#Article (Archive)

GFF presidential election criteria sparks controversy, Omar Sey clarifies

Jul 1, 2013, 10:25 AM | Article By: Lamin Cham

News from the Normalization Committee that FIFA has written a letter empowering it to act as the election body and selector of candidates, as well as preventpersons who did notsatisfy a certain criteria from contesting, has met with swift condemnation and even a strong warning from representatives of football clubsand respected stakeholders.

The particular clause, which has become the main talking point and that is currently gripping the nation, reads: the different persons that have brought agony to the GFA through mismanagement and greed shall not be allowed to contest the elections’’.

As soon as the announcement was made by the Normalization Committee, supporters and officials of the clubs who nominated Seedy Kinteh and Adama Halla Samba have accused the NC of targeting their candidates, despite the fact that they have not yet been found guilty of any mismanagement.

Addressing a news conference at the Serekunda East Park on Saturday, Buba Star Janneh, former Gambian international and Wallidan player, now an official of Bombada and Gunjur United, said the Normalization Committee has now taken steps that would inevitably bring them on a collision course with anyone who cares about the truth and justice.

‘’Fora start let me make it clear that I’m not aspiring for any executive position, butI’m in this as a stakeholder with a desire to see that justice has been done, and seen to be done.

“By declaring that they are the electors, the NC is in violation of the very constitution that they spent their entire life defending, which had stated in article 30 that there should be an election body to be selected by the General Assembly to conduct the election.

‘I would have thought that the NC would reach out to the many legal luminaries or respected people in this nation to supervise the election as demanded by the constitution, instead oftransforming themselves into referee and player,’’ Star Janneh said.

Ironically,Janneh went on, Fifa which the NC claimed they are in close touch with over all these matters, has through its president Sepp Blattermade it clear that fair play should remain the corner stone of football, both on the pitch and in administration.

Star further stated that among the men who are being targeted for possible disqualification is Adama Hall Samba, whom he described as man of impeccable character who has done invaluable service to football in this nation.

‘I am a living testimony to the achievements of Halla,since he fished me out of the classroom in the summer of 1984 to play football, which is what made me what I am today. Certainly, Halla’s credentials as a good candidate cannot be disputed or compared to the spokesman of the NC,’’ Janneh said.

The former Wallidan ace further stated that instead of marrying themselves to the Gambia For Gold Committee, the NC should have, in the interest of the tax payer, ordered the Gambia for Gold Committee to present an audited account of all the tens of millions that passed in their hands from the Gambia government.

‘‘Instead, the GFF just gave a blanket thumbs up to the committee, and merged them to become the marketing committee of the federation overnight,’’ Janneh said.

According to Star Janneh, the intention of the Normalization Committee would be systematically and vigorously resisted as it is unfair and unacceptable.

Another speaker, Alhagie Darboe of Brikama United, called on the NC to publish the supposed letter from Fifa as had been the case with all other correspondence from world football’s governing body on Gambian football matters.

“We are not going to accept any attempt to unfairly bar anyone from contesting this election. This is what we suspected all along. How on earth can the NC deliberately throw away the very constitution they so loudly preached and spent resources to adopt, if they are truly genuine?’’ Darboe asked.

The Brikama United official also questioned why the NC flouted all football election traditions by deliberately refusing to tell the stakeholders when nominations are closing.

‘’Every nomination has an opening and ending, but the NC has not yet told the stakeholders when nominations closing. All these smell of foul play, but we want to make this strongly clear that any attempt to block our candidates would be strongly resisted,’’ he declared.

Borry Darboe of Bakau United noted that the state of Gambian football has plummeted from cup winners to losers of all international matches, since the NC was constituted.

‘’I’m a marketer by profession, but my passion and love for football had inspired me to influence decisions towards supporting the development of the game from the grassroots. I’m concerned that the NC is devising means to alienate people from the running of the game, to satisfy their own agenda.

Similar sentiments were expressed by Momodou Demba of the Women’s Football Association.

Meanwhile, scores of persons who attended the conference also raised issues with the NC’s decision to vet candidates. They cited the case of the Cameroonian football elections, ‘where Fifashowed its true character as a fair organization by allowing the president to run even though the state kept him in prison on possible criminal charges. If FIFA could allow an already indicted man to run, how can the same Fifa block people who have never been indicted at all,’’ they asked.

They said the GFA accounts have been audited up to 2011, and no case of mismanagement has been reported, and even a police investigation into that allegation had found nothing adverse against the dissolved GFA management team.

Responding to these allegations, the NC vice president and spokesman Omar Sey said he is disappointed that anyone should doubt the existence of the letter from Fifa ‘because for the last 14 months, we have been dealing with Fifa and every time we get letters from them.’

On whether he did not deem it prudent to publish the letter to kill any doubts, Mr Sey said the NC is under no obligation to do so.

‘If the people choose to doubt it, that is their prerogative. It is either they trust us or they do not’, he said.

However, according to Mr Sey, the letter is immaterial in this case ‘because when Fifa appointed us back in March 2012, it had mandated us to normalise all aspects of football, and at elections, we should act as the electoral body; we would receive complaints, presideover those complaintsand our decisions are final. Have they forgotten that? And when the government dissolved the GFA they gave reasons and Fifa bought on to those reasons. But even if Fifa had not written, there has been an audit exercise, and a management letter was written and we have looked into all these.

‘Now, don’t you think even in the natural way of things that people who are responsible for lapses in the affairs of the FA should not get a punishment of some sort, no matter how little? A slap on the wrist at least?So the issue is not actually the letter. Fifa is just expressing a view in this letter, but they havesince given us the mandate and we will do it and when the time comes believe me you will get all the details.’

Asked if by taking the role of election conductors the NC is not contravening Article 30 of the constitution, which states that an electoral body should be appointed by the General Assembly for elections, Mr Sey said this cannot be done now, because the NC’s mandategoes on through the elections.

‘That is the situation. I think people should be fair. But you see we have a saying in Fula: ‘when someone dislikes you, even when you are dancing on water, he would jump and say you are throwing dust at him’. These people are prejudiced, and that is it. But as I have assured all, we shall do all what we believe is sincerely in the interest of Gambian football,’’ he said.

On the allegations that he is preparing the ground for his favoured candidate by attempting to block potentially strong candidates, MrSey said the fact that his accusers have shifted from their initial position that he himselfwas planning to join the fray, and now saying he isgrooming someone , onlyshows theemptiness of that accusation.

‘I do not have a favoured candidate, be it daughter, son or friend who is interested in running football here,’ the NC spokesman said.

On why the NC had not told stakeholders when nominations close, as is traditionally done, Mr Sey said while it is true that the NC has not given notice on when the nominations shall close, it was not for any purpose other than the fact that regional elections and those of some of the affiliated associations are yet to be completed.

‘The KMC, for example, are re-running their congress and the players association has not yet held elections. So what about if those associations want to nominate a candidate. They would be left out, and they are stakeholders. And conversely, why are they in a hurry for nominations to close; are they too wishing to prevent someone from contesting? Mr Sey said.

He said the NC will let everyone know once the nominations are close.

‘We are doing everything with due respect to all stakeholders including the government, which is a major stakeholder. We are operating in such a way that the rules of the country are not violated in anyway. If football stakeholders are dissatisfied with an issue they should come to us the NC as we are the ones running the show here,’ Mr Sey emphasized.

On why the NC does not find it necessary to request an audit report on the millions that passed through the hands of the Gambia For Gold Committee, before marrying them into the GFF marketing committee overnight, Mr Sey said the Gambia For Gold Committee was set up by the Ministry of Sports, who are signatories to their accounts and the GFF is not a signatory.

‘So auditing, Gambia For Gold falls under the Ministry of Sports not the GFF, and we are satisfied that they have done it, that is whywe agreed that the efforts for the national team and those for football should be merged, and we are all working together in a transparent mannerand a transfer of activity is being done.

Mr Sey was finally asked if the new date for the GFF election, July 31, would definitely stand, given the many cancellations, and he replied, ‘I hope that there are no other things that will warrant a delay. All the other delays have been caused by practical reasons on the ground, for example, restructuring of bodies and or the constitution.