For FIFA Presidency:
Credibility Crisis Hits Musa Bility
By Julu M. Johnson, Jr.
The President of the Liberia Football Association (LFA), Musa Hasan Bility is seeking the FIFA presidency, but the world’s football body is seeking an end to a longstanding cycle of corruption.
As a result, FIFA intends to make all presidential candidates pass integrity checks.
The plan has been proposed by the head of FIFA's independent audit and compliance committee, Domenico Scala.
“At the end of the day, it goes down to the merits of the accusations. The ethics committee carries out the integrity checks and we [the election committee] will rely heavily on the assessment of the ethics committee.”
This means Mr. Bility will need to be rubber-stamped by the ethics committee and its checks before they are confirmed worthy to stand for election.
Mr. Scala is the man tasked with overseeing the next elections for the right to lead the world football's governing body. His proposal is clearly intended as an attempt to wipe away some of the stain left by Joseph Sepp Blatter's tenure.
Scala was also named as someone who has pushed for major reforms within FIFA in recent months.
Still face-saving gesture or not, Scala's attempts to at least closely monitor the candidates does represent a small step in the right direction for FIFA.
Mr. Bility’s critics feel he does not have the credibility to become FIFA’s President, least to say clean up its corruption.
Some argued that it is impossible for a ‘back-scratcher’ like Bility to clean up FIFA’s corruption when much of his past is sketchy.
Bility was involved in a corruption saga involving Ellen Corkrum, a U.S. citizen and a pilot who served in the American military.
Mr. Bility and partners in crime were indicted for several criminal charges including economic sabotage.
The indictment grew out of a US$30m offered by the Government of Liberia to the Liberia Airport Authority to rehabilitate the deplorable run –away at the Roberts International Airport which up to Cockrum’s secret departure from Liberia was not rehabilitated.
The airport scandal seemed to have lost steam as President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf reaffirmed her confidence in the indicted Board Chairman Bility.
The twist into the government’s case surfaced when the Liberian leader addressed the honoring program of the Special Presidential Nimba Land Dispute Commission, chaired by Mr. Bility.
President Sirleaf she reaffirmed her confidence in the work and integrity of the indicted Board Chairman, emphasizing that, “Mr. Bility has always accepted to take on difficult tasks for his country.”
She reiterated further as saying because of the difficult challenges he always accepted, he has been unreasonably criticized and falsely accused by public actors.
“He always serves with respect and integrity in discharging his national duties,” President Sirleaf said.
Responding to the President’s shower of praises, the indicted airport Board Chairman, who was also at the occasion, said, “The President knows me well to the extent that she is aware of what I can do and cannot do.”
He added, “I have been silent on the allegations against me because I believe the truth will be told and silence is good as gold.”
The appearance of President Sirleaf along with the indicted airport Board Chairman, paralleled with the reaffirmation of confidence in his work and integrity including her indirect public rebuke of the Justice Ministry, levying his indictment as “false accusation”, evidently crumbled the airport scandal, effectively rendering it dead but just a matter of time to see charges officially dropped.
Bility owns Liberia’s largest petroleum importer SHRIMEX valued at around US$ 15 Million and also owner of media conglomerate Renaissance Communications (Real TV, Truth FM and Sports FM) a strong ally of Liberia’s President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf. Bility was the unseen force in the Ellen 2011 presidential campaign, which brought Sirleaf to power for the second term.
His fight for the FIFA post has become a talking point both at home and abroad, yet fans and critics agree on one thing, the move in itself is audacious.
According to a United States based Liberian writer Tewroh-Wehtoe Sungbeh, one doesn’t have to be a brain surgeon to know that corruption and incompetence in the LFA under President Bility is well and alive, and has hindered growth in Liberian football.
He explained that from player development and training, player compensation, grooming and recruiting top-notch players and coaches, Lone Star’s dismal international performance and winning and losing ratio, construction of stadiums across the entire country, economic development in the areas where those stadiums are to be constructed, the LFA under Bility has failed miserably to deliver.
Sungbeh cited: “This is the same Liberian Football Association (LFA) that gave us the corrupt, opportunistic and slimy Edwin Snowe as president. You know the story very well. With Edwin Snowe and Musa Bility at the helm of LFA in the past and now, how then do you (we) expect LFA to grow, groom, mentor and recruit top players, recruit a winning coach, win international matches, inspire and put money into training players, building teams, building modern football stadiums across the country, buy equipment and steer the Lone Star national football team into big and competitive international matches and victories?”
As the first candidate from Africa who has expressed his interest in leading FIFA, Bility hasn’t curried too much favor with the African federations over the last few years and it will be intriguing to see how his bid for the presidency pans out.
Bility still has to garner the backing of five football associations, which is required in order to stand in the race, but he believes that he’ll be able to secure it.
Bility, however, got a slap in the face when CAF, the African football ruling body, decided against backing the LFA President for the FIFA job.
“After a fraternal exchange, full of sincerity and cordiality, the CAF Executive Committee decided unanimously not to offer the requested support of CAF to Mr. Musa Bility, whilst wishing him luck in the continuation of his endeavor,” a CAF statement said.
With CAF’s recent statement backing out from supporting Bility, the final decision would be made in late October when the Executive Committee meets after all nominations would have been made.
When declaring his intention for the post, Bility said, “Africa is the largest voting bloc in FIFA and we must take the lead to bring football together.”
He added, “We all agree that football is facing a difficult moment and it is in difficult moments that great leaders emerge.”
Bility has already put key points of his manifesto forward, amongst them being a “reduction in the power of the 24-person Executive Committee.”
He also called for the current FIFA crisis to be “dealt with in a transparent fashion” and wants to re-establish FIFA's relationship with Interpol.
Bility has also asked for officials who join FIFA to declare their assets before signing up and wants an “improvement in both the financing and ease for FIFA's poorer members to receive development funds.”
Mr. Bility forged a reputation as a man who does not care about having an unpopular opinion. In 2011, he declared that he would be voting against Blatter at the presidential election, saying Blatter's then-challenger Qatari Mohamed Bin Hammam offered a better platform for football development in Liberia.
“People know me to be bold, upright, outspoken and highly opinionated. I say it like it is. When it's not right, I don't back down and I think that has gained me some respect. I have spoken to about half a dozen of the presidents of African football and I have their support - you can see the excitement,” he said.
Bility does not hold a seat on CAF Executive Committee.
He was beaten by Benin’s Amadou Diakite at the CAF’s Ordinary Congress in 2013. Bility managed to canvas plenty of support in Liberia, but was thumbed by 35 votes to seven.
Part of the reason for his defeat might be the fact the he decided to stand up to the controversial rule-change relating to the CAF presidency in the same year. Bility believed that CAF’s rule change, which barred anyone outside the executive committee from contesting the organization's presidency.
He mounted a legal challenge but had his case rejected by the Swiss-based Court for Arbitration in Sport (CAS).
His opposition to these rules saw him banned from all soccer activity for six months, on grounds that Bility used CAF confidential documents without the organization's permission. The documents were Executive Committee minutes, but no further details were provided by CAF. He served just four months of his ban before it was lifted.