Eno Quansah in Accra .
I must confess here. When I watched the Anas video that Wednesday in June this year, at the evening at the Accra International Conference Centre and saw the immediate past President of the Ghana Football Association (GFA) virtually throwing away the ethics of the game in the hunt for money from a so-called investor interested in doing business with the Association and the Government of the Republic of Ghana, I thought Mr. Kwesi Nyantakyi, a lawyer of repute and head of football organisation in this country for well over a decade, was out of his mind.
How could a man of letters descend into the gutters in that manner? His conduct and general demeanour on the video were as appalling as they were disgraceful. I left the Accra Conference Centre an angry man.
I was annoyed, because I knew he had served himself to the wolves who were always circling around him, and that he had betrayed the game generally. In addition to the problem he had created for football in Ghana, he had also brought the high office of the President of the Republic of Ghana into disrepute.
When the Federation of International Football Associations (FIFA) issued a statement suspending him from the game for 90 days, pending further investigations into his conduct, I thought the line of action by the global football controlling body was absolutely right. But when the final verdict on him was released in Zurich on Tuesday, October 30, announcing a life ban on him from all football-related activities, in addition to a fine of 500,000 Swiss Francs, the equivalent of US$500,000, I thought the sentence was totally unfair.
A life ban, as well as US$500,000 fine, is way excessive for the offence. Let us be honest, Mr. Nyantakyi has not defrauded anybody. He was caught on tape negotiating for some illegal payments. So far, there is no evidence that any monies arising from those negotiations, has ever been paid and received by anybody.
Yes, we did see in the video a bundle of money in the American currency being picked from a table by Mr. Nyantakyi. No one of us who has seen the video knows how much it is. Those who compiled the evidence on the tape say the amount was US$65,000. I have heard people who speak for Mr. Nyantakyi saying that the amount he received, and was recorded on the tape, was US$45,000.
Granted that the amount in question was US$65,000, does that amount to a life ban and a fine as huge as US$500,000? I will like to believe that the sentence is way out of tune with the offence. I am glad to be told that Mr. Nyantakyi is planning to launch an appeal with the Court of Arbitration for Sports (CAS). I hope and pray that the CAS will look at the issue and reduce the sentence.
While we await the appeal and CAS’ final decision, it is pertinent to examine the facts assembled before FIFA which contributed to this excessive ban and its fine. I heard Deputy Attorney-General Godfred Yeboah Odame beating his chest on a radio station that it was documents itemising Mr. Nyantakyi’s misdeeds as President of the Ghana Football Association he sent to FIFA that helped the world football body arrive at the life ban on the immediate past President of the Ghana Football Association.
The document sent in reply to FIFA’s “request for Information and documentation” was a one-sided expose on football in Ghana in the hands of what Mr. Yeboah Odame described as a cabal.
“Over the years, the image of the GFA has been on a steep decline, with Mr. Nyantakyi gaining the unenviable reputation of an overlord of a cabal of rogue elements, who exploited the objectives of the GFA for corruption and illegalities. The structures of the GFA became an obscene emblem of scandal, criminality and immoral conduct,” Mr. Yeboah Odame said in his letter crucifying the former head of Ghana football.
The deputy to the government legal adviser then quoted various assertions of misdeeds captured in the Justice Dzamefe Commission of Enquiry’s report to nail Mr. Nyantakyi.
Particulars of offences captured by Mr. Yeboah Odame, from the report, includes “unlawful payment of sums of money given by the government to companies which did not perform the services for which they were engaged.”
According to the Deputy Attorney-General “at Page xii of the Executive Summary of the Dzamefe Commission Report, the GFA, under Mr. Nyantankyi’s leadership, is reported to have been unable to account for an amount of US$3,500,000 released by the Government of Ghana towards the preparation of the national team for the World Cup 2014…At page 85 of the Dzamafe Commission Report, Mr. Nyantakyi is reported to be unable to account for the sum of US$200,000.” Mr. Yeboah Odame went on and on producing several cases of indictment cited in the report.
What I do know is that Mr. Nyantakyi has launched an appeal against the commission’s findings against him at the Appeal Court. I am not a lawyer. My knowledge in such matters is very limited. I am unable to state whether or not it is permissible to quote authentically from documents under litigation. But there are other things I do know.
I know for a fact that the commission failed, or was not allowed to investigate many other issues that brought Ghana into disrepute during the 2014 World Cup in Brazil. For instance, a whole plane load of football fans, mainly foot soldiers of the then ruling National Democratic Congress (NDC), were dispatched to Brazil to support the national team. Long before the plane took off from the Kotoka International Airport in Accra, it was, or ought to have been, known that the Black Stars had failed to qualify for the knock-out stage of the competition, and could, therefore, be of no use to the morale of the national team in the championship.
As soon as the plane carrying these supporters touched down at the Rio de Janerio Airport, the so-called supporters disappeared, only to re-appear at the various entry points along the United States of America’s border with Mexico, asking for political asylum in the US, and making false claims of political persecution in Ghana.
The issue became headline news in the world, lowering the image of Ghana in the eyes of right-thinking persons. It was as embarrassing as it became humiliating for Ghanaians living everywhere.
The natural thing was for the commission to delve into what accounted for these supporters leaving this country at the time they did, and causing collateral damage to the image of this country. I would like to submit here that the only reason the three-man commission failed to inquire into this sensitive matter was the political connotation it carried. I am told on authority that the immediate past First Lady of the land was involved.
That is not the only reason why the commission report was dead on arrival. The way and manner it targeted Kwesi Nyantakyi to the exclusion of other members of the Ghana Football Association suggested to me that the commission was mainly set up to witch-hunt the former GFA President.
I am not sure what the Deputy Attorney-General was seeking to achieve by sending synopsis of the Dzamefe Commission’s report to FIFA. I am of the view that the Deputy Attorney-General would have to update Ghanaians on why Mr. Alfred Agbesi Woyome, for instance, is still walking the streets of Accra with nearly GH¢50 million of tax payers’ money illegally in his pocket.
While in opposition, the New Patriotic Party (NPP) made a lot of noise about money looted from state coffers and handed over to the NDC financier by NDC operatives then running state machinery. One would have thought that nearly two years into the advent of this administration, the Attorney-General’s Department, with Mr. Yeboah Odame playing a lead role, would have recovered the loot to aid the cash-strapped state economy.
When I hear Minority Leader Haruna Iddrisu making submissions in Parliament with the force of a clean legislator, my mind goes back to the revelation that a number of ministers of state in the Mahama Administration took double salaries at the time the state economy was in tatters.
I will like to believe that Mr. Yeboah Odame will concern himself with lining them up in courts of competent jurisdiction to explain to the long-suffering people of this country, why they ripped this nation off while they led the political direction of this society.
In the interim, I will like to submit that Kwesi Nyantakyi deserves to be punished for the way he conducted himself on the Anas Aremeyaw Anas’ tape Number XII. But the sentence of a life ban with US$500,000 fine is way excessive.
When former FIFA President Joseph Sepp Blatter gave away FIFA’s cash to the tune of US$2 million to Mr. Michel Platini, former President of UEFA, the European continental football body, without any evidence of any job done, the two received only eight years ban each. CAS later reduced their sentence to four years each.
Let us not destroy the former President of the Ghana Football Association. Mr. Nyantakyi may have his faults, but the record book never lies. Until the advent of his leadership of Ghana football, Ghana, our beloved country, had never played in the World Cup. Nyantakyi led the Black Stars to dazzle in the world arena three consecutive times. Even the mad man has his day, the sages would tell you.
I shall return!