

Eto’o started by holding a reconciliation meeting with strongman, Abdouraman Hamadou, who sounded positive at the end of the meeting, but was quick to add that the meeting was just a beginning.

Eto’o also held one-on-one meetings with members of the 2009 Executive Committee of FECAFOOT that were available, and contacted the others by phone. The ground was now set for a grand meeting with the group. 

Spoilers Cause Trouble 

Observers are unanimous that one of the major problems Eto’o Fils faced as a professional footballer and even when he retired has always been his entourage. Eto’o was faulted severally by critics for often allowing his friends to get much involved in his public activities, including public communications.

Many of those around Eto’o who seemingly have their own individual interest, are often said to be arrogant and even sarcastic, and see anybody coming to meet Eto’o as somebody coming to beg for money. 

That was why, after Eto’o’s election, many expressed fears that his friends will get involved in the affairs of FECAFOOT, and create problems for him.

Eto’o’s Meeting With The 2009 Exco

Since the major agenda of the meeting was the two petitions at TAS, Abdouraman, as well as Barristers Wamba M. Georges Gerard and Level Eloma Manga, who were following up on the matter at TAS, were normally supposed to be present at the meeting. That was the understanding that Abdouraman had with Eto’o in their one-on-one meeting earlier. But then, surprisingly, Abdouraman and the two lawyers were not invited to the Mont Febe Hotel meeting. 

Sources say Etoo’s entourage downplayed Abdouraman’s capacity, and influenced the decision to ignore Abdouraman by not inviting him to the meeting. 

As the Mont Febe Hotel meeting was going on, Abdouraman, who was in Yaounde, tweeted that he heard that a certain meeting was holding at Mont Febe Hotel, and that he was on his way to a certain spot to “eat sawyer”. 

Abdouraman Humiliated 

At the meeting at Mont Febe Hotel, members of the 2009 Executive Committee of FECAFOOT agreed to withdraw the two petitions at TAS. But, in what looked like a humiliation of Abdouraman, a resolution that was apparently crafted by the entourage of Eto’o and adopted at the meeting announced that members of the 2009 Executive Committee of FECAFOOT had unanimously agreed to withdraw the authorisation which they gave to Abdouraman to represent them at TAS. 

Plot Against Abdouraman Backfires

A day after the meeting, Barrister Wanna and Manga, jointly declared the decision taken to withdraw the two cases as null and void.

The most embarrassing news to Eto’o’s camp was definitely the fact that some 20 members of the 2009 Executive Committee of FECAFOOT, who were among those that attended the Mont Febe Hotel meeting, backtracked on the decision to withdraw the two cases at TAS.

It should be noted that, according to the text applied by TAS, one member alone of a national executive committee of a Federation has the power to file a case at TAS. This means that the two cases at TAS can only be withdrawn if all the 44 members of the 2009 Executive Committee of FECAFOOT agreed.

With the plot by Eto’o’s men to side-line and humiliate Abdouraman having backfired, all the moves Eto’o made to reconcile with the 2009 Executive Committee of FECAFOOT have unfortunately crashed.

Worst still, Eto’o’s friends that apparently misled him into the mess seem not to have learnt any lesson. In a recent debate over CRTV Sports, Eto’o’s right hand man, Serge Blanco shocked panellists with his declarations. Serge said many people come to Eto’o only to pose personal monetary problems. He even said some lacked food. Such reckless pronouncements keep making things difficult for Eto’o.

Calls For Biya’s Intervention

There is a lot of uncertainty with the case. If the rulings are in favour of the complainants, it will unfortunately mean annulling all the FECAFOOT elections of last year, and Eto’o’s presidency. 

With the uncertainty, many are cautioning against taking any chances. That is why many are calling on Biya, who is seemingly the only person that can get Abdouraman, the 44 members of the 2009 Executive Committee of FECAFOOT as well as Barristers Wamba and Manga, to sit down with Eto’o and strike a firm agreement and rapidly withdraw the two cases at TAS, before the arbitration tribunal gets to deliver judgements. 

For now, a pro – Eto’o jurist, Franck Lucien Meme, said: “President Samuel Eto’o knows that the elections can be annulled at any time”.

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