Gariba Raubil – How Nyantakyi became powerful and impossible to oust him through elections

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When Kwesi Nyantakyi won the Ghana Football Association presidential election in 2005 to succeed the ousted Nyaho Tamakloe who lost the vote of confidence from his own association members, he knew exactly what he should do to avoid a similar bad destiny his predecessor suffered.

In the last few years the Ntantakyi-led GFA governance of football in the country has been beleaguered with extreme level of corruption and troubles, saddled by rampant alleged reports of match-fixing by game gamblers with Ghana premier league match-day referees , players and club officials fingered among these match-fixing syndicates as the protocol officer – Joshua Acquah – of Accra Hearts of Oak was reportedly picked up by the Accra police couple of days ago. This has affected the popularity and credibility of the Ghanaian championship big time but how did he manage to remain power for more than a decade now?

Here in this piece I take a close look at how he got so powerful and the reasons why I feel it was impossible for anyone to have pushed him out through elections. It took almost 30 years for Africa to be fed up with Issa Hayatou’s leadership of CAF and after the 2017 AFCON it was clear his days were numbered. The case with Nyatakyi is different. He still has the support of his members who are not yet fed up with his governance.

The only ways to get rid of him is to limit the mandate of the president, through resignation which is personal decision or a natural cause that incapacitates him. None one of these happened but Nyantakyi has reiterated that he would not be seeking reelection in 2019.  Electorally there was no challenger and when the 2019 elections indeed take place without him contesting, he will retire never ever beaten in an election as president.

In December 2005, Nyantakyi who was nearing his forties beat top dogs like Ade Coker, the outspoken Kojo Bonsu, Vincent Odotei Sowah and Yusif Adam Ibrahim to become GFA boss.

At this time he knew what to do to become the longest-serving GFA president ever. No previous GFA president has ever stayed on for more than four years. Nyantakyi is currently in his 12th year as the powerful leader of the nation’s private football regulator and you need to be powerful to be the president of a soccer association for more than a decade and it doesn’t come so cheap.

But how did he do it?

Manipulation of his own members – the voters

He knew he will need the support of his own members if he is to retain power – they are the ones that vote to elect the president at Congress. This is very key and the good thing is that the professional lawyer had the resources to do so to become truly powerful at the top position of Ghana football. He couldn’t have done it alone. He’s just one man and his club Wa All Stars – as the other 16 premier league teams – provides just 2 delegates to the GFA congress. He needed to extend his territories.

Money is power and it speaks today more than ever. As he has the resources he was able to do good to members of the association, dole out gifts to his friends in the media as well. People very closer to him tell me he is very charitable and charity wins you friends. It gets you admirers and this increased his reputation among the people he led. They will always vote for him.

For instance in November 2015 the executive committee members of the GFA that served from 2011 – 2015 each was paid $15 000 as ex –gratia meanwhile the 2015 league winner – Ashantigold – received $13 000 as prize money. This was a move to reward his  executive group members and the subtle objective is to continue winning their support. Most of these executive Committee members are wealthy persons and so $13 000 is no big money for them but then it is a gesture to say “Thank you for your support “ rather than “Thank you for developing football in the country”  which there isn’t much to show.

Have you ask the question who make up the Executive Committee of the GFA? It is the club directors/owners etc and they are the voters. The GFA defended this ex-gratia payment that it was congress that took the decision to pay the ex-gratia but who controls the GFA Congress? It is the president who chairs Congress meetings and he manipulates everything there. No one challenges his authority.

Because Nyantakyi knew that the acceptance of his own GFA members is the most important thing he didn’t care whether Ghanaians will support him or not because after all they do not vote to elect the GFA president. Football people do and he’s their darling boy.  Politicians try to manipulate the citizens in order to maintain power. Football people rather focus on influencing a smaller pool – the members of the federation and that is what Nyantakyi did. What will force him to resign once the people who vote to elect him come out in numbers to throw their support behind him that he’s still the messiah?

The majority fans see everything wrong with Ghana’s football state but some top FA members do not. People like Western regional football  association chairman Kojo Yankah, George Afriyie the GFA vice-president until he clashed with Nyatakyi, JY Appiah the Bofoakwa Tano director and former GHALCA boss, Abdul Salam Yakubu of New Edubiase, have been some of the known crusaders of Nyantakyi’s reign. And why wouldn’t they? He is their master.

He knew all these because, before he became the president of the association, he had served on its legal committee and was the vice- chairman of the Ghana League Clubs Association. He was massively informed prior.

Check the list of gurus who have tried and failed to kick Nyantakyi out. Ade Coker, Kojo Bonsu, Odotei Sowah. You can also add Neil Armstrong Motagbe. As for Ofeibea Ramatu I knew from the start it was a joke bid to challenge his football majesty Nyatankyi. She was too a lightweight contender that also even failed to get her forms passed.

Get on board Ibrahim Sannie Daara

How Ibrahim Sannie Daara decided to quit the BBC to join forces with the GFA is news that split opinions. There are those who argued the renowned award-winning journalist had seen it all in top level journalism and decided to come home to serve his country’s FA. Others however believed it was a plot by the GFA to eradicate a constant threat. Anyone that heard the name Sani Daara knew he was a strong and clever critic of the GFA and so when he joined the body as its spokesman in 2012 many eyebrows were raised. At least if there were ten critics, the GFA succeeded in eliminating one of them.

It should be noted that the FA has tried to get more known media men to work with. In February 2016 respected TV3 journalist Michael Oti Adjei rejected an appointment onto the GFA media committee. Others like Frederick Acheampong, Jeffrey Asare, Otuo Acheampong however accepted.

Let me say that it is no wrong for journalists to serve on committees of the GFA but it becomes detrimental when such journalists become abandon their core responsibility of keeping people in authority on their toes to deliver the best to progress our country’s number one sport.

Nyantakyi is connected to power

Since he became GFA boss, he has since gone on to become the president of WAFU, got voted onto the powerful CAF Executive Committee and now he sits on the FIFA Executive council as he defeated Tanzanian Leodegar Tenga in the elections back in March 2017.

In August 2011, he got the GFA Executive Committee to approve him as the chairman of the Black Stars management committee. He was still the controller of the GFA congress by virtue of being the GFA president. Very superior. This carries one message. He loves the power and that is what you need to rule Ghana football for more than 10 years.

These international portfolios on his CV provided his supporters with more bragging rights but in truth, Ghana football is yet to benefit from all these Africa and global positions held by its president. The football suffers.

When the GFA clashed with Nii Lantey Vanderpuije’s Ministry of Youth and Sports, it was more of power struggle. Nii wasn’t the type of Mahama Ayariga, Elvis Afriyie Ankrah or Mustapha Ahmed. Nii was the toughest amongst all these former sports ministers who didn’t kowtow to Nyantakyi’s GFA.

And for me if the way any former minister dealt with the GFA was one of the reasons the Wa All Stars president has decided against a re-election in 2019 then that will be  Nii Lantey Vanderpuije – the sports minister that refused to flock together with the GFA because their feathers weren’t the same.

Ownership of Wa All Stars

He also owns a soccer club Wa All Stars which is the biggest sporting advertisement of the Upper West region. The club does not only serve as source of entertainment for the people in the area but it is the biggest political tool of Nyantakyi. He campaigns with it, it is his symbol.

Upper West Regional FA, alongside the other 9 RFA bodies, presents three delegates each for Congress. That is three votes understandably always reserved for him.

Corruption tolerance

Another reason why Nyantakyi has been the favorite of the football people is that he tolerated corruption. Personally he might not be as corrupt but he found himself leading an organization where corruption is inevitable. But instead of leading the fight against the canker in Ghana football, he tolerated it when he famously urged Ghanaian referees to take bribe monies when they are offered but added that they should be fair. How can you promote bribery and corruption and expect justice at the same time?

It is a way of remaining in power because a corrupt subordinate supports a leadership that tolerates corruption.  The clubs are corrupt and this is said and admitted by themselves. The referees are and so are the players. Everything is just in a mess.

In his another famous co-efficient mathematical explanation of how the $577 000 appearance fees money was shared among the Black Stars management committee members during the 2014 FIFA World Cup in Brazil, Nyantakyi told the Justice Senyo Dzamefe presidential commission of Inquiry that members who took their share of the money didn’t sign any document – at the time of receiving –  to show that indeed they received this or that amount. This dealing lacked transparency and only tolerated corruption.

Lack of decentralization of football development has made RFA chairmen political toys of the FA president

Moreover football development in the country is not decentralized per the GFA statutes. The RFAs totally rely on the GFA. They are just supervisory bodies. They are not mandated to develop football at the regional level. This means the RFAs feel relaxed. They are in their comfort zones. Organizing the second division leagues and supervising the women football league is not enough. They ought to develop the game at the regional level. They should solicit for funds to do their bit part but all these would be enhanced once we have clear developmental responsibilities put at the doorsteps of the RFAs

Take the Brong Ahafo FA chairman for instance – Augustine Asante – who’s been in that position since 2005 as long as Nyantakyi. Ask yourself what has he achieved in that region in those 12 years as the regional football boss? What are the significant projects taken by his outfit to grow the game? Mention Kojo Yankah’s Western Region how has he even impacted football in his own way in the region?

When was the last time we had a regional football association chairman discussing and critizing – of course constructively – Nyantakyi’s football governance? Hardly do we hear them.

Mostly the RFA bosses are rewarded with positions on management committees of the national teams like at the moment we have the Brong Ahafo FA boss Augustine Asante as the chairman of the Black Maidens management committee. Kojo Yankah is the vice chairman of the CHAN management committee and there are also some journalists that serve as committee members. You don’t expect them to speak against Nyantakyi.

From what I know no RFA chairman has ever risen to become the GFA president. Even today isn’t it surprising that no single RFA chairman has ever tried to challenge Nyantakyi in the last GFA elections? If they make a strong case at the regional level with better and modern style of football administration we’ll have at least an RFA chairman contesting for the highest seat of Ghana football. At the moment they are satisfied with the background role they play and Nyantakyi is their master. Augustine Asante has been chairman of Brong Ahafo FA for twelve years, MNS Doe has led Central region’s football for the past 25 years but none of these personalities has come near the GFA presidential seat. Why? A number of factors explain this. Issues of resources and lack of popularity come to mind first but more importantly the unwillingness of RFA chairmen to rock shoulders with the other top guys in the game.  They are just okay playing second fiddle.

No strong competitors

Competition against Nyantakyi was virtually non-existent. Odotei Sowah tried two times but failed to even get the 10 endorsements from members – some of who are his own friends in the game. If there were a special rule the incumbent GFA president alone needed 100 endorsements, Nyantakyi was going to get that.

You think the Brong Ahafo FA chairman Augustine Asante or Kojo Yankah of the Western region FA or the Ashanti regional FA boss Osei Tutu Agyemang, Francis Dogbatse the Volta region FA boss wanted to become GFA president? No. So that threat didn’t exist. Nyantakyi didn’t feel for once somebody from any of the RFAs would even muster the courage to pick a form to challenge and he could sleep.

Big names like George Afriyie the vice-president now, Randy Abbey, Fred Pappoe, Kurt-Okraku never really came out to challenge Nyantakyi in elections. Why? Because they knew they will lose if they did. It’s impossible to beat him.

So who again? It became unknown Ofeibea Ramatu but she was just a footnote against the incumbent GFA president. She could not even complete her paperwork to stand for the elections.

Do we have a former referee to that makes a strong case for the presidency? I doubt we have one.

Every GFA president is obligated to present a development project to grow the game in the country. At least Ben Koufie did it – the 5-year development plan. This is a way to stay on as president because you have a project to lift the game.

There are the highs and lows of his reign but in the last few years Nyantakyi hasn’t shown he had any better plans to progress Ghana football and many called for his resignation which he will never resign but to push him out through elections was impossible. He has formed an untouchable union that he will win every election and check the machinations put in place – in the last two elections he has gone unopposed.

When he finally quits as GFA president, he will always be remembered as the president whose era saw Ghana participate in her first FIFA World Cup, he will be remembered for the U-20 FIFA World Cup success in Egypt but he will also go down in history as the most powerful GFA president who manipulated his subjects in the manner that he liked.

Follow me on twitter @GRAUBIL 

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