One of the most memorable anecdotes surrounding the investigation and arrest of CAF President Ahmad Ahmad by the French Police from the Central Office for the Fight against Corruption and Financial and Fiscal Crimes (OCLCIFF) for money-laundering, corruption and theft through a shadowy French company by the name Tactical Steel, was one about the shoe size of Constant Omari, the 1st Vice President of CAF and President of the DR Congo FA (FECOFA).
Apparently, the tall and physically imposing 6Foot, 5inch Omari with a size 15UK shoe (US Size 16) size foot was considered a tie-breaker in the determination of who was awarded the contract to supply kit to CAF for the 2018 African Nations Championship in Morocco.
One of the unofficial criteria for selecting who would get the contract to supply this large order of training kit and equipment, was the ability to supply the branded footwear for Constant Omari, for the obligatory CAF gift hamper given to all the FA Presidents, Secretaries-General of FAs and Zonal Unions, members of the CAF standing and ad hoc committees and the privileged hangers-on who throng the continental events.
This is just but a small glimpse into the workings of the CAF top echelons and even if it were to be taken with a pinch of salt, the insinuation of unprofessional approach to the management of CAF against the backdrop of its hostile takeover by FIFA, the never-ending sackings of senior staff, the filing of dossiers at the compromised FIFA Ethics committee and more, infer to a measure of truth in the assertion.
Other than the physical imposition aspect, CAF 1st VP Constant Omari Selemani is otherwise underwhelming in all other respects, save for his fierce loyalty which he is able to condense into physical and verbal confrontation with detractors of his paymaster, at any given time.
Reports indicate that Omari ruthlessly went ham on fellow CAF Exco member Musa Hassan Bility in 2019 on the CAF Exco WhatsApp group in an unprovoked tirade regarding Bility’s insistence on a professional approach to the running of CAF affairs.
So ferocious and unprecedented was the attack by Omari on Bility that the yellow-belly Ahmad, instead of calling his Exco members to order, quietly exited the group, which led everyone else to follow suit, effectively killing the single unitary platform that would have allowed the CAF Exco members to discuss their issues in real-time despite their physical distances from each other.
Constant Omari took over the role of CAF 1st Vice-President following the ejection of Nigerian FA President Amaju Pinnick in the “night of the long knives” last July in Cairo on the sidelines of the 2019 AFCON and the 2019 Ordinary General Assembly of CAF.
The 62-yar old Omari has been a FIFA Council member since 2015 but has been at the helm of FECOFA since 2003 when the mantle fell onto him unexpectedly, he was elected to his first full term in 2005, then subsequently in 2009, 2013 before his current term which he “won unopposed” in 2017.
Omari managed this by tinkering with the composition of the electoral committee which in turn then ruled out his sole competitor, journalist Jean-Claude Muamba Mukundi, from contention on the basis of “non-fulfilment of certain criteria”, without specifying which ones.
So shambolic are the FECOFA elections that Omari (as the incumbent) is able to keep the venue of the electoral congress a secret with 2-days to a vote.
Strangely too, for a country where there are Presidential term-limits for the head of State, no such term-limits exist for the critical mandates like the President of the FA who can therefore continue to use the advantages of incumbency to cling on to the seat until death.
Constant Omari understands too that FIFA is both “mummy and daddy” because of his experience in 2002, when he was apparently “sacked” from his role of FECOFA Vice-President by the DRC Government following his criticism of then Sports minister Timothee Moleka in a television programme.
FIFA immediately suspended DRC from all footballing activity effectively locking DRC out of the 2002 AFCON hosted by Mali. DRC Government beat a hasty retreat and reinstated Constant Omari, which effectively ended the FIFA ban and which paved the way for the participation of the Leopards at the AFCON.
The Leopards were eventually knocked out of the AFCON at the quarter-final stage of the competition, following a 2-0 loss to high flying Senegal which later that year shocked France in the opening match of the Korea-Japan FIFA World Cup.
That incident would not be the last time that Constant Omari would have a run-in with the Government. In 2018, the World learnt of his arrest and detention on suspicion of corruption and he was held in a public prosecutor’s office for alleged involvement in the embezzlement of $ 1 million given to the federation by the government to fund the Congolese national team and various Congolese clubs playing in competitions across Africa.
Omari was arrested along with two other federation officials Barthelemy Okito, Theo Binamungu and a government sports ministry official Roger Bondembe on the orders of Luzolo Bambi, special adviser on corruption to former Congo President Joseph Kabila.
Stakes begun to escalate after the local league LINAFOOT board, released a terse press release, suspending the league until Constant Omari was released from prison.
True to form, upon his release on the condition that he doesn’t leave the country, Constant Omari accused the DR Congo Sports Minister Papy Nyango of orchestrating his arrest.
“It’s absolutely shameful that he is bringing up the false accusations trying to cause panic by casting aspersions about me to my colleagues both at CAF and FIFA so as to soil my name just because he is jealous of my achievements in football and the reputation I have painfully built across the world” Omari quipped.
FIFA had on the previous day issued a holding statement on the arrest of Omari, stating that it was “closely following the matter and gathering additional information but had no further statement to make at that stage” adding that “more information could be released as the situation unfolded.”
Constant Omari is no stranger to criminal activity as in 2016, a warrant of arrest copied to Interpol was issued by Benin Justice for him, after he oversaw the Benin FA elections against a domestic court order. Omari was dispatched by FIFA to Cotonou to ensure the re-election of Anjorin Moucharofou, who was later arrested in 2018 in a sprawling age-cheating scandal together with 10 footballers of the Benin National Team.
With a population of over 78 million, the Democratic Republic of the Congo is the most populated Francophone country, the fourth-most-populated country in Africa but whose football is sadly dominated by TP Mazembe which has won the National title 17 times and the CAF Champions league 5 times (1967, 1968, 2009, 2010 and 2015) whilst coming in as runner-up twice (1969 and 1970).
For the last 23 years, TP Mazembe has been run by an idealistic politician and long-time Governor of the mineral-rich Katanga Province, Moise Katumbi Chapwe. This support has translated into the fact that the team has never lacked for funding, has a brand new Stadium in its base in Lubumbashi launched in 2011 and a private jet to move it to its various assignments.
The funding has also meant that Katumbi gets the crop of top players and coaches within DRC Congo and without, with a well-funded feeder system based almost entirely on his massive academy in Katanga.
Katumbi’s governance of the Katanga province was credited with bringing economic revival to the province through developing infrastructure, encouraging foreign investment with tax breaks and reduced government procedures, and targeting corruption. Through Katumbi’s efforts as governor, local taxes increased from $80 million in 2007 to more than $3 billion in 2014. Annual revenues increased from 100 million in 2007 to 1.5 billion by 2013.
Katumbi is a very critical cog in this FECOFA story.
His political and football achievements seemed destined to take him to the Presidency of DRC but he was exiled in 2018 by then President Joseph Kabila who preferred the current President Tsishekedi instead.
His high profile stewardship of TP Mazembe made it impossible to ignore him and therefore in 2012, Katumbi was elected to the FIFA strategic commission and thereafter in 2013, he was elected to the Africa Cup of Nations (AFCON) organizing committee, which he chaired until 2017. He has also served on the marketing committee of the Confederation of African Football (CAF) since 2009 until its disbandment by the Ahmad kakistocracy post-2017.
Could FIFA be planning a succession of the leadership at FECOFA during its December 2021 elective congress, replacing the tired, old horse Constant Omari with a vibrant super-performer like Katumbi? All indications point to the same.
Or could FIFA be planning much bigger things for Katumbi with the imminent departure of Ahmad from the CAF Presidency, a move which would undoubtedly also serve the dual purpose of removing Omari from the CAF Exco by virtue of Article 22(6) of the CAF statutes?
We can only make these inferences based on the high profile courting of Katumbi by FIFA and his insinuation into CAF events. For instance, Katumbi attended the 1st ever CAF symposium on African football which was hosted by Morocco.
Moreover, Katumbi continues in his role in the organizing committee for inter-club competitions and management of club licensing system.
FIFA even appointed Katumbi as VP of the World Leagues Forum, an organization representing professional association football leagues that was formed in 2016. It currently includes 38 members from four of FIFA’s five continental confederations.
Everywhere Katumbi goes, he is treated like a celebrity and given preferential treatment almost at the level of the President of CAF.
However, nothing better illustrates his importance to FIFA than Gianni Infantino’s decision to side-step Malawi last November during his annual Africa tour, because it would clash with an invitation to the 80th anniversary celebration of TP Mazembe in its home base of Lubumbashi.
It was at this venue that Katumbi announced the beginning of the construction of a 50,000 seater stadium for the club while Infantino announced the setting up of a $1 Billion fund for African FAs to improve or acquire infrastructure.
Ahmad, Infantino and Katumbi would later take part in a match that also featured African legends Samuel Eto’o and Kalusha Bwalya at TP Mazembe’s current stadium.
Nothing is more telling of the way things really are between Infantino and Ahmad than the rumor that FIFA boss had declined to issue a joint press conference with Ahmad during the African football awards in Egypt, just last week. We can only dream…and hope!
Needless to say, Constant Omari is a political survivor who shrewdly conformed quickly to the realization that the Hayatou era was gone forever and that he needed to survive the Ahmad error.
However, FIFA is allergic to reports that its members, especially those in the FIFA Council, are suspects in embezzlement of funds or other financial irregularities.
A decision has probably been made to show Ahmad the door at the next CAF elective assembly in 2021, along with his close associates like Constant Omari who have been caught up in similar financial malpractices.
Has Omari served the game well? The answer can only be a resounding NO!
Recently he was fingered in a document presented by Lagardere Sports and Entertainment and formerly rights holders of all CAF competitions, and being part of the axis-of-evil who scuttled negotiations between the two entities. He spear-headed negotiations and after presenting submissions, proceeded to undermine the very process that he was tasked with overseeing.
He has however found a means of serving himself very well in that 20-plus period that he has been in the game both domestically and abroad.
He is said to have an unhealthy relationship with Benin media company LC2, which was embroiled with CAF over a $20 million debt. The trade-off was Lagardere conceding Free-to-Air rights back to CAF, which were then offloaded to Africa Union of Broadcasting (AUB) to help offset this deficit, caused due to the negligence of Constant Omari.
The Congolese National team has only ever managed a single appearance in the FIFA World Cup (1974) before the its long period of struggles, despite an abundance of talent and resources in the country.
So, how would this man Omari, a veteran of more than 20 years in football, vote on the CAF Exco on whether to retain or to dispatch Fatma Samoura from her role as FIFA General delegate to CAF when the matter comes up for vote in early February?
From where we sit, this is a man who is currently enjoying the gravy of his various CAF and FIFA positions and is not known to hold any particular liberal or inividual position. He is what you would refer to as a truck, waiting for anyone to take hold of the steering wheel and direct him where to go. He will most certainly vote in the manner that Gianni Infantino instructs him to vote.
For this grizzled old man, speaking to him about African youth and posterity is a complete waste of time and the equivalent of strumming a guitar for the listening pleasure of a He-goat!
For sure, Katumbi will not accept the indignity of sitting under Omari’s shabby shadow for the foreseeable future, considering the mismatch in aspirations and visions for the game both at home and on the African continent.