On December 11, 2022, Cameroonians witnessed Samuel Eto'o Fils, the legendary footballer, clinch the presidency of the Cameroon Football Federation (Fecafoot) in a historic election. The victory, just days before the nation hosted the 2021 Africa Cup of Nations, marked a watershed moment in Cameroonian football, as Eto'o became the first former player to ascend to the Fecafoot helm. But behind the celebratory headlines lay a complex and meticulously orchestrated campaign, meticulously documented in journalist Jean-Bruno Tagne's new book, "L'Arnaque."
Tagne, who served as Eto'o's campaign manager, offers a firsthand account of the months leading up to the election, shattering misconceptions and revealing the intricate machinery that propelled Eto'o to victory. Contrary to popular belief, Tagne reveals he worked pro bono, and it was he who recommended Ernest Obama, the former media executive, as Eto'o's spokesperson.
Beyond the public figures, Tagne sheds light on the crucial roles played by less-visible members of the Eto'o camp. Benjamin Banlock, former Fecafoot secretary general, and Franck Happi, a veteran sports administrator, spearheaded sponsorship efforts. Meanwhile, symbolic endorsements from iconic figures like Roger Milla and Joseph Antoine Bell bolstered Eto'o's legitimacy.
The book also delves into the political intricacies surrounding the Fecafoot election. Tagne recounts Eto'o's anxieties about a potential candidacy from his former teammate Geremi Njitap, and sheds light on the candidate's strategic courting of political heavyweights like police chief Martin Mbarga Nguelé. Eto'o's regional campaigning also receives attention, with Tagne highlighting the key roles played by regional powerbrokers like André Noël Essian and Céline Eko in securing vital votes.
To prevent last-minute defections, Eto'o orchestrated a three-day retreat for delegates in Nkoteng, far from the distractions of Yaoundé. The event served not only as a bonding exercise but also as a means of isolating supporters and ensuring their loyalty.
Tagne's book doesn't shy away from depicting Eto'o's temperamental side. He describes the footballer as confrontational, arrogant, and harboring grudges. Notably, Tagne recounts a tense episode where Eto'o, upon discovering a missing sponsorship document, suspected sabotage and threw the campaign team into disarray. “Some members of the campaign team were almost in tears seeing Samuel Eto’o in a state he has never shown since the beginning of the adventure,” Tagne recounts.
Michel Ange Nga