WHEN Fifa President Sepp Blatter was re-elected on May 29th to a fifth consecutive term after defeating his sole opponent Prince Ali bin Al-Hussein of Jordan, Blatter addressed 209 football federation heads, many of whom had just saved his neck, saying that the Fifa committee needs more women.
Investigations led by America’s FBI and Swiss Police are ongoing, exposing decades-long criminal collusion between Fifa officials and continental football heads and several marketing executives, the principal holders of media and marketing rights for high-profile tournaments.
A staggering $150 million is said to have been dished out in bribes. In one case, Fifa Secretary General Jérôme Valcke is accused of signing off $10 million which the US alleges was a bribe by the South African Government to Fifa for hosting rights for the 2010 World Cup, nearly all of which was reportedly pocketed by Jack Warner, former Vice President of FIFA and President of CONCACAF.
Run by a woman?
The corruption allegations go on and on and it should be stressed that all the accused are male, making one wonder whether things would be different if Fifa were run by a woman.
So perhaps we should heed Blatter’s call and elect a woman to clean up Fifa’s image. Two names come to mind: Burundi’s Lydia Nsekera who led her country’s Football Association between 2004 and November 2013. It was more her effectiveness and not a desire to cling to power that kept her in the position that long.
Nsekera who is credited with rebuilding Burundian football following years of unrest that had seen many players and fans flee the country, also made history when she was elected to serve on Fifa’s Executive Committee in May 2013, a year after she had been co-opted into the football governing body’s committee, making her the first woman to join the ruling board.
She has also been a member of the International Olympic Committee since 2009 and is more than qualified to head Fifa.
If not her, then Isha Johansen, President of Sierra Leone’s Football Association since 2013, not to be confused in any way with Issa Hayatou, the Confederation of African Football (CAF) head.
Isha Johansen: Another possibility, but also a great fan of Blatter. (Photo/FB).
First though, Isha needs to distance herself from Blatter whom she speaks highly of, saying recently that she considers him a father figure and credits him for putting African football “on the map”.
She may have a point but then again, isn’t that part of any Fifa president’s job? To develop the global sport that football is? Plus, we now know that Blatter didn’t really do Africa any favours. Someone needs to remind Isha that “we” paid $10 million for the First World Cup on African soil. Isha was also among several Football Federation heads and officials scrambling to take selfies with Blatter minutes after his re-election and she better hope potential rivals don’t use that against her.
While it is not impossible for Nsekera or Johansen to get a shot at the Fifa Presidency, even win it, it’s highly unlikely that another accomplished woman, Fadumo Dayib will be elected Somalia’s next president in the 2016 elections.
The 47-year-old mother of four, born in Kenya to Somali refugee parents moved to Finland at the age of 17 and despite her difficult childhood, has attained some impressive credentials, including a couple of public health degrees on top of being a Harvard Fellow and a doctoral candidate at the University of Helsinki.
She has also worked with the UN for over 10 years, has extensive experience in research, strategy development, policy formulation, planning and implementation in forced migration and HIV with gender, security and peace at the core of her campaign but sadly, none of that will secure her the presidency as Somalia remains the patriarchal society it has always been, largely due to religious and cultural traditions that hinder women’s participation in politics, with just 7.5% of parliamentary seats held by women.
The country is also a serial inclusion among the worst countries for women to live, with 95% of girls between the ages of 4 and 11 facing genital mutilation and only 9% of women delivering at a health facility.
Not unique to Somalia some would say but the country has the added challenge of Al-Shabaab militants, not a safe place for ordinary Somalis and certainly unsafe for a woman who wants to change the rules.
Fadumo knows the risks and confessed she has already received multiple death threats since announcing her presidential bid but said that would not stop her. You can’t help but worry for her though. Current President Hassan Sheikh Mohamud has survived several assassination attempts himself, including one on September 12th, 2012, just two days after he had been elected President.
In deciding to run for president, Fadumo renders herself an easy target. If I had a chance to meet Fadumo, I’d advise her to stay as far away from Somali politics as possible.