*Agree massive failure in eight years
*Former athlete may lead new administration
By Olajide Fashikun
Athletics stakeholders have roundly pummeled the Solomon Ogba administration with the passage of a vote of no confidence amongst other decisions passed at the one-day conference to chart the future of the sport.
The meeting, ironically was presided over by Ogba’s deputy, Alhaji Tunde Abdulkareem, which underlines the fact that even the Board is divided within itself.
Internal criticism of Solomon Ogba’s board: Apart from former 4x400m Sydney Olympics gold medallist, Wadzani Fidelis Gdazama who consistently has been an internal critic of the outging Board, one new critic surfaced in Ogba Vice President.
During the opening remarks of Alhaji Abdulkareem, he expressed his view that things are very bad in the administration of athletics. He stated further that the AFN does not get funding directly from the Federal Government. That the AFN gets its funding through the ministry and sometimes it is difficult to know when the funds are released.
Setting the tone for the future, he said that, grassroots programmes were the only way forward for the sport. He warned against age cheating, saying that when the cheats are caught, it tarnishes the image of the country.
He also said that bringing foreign athletes to represent Nigeria kills the morale of the local athletes.
Corruption in AFN: Abdulkareem actually set the tone when he opined that the AFN should not lack sponsorship. He went on to say that the new board can get sponsorship if we can show transparency. Interpreted, that means the outgoing Board is not transparent. That also interprets, he may be reconstesting and the only space available is not to repeat the class but he may be eyeing the Presidency of the new AFN.
He noted that Delta State sponsors several AFN activities but no one knows how much is released and how much is refunded.
Mr. Aminu from Zamfara State noted that corruption in AFN is an issue. He also noted that nepotism is very obvious and lack of transparency, thereby underlining Abdulkareem’s positions on the Ogba board.
Brown Ebewele alleged that there was a N45 Million funding which was not accounted for by the AFN board. He stated that prize money for national trials is fraudulently managed. He was also angry that the High Performance Centre in Port-Harcourt is funded by the IAAF but no one knows how the funds are utilised, yet, there are no vehicles, no coaches, no nurse, no staff etc.
Why the meeting was convened: When the meeting of athletics stakeholders was convened for 5th April at the Media Centre of the National Stadium Abuja no one had the premonition that it can turn out the quality of issues that emanated therein.
Four issues were identified as the basis for the convocation of the meeting: to determine who will be the athletes representative in the next board (assuming it is the same guideline that informed the outgoing board); To determine the technical representative; Review the criteria for inviting foreign-based athletes and examine the criteria for hiring foreign coaches;
The discourse: Brown ‘Juju-man’ Ebewele in his comments noted that track and field in Nigeria in the past eight years has been a massive disaster. Adding that in the past two Olympic games AFN was not able to produce any medals.
He also noted Athletes and officials are often not paid their allowances citing that AFN is run like a one-man show (a direct assault on Solomon Ogba’s style of administration).
Ebewele reminded everyone that there had been so much development programmes executed on the pages of the media such as “catch them young” but in the end, no results to show.
Frank as he is, he blamed athletes for their cowardice, not being bold enough to know their rights. He said that there are coaches in national camps who never represented their local governments in sports but are invited as national coaches because they know the head of the federation.
On the way forward, Ebewele recommended that the board should consist of sports veterans. Mr. Chimezie suggested that only coaches and Athletes who have represented Nigeria before should be considered as board members.
Vote of no confidence: Samuel Fatula cited the rule book of IOC which states that the Congress of AFN has the power to pass a vote of no confidence on the board. According to the rule book, a report should be sent to IAAF every three months.
Coach Gad supported the motion that a vote of no confidence be moved against the present board. Coach John Ginawa in his own view argued that athletes and coaches do better when there is a good board.
He observed with pain one instance when a cheque issued by the outgoing president of AFN was rejected by the bank.
Federation election: Coach Olu Sule questioned the voting method which allows Directors of Sports to be the ones voting for Board members of the various federations.
One of the nation’s most resourceful coaches, Tobias “Toblow” Igwe stated that despite his efforts to discover new talented athletes he has no contract from any state as a coach. He however, suggested that coaches should have a plan in order to harness athletes to their best performance.
Coach Chimezie commended the efforts of coaches despite the difficult situation surrounding them. He noted athletes and coaches are the engine room of sports development.
Even Directors of Sports did not spare Ogba: The director of sports from Enugu State stated his disappointment for lack of performance in AFN in the last eight years under the leadership of Mr Solomon Ogba. He suggested that only credible people should be voted in as president.
Charity Okpara expressed her disappointment with the current board. She reminded everyone present at the meeting that, the expected change in the management of the sport can only be achieved from within the stakeholder structure. She encouraged everyone to remain steadfast in the effort to bring change.
After the meeting, a five-man communiqué drafting committee was appointed. They were to to draw up a communiqué of the stakeholders’ meeting which was directed should be presented to the minister, Solomon Dalung.
Members of the committee are: Chairman- Coach Gad Onumegbu, Coach Tom Nnakwe Secretary, Charles Yayock, Ken Onuaguluchi and Samuel Fatula.