Amos Adamu and sins of the past
Tuesday’s reveal of the details of the Michael Garcia report, an internal probe into the bidding processes for the 2018 and 2022 World Cups greenlit by FIFA back in 2014, has set tongues wagging again. World football’s governing body has made a big deal out of breaking with the former traditions, under which FIFA business was conducted on an unwritten code of silence and mystery.
What this has done is dredge up a man who, in the last seven years, has lurched between two separate indictments relating to unethical behaviour. Following an unsuccessful appeal of his first ban in October 2010, for allegedly seeking bribes in an undercover sting by British newspaper The Sunday Times, Amos Adamu pretty much disappeared from the public eye.
In February 2017, he was handed another ban, this time for two years, based on the findings in the Garcia report. Only now though is it clear just what was found on him: among other things, the lengths to which World Cup bids were willing to go, and indeed went, to curry favour among members of the FIFA rank and file. Amid other highly embarrassing revelations, we now know that the (much maligned) Qatar bid offered to sponsor the African Legend Dinner, an event held in Johannesburg on June 8, 2010, three days before the South Africa World Cup.
The report claimed that documents showed that the Qatar bid team, through Deputy CEO Ali Al-Thawadi, offered $1 million to Samson Adamu, son of then-Executive Committee member Amos Adamu, to arrange the Legends’ Dinner, “months before his father was due to vote on which bidder should be allowed to hold the [World Cup].” The report concluded on Adamu that: “No evidence in the record indicates that the Qatar bid team or anyone associated with it made any payments to Mr. Adamu or related parties or entities, or any other payments in relation to the Legends Dinner.
“The record establishes, however, that Qatar 2022 negotiated with the son of an Executive Committee member who had only just graduated from the FIFA Masters Program and had little or no experience engaging in this type of project, particularly one contemplating a payment in excess of $1 million.” Damning indeed.
For those familiar with the profile of Adamu, it is no surprise just how influential he was in the footballing family back in the day. His stranglehold on sports in Nigeria spanned almost two decades: he organised the 2003 All African Games, led the West African Football Union (WAFU), and was on both the continental (CAF) and world (FIFA) football’s executive committees. It was quite the fall from grace.
Characteristically with men who come down in the world, he has attempted to parlay his plight into some sort of spiritual awakening. Following his latest two-year ban, and with all credibility irreversibly tarnished, he belatedly declared his intent to exit the scene of sports administration.
In March, he told Brila FM in Nigeria that he was now seeking a career as a clergyman and will commence a course in theology in his quest to serve God. This is, of course, a noble path. We can be cynical, likely should be even, and doubt his motivations; there is however nothing precluding a conversion to religion. The timing of it is rather convenient though. Perhaps it is because we know how easy it is to turn to God when a man has nothing else.
There is also a less wholesome explanation at work here, and that is that Adamu is simply a man still making political plays. Having ridden roughshod over the landscape of Nigerian, and African football, it is now necessary that he curries sympathy in his abased condition. People tend to mask their scorn to some degree so long as one remains in a position of influence. This is especially true when there is no actual respect underpinning the relationship.
Adamu’s relationship with the media and stakeholders in the sports sector has long been one based on mutual benefit, rather than any lingering likeability. If indeed he has found peace with God, then fair play to him. The Almighty may expunge his wrongdoing from the eternal record, but for us mortals, his past will always trail him like a shadow and a foul stench.