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FECAFOOT Under Eto’o: Anglophone Representation Shrinks To Historical Low

Samuel Eto'o and delegation

By Joe Dinga Pefok

“I just read the press release of the resolutions adopted at the Ordinary Session of the Executive Committee (of FECAFOOT) held in Limbe on February 16, 2022, at Marcsons Hotel. While acknowledging the fact that it was a good initiative to hold the meeting in Limbe, I noticed that, of all the members confirmed and approved for recruitment, none is an Anglophone. There is clearly marginalisation of Anglophones”.

The above is an excerpt of the reaction of a prominent Anglophone leader and human rights defender, Barrister Agbor Balla Nkongho, following the approval by the Executive Committee of the Cameroon Football Federation commonly known by the French acronym, FECAFOOT, of the recruitment of five senior officials of the Federation by the new President, Samuel Eto’o Fils. The Limbe meeting was the second by the Eto’o Fils-led Executive Committee of FECAFOOT. The first ordinary session of new Executive Committee held in Kribi, South Region, on December 22, 2021.

Meanwhile, the list of five new senior officials of FECAFOOT recruited by Eto’o Fils had no Anglophone among them, and it was presented for validation at the second ordinary session of FECAFOOT that held in Limbe on February 16, 2022. It  included, among others; Benjamin Didier Banlock as Secretary-General of FECAFOOT, Happi Soho Fanguen Franck Hilaire as Director of Football Development at FECAFOOT, and Emmanuel Maboang Kessack as ‘Charge de Missions’ at FECAFOOT.

Agbor Balla, in his frank reaction, posted on the social media, asserted that the appointments that glaringly excluded Anglophones, were indisputably a major setback for the Eto’o-led Federation. He cautioned that: “We should not be blinded by ‘Etomania’, adding that “I am a fan of Eto’o, but will equally condemn any acts and omissions of marginalisation and discrimination against Anglophones”.

Anglophones Are Eto’o Fils’s Fans

Anglophones, in general, including this reporter, are fans of Eto’o. The euphoria  or what Agbor Balla and many  others term ‘Etomania’, that gripped  Anglophones in general, following Eto’o Fils’ election as President of FECAFOOT on December 11, 2021, was testimony of how Anglophones loved the football icon. But, embarrassingly, Anglophones have been side-lined in all the appointments or proposals for appointment that Eto’o Fils has made in his first three months at FECAFOOT.

The entire 12 votes of the two Anglophone Regions that all went to Eto’o Fils at the December 11 FECAFOOT election in Yaounde, contributed significantly to the election of the football icon as President of FECAFOOT.

Other Cases Of Marginalisation

The marginalisation of Anglophones, that Barrister Agbor Balla raised, is not the first case by Eto’o Fils in his new capacity as President of FECAFOOT.

The first major case was registered on the very day that Eto’o was elected President of FECAFOOT, in the elections that ran from Saturday, December 11 to the early hours of Sunday, December 12.

As it is ever the case, the candidate that is elected President of FECAFOOT, decides the persons to occupy the posts of the four Vice Presidents of FECAFOOT.

For one thing, the tendency is that the opposing team simply gives up, when their leader for the post of President loses the election. The newly elected President is expected to apply wisdom and fair play in making the decision as to who and from which part of the country is made Vice President in a ranking manner.

When Iya Mohammed, a Francophone from the North Region was elected President of FECAFOOT (the famous 2009 Executive Committee), an Anglophone, John Begheni Ndeh, from the Northwest Region, got the post of 1st Vice President.  In a more recent case, when Seidou Mbombo Njoya from the West Region was elected President of FECAFOOT in 2018, the 1st Vice President came from the Far North Region, while the 2nd Vice President was an Anglophone, Hon Joshua Osih, from the Southwest Region.

Eto’o Fils’ FECAFOOT

But, when Eto’o Fils was elected President of FECAFOOT, an Anglophone, Henry Njalla Quan Jr, the President of the Southwest Regional League, got the  post of 4th Vice President.

Eto’o gave the post of 1st Vice President to Celine Eko of President Biya’s South Region. Boubakari Bello of the Far North Region got the post of 2nd Vice President, while the post of 3rd Vice President went to Authur Djampir of the East Region.

Football Powerhouses

The relegation of the lone Anglophone to the 4th Vice President by Eto’o Fils, was considered very unfair, even in terms of the forces of the different parts of the country in terms of football. The Northwest Region, for example, currently has two clubs in the Elite Football League, one of which is PWD Bamenda that just won this year’s Cup of Cameroon trophy last Sunday. There are also quite a number of Second Division Clubs in the Region.

The Southwest Regional League recently published the calendar for the Second Division Championship for the 2021/22 year. The calendar, for example, shows that as many as 30 clubs divided into four pools, will participate in the Southwest Second Division Championship for the 2021/22 season.

Among the 30 clubs are old names in Cameroon football like Prisons Buea, Victoria United, Mount Cameroon FC, Kumba Lakers, NQSA, Tiko United, among others.

With all these, the two Anglophone Regions, by merit, unquestionably deserve a much higher post in FECAFOOT than 4th Vice President.

It should also be pointed out that the Centre, South and East Regions are considered in this country, even by the administration, as being one people, just as the Grand North or Anglophone part of the country. Many, thus, consider as unfair the fact that Eto’o Fils gave the post of 1st and 3rd Vice Presidents of FECAFOOT to the South and East Regions, while dumping the Anglophone part of the country in the post of 4th and last Vice President.

Unfair Treatment Of Njalla Quan Junior

Objective sports observers will also agree that the post of 4th Vice President of FECAFOOT that went to Njalla Quan Jr, was a manifestation of a very unfair game by Eto’o Fils. This is considering a number of things, one of which is the fact that no Regional League President stuck out his neck for Eto’o in the FECAFOOT election, than the Southwest Regional League President, Njalla Quan Jr. We don’t have to include the Littoral Regional League President in this, considering that Eto’o Fils is from the Littoral, and it was just normal that the Littoral should support his candidature.

Njalla Quan Jr openly declared the block-votes of the six Southwest delegates to the FECAFOOT elections for Eto’o Fils’ candidature, very early. More so, it was at a time that many people did not yet see the chances of Eto’o winning the race for the post of President of FECAFOOT, considering the mafia that was known to always characterise FECAFOOT elections at the national level, giving the incumbent a lot of advantages to win.

It is worth recalling that a few minutes after the election of Eto’o Fils as President of FECAFOOT, CRTV interviewed Njalla Quan Jr on the risk he took to openly declare his support for Eto’o soon after Eto’o declared his candidature. Njalla Quan, in response, admitted that some people strongly criticised his decision to stick out his neck and that of the Southwest Regional League for Eto’o’s candidature, but that he stood his ground.

When asked if he was then looking forward to enter the new bureau of FECAFOOT following the victory of his candidate, Njalla Quan responded that he did not support Eto’o’s candidature so as to get a post.

Petitions Against Seidou Mbombo Njoya

There is another big risk that Njalla Quan Jr took for Eto’o in the FECAFOOT elections.

A total of three delegates had, before the elections proper, filed petitions for the disqualification of the candidature of the incumbent for the post of President of FECAFOOT, Seidou Mbombo Njoya. The three were Eto’o Fils, Robert Louis Mbekek who, like Eto’o, was one of delegates of the Littoral Region, and Henry Njalla Quan Jr from the Southwest Region. There is no doubt that Eto’o was behind the two other petitions that were separately filed by Njalla Quan and Mbekek.

The FECAFOOT Commission that examined petitions that were filed in connection to elections, rejected all the three petitions that asked for the disqualification of the candidature of incumbent Seidou Mbombo Njoya. One thing was, however, certain, and it was that the petition that was filed by Njalla Quan, further worsened his relationship with Seidou Mbombo Njoya. There is no doubt that if Seidou Mbombo Njoya had won the FECAFOOT election, Njalla Quan and his Southwest Regional League, would have become targets of victimisation.

The question, is after taking all these risks, what did Njalla Quan Jr and the Southwest Regional League get in return from Eto’o Fils? Nothing worth the support and risk.

Instead, the President of the Far North Regional League, Boubakari Bello, that gave his support to Eto’o’ at the last minute, was given the post of 2nd Vice President of FECAFOOT. It would be recalled that Boubakari Bello was one of the five Presidents of Regional Leagues in the country that, on December 5, 2021, in Garoua, signed a declaration announcing that the block-votes would go to incumbent candidate, Seidou Mbombo Njoya. But Boubakari Bello, like the President of the Northwest Regional League, Felix Njah Mbigha, who also signed the December Declaration in Garoua, crossed over to the Eto’o’s camp at the last minute.

Anglophones Still Left Out In Other Appointments

A few days after the February 16  meeting of the Executive Committee of FECAFOOT in Limbe, the President, Eto’o Fils, appointed members of what he termed, ‘Conseil Transitoire du Football Professionnel’, that is the Interim or Transitional Council of Professional Football, with Retired General Pierre Semengue, as President. All members of the Semengue led group that include Jean Paul Akono, are Francophones. Again, Eto’o did not think it necessary to appoint an Anglophone as member of the council.

The said Council will run the Elite 1 and 2 Professional Football Leagues this year. Yet, there is no single Anglophone in the council.

On February 28, 2022, a new technical team of the Cameroon national football team, Indomitable Lions, was appointed. Of course, the text as contained in Article 9 (1) of Presidential Decree No. 2014/384 of 26 September 2014, on the Organisation and Functioning of the national football team, is clear that the recruitment of members of the technical bench of the Indomitable Lions, including the Team Manager, are done by FECAFOOT, though the Minister of Sports has to give an opinion.

The President of FECAFOOT, Eto’o Fils, once more did not appoint a single person who hails from the Anglophone part of the country, among the seven members of the technical team led by Rigobert Song Bahanag as new Head Coach of the Indomitable Lions. Not even an Anglophone to the post of Team Manager of the Indomitable Lions  – a post which, at times, has been held by Francophones who are not footballers.

Some persons close to Eto’o’ Fils have been trying to present Augustine Simo who once  played for PWD Bamenda, and who the Eto’o  FECAFOOT recruited as an Assistant Coach, as an Anglophone. But it is common knowledge that the name Simo is neither of the Northwest nor Southwest Region.

Eto’o Accused of Tribalism/ Violation Of Texts

Eto’o’s election into FECAFOOT raised a lot of hope that change or a new dawn had finally come to FECAFOOT, which had over the years been allegedly mismanaged by successive Presidents. But it is embarrassing that, barely three months into office as President of FECAFOOT, Eto’o Fils is already being accused of things like tribalism, marginalisation and violation of texts or mismanagement. In fact, the accusations started surfacing when Eto’o was still less than two months old in the post.

One of the first persons to level accusations against the new FECAFOOT President is an elected member of the new Executive Committee of FECAFOOT in the person of Guibai Gautama, from the Far North Region. Gautama, who is based in Yaounde, is a popular Newspaper Publisher and proprietor of two radio stations. He has, in the last few years, been the leader of a movement known as ’10 million Nordistes’, said to have as mission to fight against the marginalisation of the people of the Grand North.

On his Facebook page, Gautama accused the President of FECAFOOT, Eto’o Fils, of violation of FECAFOOT texts, marginalisation of people of the Grand North in his appointments, and tribalism.

Eto’o’s Appoints Tribesman As SG

The tribalism accusation on Eto’o has more to do with the controversial decision he took to appoint Benjamin Didier Banlock, who is of the Bassa tribe like him, to the powerful post of Secretary-General of FECAFOOT. Nobody could have imagined that such a controversial appointment could be done by Eto’o Fils, whose election was considered by many Cameroonians as the coming of genuine change  to FECAFOOT.

Benjamin Didier Banlock was first appointed Secretary-General of FECAFOOT by Eto’o’s predecessor, Seidou Mbombo Njoya, apparently on the proposal of Eto’o. When the relationship between Seidou Mbombo Njoya and Eto’o Fils turned sour last year, with the latter declaring his intention to run for the post of President of FECAFOOT,  the former accused Banlock who was known to be Eto’o’s man, of secretly working at FECAFOOT in favour of Eto’o’s candidature. Seidou Mbombo Njoya went on to fire Banlock.

But then, soon after Eto’o won election to become President of FECAFOOT, he reappointed Benjamin Didier Banlock as the Interim Secretary-General of FECAFOOT. That appointment was confirmed by the Executive Committee of FECAFOOT at its meeting in Limbe on February 16.

But, as critics have pointed out, Eto’o’s appointment of tribesman as Secretary-General of FECAFOOT, while he is President of FECAFOOT, leaves the leadership or management of Eto’o’s FECAFOOT in the hands of one tribe, the Bassas. Eto’o as President, is head of the Executive Committee of FECAFOOT, while Banlock as Secretary-General is in charge of running the day-to-day affairs of FECAFOOT.

Guibai Gatama Rejects FCFA 1 Million Cheque

Meanwhile, as regard the allegation that Eto’o was violating FECAFOOT texts, one of the examples raised by Guibal Gatama was still connected to Eto’o’s appointment of Benjamin Didier Banlock as Secretary-General of FECAFOOT.

Late in January, Eto’o Fils reportedly ordered that FCFA 1 million be paid to each and every member of the Executive Committee of FECAFOOT. It is not clear what the money was for. But while the other members of the Executive Committee quietly grabbed their cheques, Guibal Gatama refused to collect his on the grounds that Benjamin Didier Banlock was then Interim Secretary-General of FECAFOOT, and thus did not have the authority to sign cheques. He argued that Eto’o Fils had violated the text of FECAFOOT by authorising an interim Secretary-General, whose appointment was, in principle, still to be either validated or rejected by the Executive Committee, to sign FECAFOOT cheques.

Eto’o Says FECAFOOT Is Not National Assembly

Eto’o Fils spent a lot of time in the address he presented at the Executive Committee meeting in Limbe, trying to defend himself against mounting criticisms of the way he was going about things, especially with recruitments. Guibal Gatama was not at the Limbe meeting.

Eto’o lashed out against those he said were accusing him of marginalisation and tribalism. In a blunt declaration, Eto’o said that FECAFOOT, which he instead called football, is not the National Assembly where people from all parts of the country must be represented.

Funny enough, Eto’o instead tried to present FECAFOOT as the Cameroon national football team, and referred to himself as the head coach of the national team. He said as head coach of the national team, he selects players for the national team based on their competence or capacity to deliver, and not based on their tribes or regions of origin. He argued that when the Indomitable Lions score a goal or win a match, Cameroonians from North to South, East to West celebrate, without considering the tribe or region of origin of the goal scorer or players of the national team.

To Eto’o’, whether all the workers he recruit at FECAFOOT are people  of the same tribe or region is not supposed to matter. He claimed that his recruitments or appointments are based on competence and nothing else. He said, what should interest people is that those he recruits or appoints should deliver, and not where the people come from.

Guibal Gatama Suspended For 3 Months

Guibal Gatama, a member of the Executive Committee of FECAFOOT who accused l Eto’o of tribalism, marginalisation of the Grand North in appointments, and for violating FECAFOOT texts, was sanctioned by the Executive Committee of the Federation that met in Limbe, with a three-month suspension from the committee.  Sources in the Executive Committee of FECAFOOT claimed that Guibal Gatama was sanctioned not because he criticised or accused the Federation’s President, but rather because he took complaints that should have been discussed in-house to the social media.

However, Gautama, who issued a communiqué in the evening of that same February 16, denounced the decision to suspend him, saying it was illegal. Gautama said the other members of the Executive Committee listened to a one sided story and took a decision to sanction him without listening to his own side of the story.

Gautama vowed that he wouldn’t be scared. He told members and supporters of the ’10 million Nordistes’ movement that: “Our fight for the Grand North cannot be done without sacrifices”. He said he will appeal the decision, and later engaged a bailiff for that purpose. 

Gautama’s fight seemed to have started  paying off despite his suspension. A few days after the Executive Committee of FECAFOOT in Limbe, Eto’o appointed a small team known as the Transitional Council of Professional Football, with one of the members of the council coming from Gatama’s Far North Region.

Also, Souleymanou Hamidou, who was appointed on February 28 as the new coach in charge of goalkeepers of the Indomitable Lions, is from the Grand North.

Anglophones should be wondering what the President of the Northwest Regional League, Felix Mbigha Njah, and the Southwest Regional League, Njalla Quan Jr, who are both members of the Executive Committee of FECAFOOT headed by Eto’o, are doing to get Eto’o to stop side-lining Anglophones in his appointments. People are questioning whether Eto’o wants to claim that no Anglopone is competent enough for him to appoint.

Eto’o Would Not Have Won Without Anglophone Votes

FECAFOOT election statistics show that Eto’o would not have won the election if the two Anglophone Regions had not voted for him. Eto’o defeated Seidou Mbombo Njoya by 43 to 31 votes, meaning that Eto’o won by the large margin of 12 votes. The two Anglophone Regions had a total of 12 votes that went to Eto’o.

The statistics also show that both Eto’o and Seidou had a total of 31 votes each from the eight Francophone Regions and professional groups that had voting rights.

Eto’o got all the 12 votes of the two Anglophone Regions, and that enabled him to beat Seidou Mbombo Njoya. Some voices were overheard in the hall saying that it was the Northwest votes that turned the table in favour of Eto’o.

Statistics show that if the Northwest had not switched camp at the last minute, both Seidou Mbombo Njoya and Eto’o Fils would have had 37 votes each, and there would have been a big problem as to who should be declared the winner.

 Insult To The Anglopone Regions

It is rather unfortunate that after the Anglophone votes enabled Eto’o Fils to win the FECAFOOT presidency, he has, since taking office, been side-lining Anglophones in his appointments. When it now comes to recruitments or appointments, Eto’o tells Anglophones and others complaining that FECAFOOT is not the National Assembly. Even if FECAFOOT is not the National Assembly as Eto’o says, does he mean that he has not seen any competent Anglophone to appoint?

Appointments Not Based On Competence

The claim by Eto’o Fils that he appoints people based on merit is also being contested by many people, looking at some of the major appointments he has made, so far.

The appointment of Rigobert Song Bahanag as head coach of the Indomitable Lions, for example, has raised much criticisms because of Song’s poor record as coach. Song was of the Cameroon squad that participated in CHAN 2018, and the team was eliminated in the first round. After CHAN, he was fired. Song again was head coach of the Under-23 Lions that was eliminated at AFCON 2019, again in the first round. So, where is the competence that Eto’o used to appoint Song as head coach?

Some people said Eto’o’s appointment of Song as head coach of the Indomitable Lions was based on tribal sentiments.    

Also, looking at the list of the five senior officials of FECAFOOT that Eto’o got the Executive Committee of the Federation to validate at the Limbe meeting, Eto’o appointed Happi Soho Fanguen Franck Hilaire as Director of Football Development at FECAFOOT. Franck Happi is known to have been a close friend of Eto’o for many years. Franck Happi even admitted over Canal 2 International on December 12, that is, shortly after Eto’o’s election as President of FECAFOOT, that he and Eto’o have been friends for many years.

Franck Happi was President of the former power house in Cameroon football, Union Douala. But under his leadership, Union Douala, which had been in the Premier League for decades, dropped to the Second Division League last year. Many people are thus questioning how Eto’o could have appointed somebody like Franck Happi as Director of Football Development at FECAFOOT.

Talking about Union Douala’s demotion to the Division Two League, Eto’o’s FECAFOOT has decided that the three clubs that were demoted from the Premier League last year, should remain in the Premier League for this season. The total number of clubs for the Premier League for this year has been increased to 25, just for the 2021-2022 season..

Even Eto’o’s appointment of members of the Transitional Council of Professional Football, that he has created, instead of rehabilitating the Professional League as was thought by many people, has been criticised. For example, Dr Faustin Domkeu, the former President of Union Douala and founder of Premier League side, New Stars, said over STV that the people that Eto’o has appointed to work with General Pierre Semengue in the Council are all old, and are thus not the type of people to run football in 2022. Jean Paul Akono, for example, who played in the  Cameroon national team in the first AFCON that Cameroon hosted in 1972, is today in his 70s.

Many observers have remarked that contrary to the FECAFOOT President’s claim that his appointments are on merit, his appointments rather seem to be based more on tribalism and  friendship.

Following Eto’o’s persistent marginalisation of Anglophones in appointments, today an increasing number of Anglophones refer to FECAFOOT in the social media as Francophone-FECAFOOT.

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