23rd April 2016

By Rodney Edmond Michael

1 Timothy 6: 10 “For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil. And some people, eager for money, have wandered from the faith and pierced themselves with many griefs.”

Isha Johansen, alias Isha Power or amongst the football family, Isha the Manipulator, is President of the Sierra Leone Football Association, and one that knows how to sell an image, even if pretentious or deceptive, she is willing to create the perception. This Isha has done very well, with the help of allegedly a well-paid PR firm in the UK and in particular a highly connected female PR guru of Sierra Leonean origin.

Isha has successfully manipulated the world, that is the world beyond Sierra Leone, to perceive her as the Angel sent to save Sierra Leone Football, portraying an image of integrity and discipline.

She is on record as one of the only two female heads of football associations in the world, and for this she has been able to manipulate her way to receiving the kind of global respect and admiration reserved normally for the most revered, and this has not been well received within Sierra Leone football where most consider it “a falsely created perception”.

This image of Isha Johansen the Saint, which so many feel is “deceitful”, has been a major factor in helping Isha retain her stronghold on Sierra Leone football, especially at the time she enjoyed the support and protection of Government through the former Minister of Sports, a support that appears to have dwindled from both FIFA and the Government of Sierra Leone, and about time.

The membership has united and built an extremely powerful rivalry body to the FA Executive headed by Alhaji Unisa Alim Sesay, alias AWOKO, a longtime friend of Isha’s father, a very influential man politically, and in the football circles, and the man accused of being the strategist who designed the way for Isha to be imposed as FA President; a charge he downplays though he has never shied away from admitting his support for Isha at the time and has publicly apologized for  his involvement in supporting a candidate he now claims “…was bad for Sierra Leone football.”

Awoko has been involved in football for close to half a century and an elder of the most powerful football club in Sierra Leone, Lions FC, which he served in different capacities, and has served as an Executive member of the Sierra Leone Football Association, under several different Presidents. His support base consists of 38 out of 47 legitimate members (80%) and he has used that to paralyze Isha’s control on Sierra Leone football, making the FA Executive totally impotent and absolutely insignificant within Sierra Leone.

Many pundits have assumed erroneously and continue to be deceived that the debacle facing the football family in Sierra Leone has got to do with the rigged and manipulated election of 2011-13 (yes two years the electoral process took before Isha was somehow imposed).

That is misleading and in summary the problem in Sierra Leone football today has to do with “Money, money money…” and the excessive abuse of office by the FA President, and that is the fact.

All other issues had been resolved by the HON Kemoh Sesay, former Minister of Political Affairs, as far back as March 2014 and the outcome promoted by Isha’s local PR team via Facebook and all other social sites.

The fabricated allegations of match fixing against influential people is not a major factor nor will it ever be a major issue. No one is opposed to a legitimate investigation into a very serious allegation like match fixing, even if everyone knows Isha not only deliberately implicated those opposed to her leadership, but even admitted in the wells of Parliament that it was a “…political trick to tarnish the character of her opponents.” The only condition is the Ethics Committee responsible for such investigations, is elected by Congress as stipulated in Article 22.q of the SLFA Statutes.

The problem in the current football saga has got to do with the use or as alleged by the members, the misuse of close to $ 3 million dollars received by Sierra Leone football since January 2013, the year Isha assumed office (3rd august 2013) through one of the most corrupted and manipulated democratic process ever that saw all her opponents disqualified on ridiculous grounds. That is for another topic on another day.

Since 2013, SLFA has received a total of USD $ 1 million from the Financial Aid Package (FAP FUND) for annual subsidy, which is granted to all 209 football associations worldwide, on annual basis of $ 250,000 a year.

In addition, after the 2014 world cup, FIFA announced the bonus scheme, first introduced in 2010 after the South Africa World cup, of $ 750,000, again given to every football association worldwide.

As part of the 2018 world cup preparations, Sierra Leone, like all sister associations worldwide, received $ 300,000 specifically to be used for the world cup qualifiers. Sierra Leone was knocked out in the first round.

In 2012 CAF sold the TV rights for the African Nations Cup to a foreign media outlet for $ 22 million dollars which was to be divided amongst 52 participating African Nations equally, Sierra Leone being one member. This the membership alleges was about $ 400,000 and they claim payment was made either late 2012 or very early 2013.

The BBC article of 17th June instant titled “Is African football set for cash Injection?” suggests it could have been twice as much “CAF’s latest financial report, presented at the April’s congress in Cairo, said that in 2014 the organization received $ 43 million from revenue and in turn distributing $ 33 million thereof.”

The BBC further claimed “Up to 2008, CAF earned $ 55 m every two years for Nations Cup rights” and this was 2008. It is not surprising then for the article to state further “Sportive, part of Lagarde Sports, paid $ 46.8 m for four consecutive editions of the Africa Cup of Nations finals, starting with the 2010 tournament in Angola to the 2015 finals in Equatorial Guinea.” And this was for the finals only, not the qualifiers which consists of over 100 matches.

One can therefore deduce that the same amount of $ 400,000 in 2012/13 would have been paid for 2015, as shares to all CAF members, including Sierra Leone if not more, as the contract apparently escalated considerably with CAF’s longtime media partners Sportive, apparently increasing interests in African Football.

One can see that from the above figures, SLFA has received a minimum of $ 2, 850,000/00 (two million eight hundred and fifty thousand dollars), and probably a lot more from other revenue potential not made public, and this works at a whopping LE 17 billion (seventeen billion Leones) in just over 3 years’ period, or close to LE 6 billion Leones a year since 2013, and none of these funds apparently received congress approval for expending nor has any of it been accounted for at the time of writing.

The SLFA Statutes has strict clauses relating to financial issues, with budgeting to be approved by Congress first and all expenditure and investment advised by the Financial Committee, and there is no provision within the statutes that allows for the President, which is not an Executive Presidency, or the Executive Committee, which has the Executive powers, to expend any amount of money without Congress approval and confirmation from the finance committee.

It is the deliberate abuse of office by the current FA President, Isha Johansen, in ignoring the necessity to have sought congress approval, or allowing for her Executive to appoint a financial committee to consent to proposed requests based on budgetary approval by congress, or outside budgetary approval for “extraordinary/unforeseen non budgetary circumstances” that has led to unity amongst the membership intended to either force her to account, or if necessary impeach her if she refuses to account.

It is this financial mess and irrespective of which organization, $ 3 million dollars or Le 17 billion Leones is no small amount, that currently serves as the crux of the Sierra Leone football crisis.

No one should assume or try to spin it any other way, or try to castigate or seek to find scape goats. The Nation is tired with the attempt to always divert focus and attention and try to blame others not directly responsible for the crisis.

Isha and co must account and allow the legitimate delegates to evaluate their audited reports, and if necessary demand further investigations into the accounts of the SLFA. The mess will never be resolved if the financial issue is not addressed and until Isha clears her name and accounts for these amounts in an acceptable manner, one can only assume FIFA will have no alternative but act negatively and probably suspend Sierra Leone from its membership.

That would be an absolute shame for Sierra Leone football but not as big a disaster as allowing the huge sum of money to avoid being accounted for in a transparent manner.

In the event that Isha Johansen adheres to the call for accountability and transparency, and accounts for the said amount, and is cleared as being extremely accountable; that the funds have been properly and legitimately utilized or expended, the least the membership can do is not only cooperate and support her to conclude her current tenure but allow her to go for a second term as President.

“It is not only what we do, but also what we do not do for which we are accountable” John Baptiste Moliere

Sierra Leone deserves peace and unity in football, but deserves more transparency and accountability not only in football, but in all sectors of society!

May 2016 be the year of transparency and accountability in Sierra Leone!