After surviving a stern supremacy tussle between him and other powerful stakeholders and subsequently re-elected as the FIFA President last Friday, for the fifth time, at the body’s 65th Congress, not a few had concluded that Sepp Blatter was fully back to be in charge of affairs of the world football governing body, for another four years. Therefore, it was shocking, when the news was broken Tuesday (this week) and circulated in the mass and social media that Blatter after being elected, although amidst dragged and serious controversies, had bowed to pressure and resigned from the office he had occupied for well over a decade as well as his call for an extraordinary meeting for another congress to elect new leader!
On Blatter’s last re-election and rather dramatic resignation, there were certainly crises of integrity, morality as well as questions. For instance, it was amazing to see Blatter chasing FIFA’s highest position desperately, despite being conscious of certain shady deals involving his executive committee and stiff opposition (on account of the alleged sleazy conduct) to his ambition, all of which he (Blatter) was sure were real. Recall the main scandal (allegation) against him as exposed by the United States, US prosecutors were charges of bribery, racketeering, money laundering and kickbacks estimated at over $150 Million.
In spite of this huge and very shocking scandals, it might be suggested that the entire stinking affairs perpetrated by the FIFA executives would have probably been swept under the carpet, if not for the exposure as well as concern expressed by other interests, namely the UEFA Head, Michel Platini; Blatter’s co-contestants and the last congress sponsors.
If Blatter had remained as the FIFA President, perhaps, his fifth tenure would have been fraught with a lingering crisis of loyalty as well as insubordination. I wonder if a parallel world football body would not have along the line, been created or a parallel FIFA EXCO to rival with the 79 year old Blatter if he had failed to take the step he took lately.
Recall it was the same FIFA under Blatter that waded into Nigerian Football Federation, NFF, power tussle late last year when its immediate past President, Aminu Maigari was about to hand over. The row actually began with the arrest of Maigari upon his return from Brazil in June last year, after the crash out of the Super Eagles from the last World Cup fiesta. The trouble associated with the two different removals of Maigari from office, polarization of NFF, conduct of parallel congresses and so many legal battles among the parties concerned, including the past administration.
The same Blatter who slammed suspension on Nigeria for leadership illegality and failure to put her Glass House in order, had until his re-election and resolve to exit, been found embroiled in similar misconduct, he had sanctioned other member countries, Nigeria as a good example.
Ultimately, the good thing that has happened was Blatter’s resignation when it was clearly dawn on him that his credibility has plummeted and relevance was near zero. This was encapsulated in his final submission, a statement I considered an ‘obvious confession’. Blatter said: “My mandate does not appear to be supported by everybody.” Could this septuagenarian be hailed for leaving when ovation was loudest? Blatter from personal judgement, only attempted to ‘steal’ victory – to be hailed as a hero.
In the first place, he knew the heavy allegations against him and his executive committee were not framed up, therefore, it was expected that he ought to have back out of the race. Ironically, what transpired were manipulations and so much of propaganda, which were all tailored towards ensuring that his Presidential ambition was actualized. Of Course, the plots worked out as both Luis Figo and Michael van Praag, pulled out of the contest, a situation that left him (Blatter) and Prince Ali Bin Al Hussein as candidates for the May 29, 2015 election.
The fact of the matter here is that Blatter eventually toed the path of honour, but very late. And this is the dimension that is relevant to my focus today and occupants of political offices and aspirants.
History in the case of Blatter’s action might be said to be repeating itself. In the past and till present, many African countries had witnessed series of power tussles, prompted by their leaders (military and civilian) mainly on crave to remain in power, by all means, for parochial reasons, but which unfortunately degenerated to bloody wars and claimed so many innocent lives.
Many still recall the 1980-88 civil war in Liberia, during the regime of late Samuel Doe as leader of the West African country. Summarily, Doe then, was no more popular among the Liberians, due to misfortunes he had wrecked on the country’s economy and cases of corruption against him. Yet, he held on to power; sent soldiers after his people and waged bloody war against them! The almost a decade battle drew global attention and resulted to formation of the regional Military peace keeping Force – The Economic Community of West African States Monitoring Group, ECOMOG. In the end, after killings of thousands of Liberians and many foreigners, including journalists, the late President Doe was captured, brutalized and killed!
Former Côte d’Ivoire President, Laurent Gbagbo tried the unexpected in his country when he devilishly delayed and pushed the Presidential Election from 2005 to 2010. Despite series of tricks he deployed, Gbagbo lost to the opposition candidate, Alassane Ouattara. When he failed to accept clear defeat, violence broke out; he went into hiding, but was eventually found, arrested with his wife and humiliated in the afternoon of April 11, 2011 inside Golf Hotel by Ouattara’s forces. His administration was also accused of mass killings of protesters, and he is presently being tried by the ICC.
In Nigeria, past leaders including military President Ibrahim Babangida; Head of State, late General Sani Abacha and some years back after his eight year tenure as civilian President, Chief Olusegun Obasanjo, had all attempted to sit tight in the office, but failed, following resistance by the politicians and the general public. In the respective cases, the bottom line was that the leaders were no more popular among the Nigerians, which resulted to persistent demand for their exit.
Perhaps, Blatter, stepped down, just as he realized and was faced with the reality that his case was like the one who had murdered sleep, so, should not expect any minute of rest. Obviously, Blatter had foreseen a crisis-ridden regime and concluded that he had no choice than to quit.
Agreed, FIFA is a mere world football governing body and one may tempt to ask, of what significance is its politics or power tussle relevant to Nigeria and her politics as well as the rest of the world?
The big lesson in Baltter’s action is very simple and it has been established earlier. The message is that a good leader – loved and respected by his people does not beg for support or force himself on his followers. Instead, appreciation and recognition are earned; given to deserving leaders effortlessly; that, it is not a feature of a good leader to wait until he is forcefully, by whatever means, ousted from office; and that accountability, focus, transparency and productivity are very key in governance as well as significant factors for support and cooperation of the governed.
Presently, Burundi is gripped in over a month political mess as the incumbent President Pierre Nkurunziza insisted and remained adamant against the popular wish of his people to contest in the next Presidential election of the East African country. The raging violent protests had claimed not less than 20 lives; there have been a failed coup attempt recently, yet, the President sustained his political ambition, leaving the future of Burundi and her citizenry in danger and doubt.
Nkurunziza’s case is not any way different from Doe, Gbagbo, the former Nigeria leaders and latest, Blatter. President Nkurunziza must therefore learn lessons from the previous cases and take a cue from the two most recent cases – President Jonathan (acceptance of defeat) and Blatter bowing out after being re-elected, specifically to allow peace to reign. Nkurunziza must realize that both men took their decision when faced with the reality, that their popularity has nose-dived. In any case, he has a choice to listen to his people or continue to be disillusioned by the personal ambition, hence ended up in shameful and terrible manner like others who lacked respect for their people.

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