*We want millionaire athletes, coaches in Nigeria
*Our 2020 and 2024 Olympic plans will start now
By Olajide Fashikun, Sandra Onyekwere, Oluwole Francis
I don’t believe there is any crisis in athletics in Nigeria. In every election, there will be misgivings. Usually, after the elections, camps are dissolved for the bigger good of the sport. The spirit of sportsmanship is employed to heal wounds. But when losers feel strongly that they will not let go, they will remain on the fighting zone while those who are the progressives will align forces and plan for the purpose for which they are elected.
We have targets and marks to fulfill and meet. We have a task to rebuild Nigerian athletics. We have a task to make current athletes and coaches to redouble their efforts and feel fulfilled for once for the choice of athletics. These are the tasks on top of the minds of my team and these are the silent operations we are working on.
People in our athletics are not interested in why we did not do what we are supposed to do. All the family is waiting for is, we elected you President, remove our burdens. How it is done is nobody’s business. All they are waiting for is to feel, sense, touch, see and behold changes. No matter how small the changes. That is what we are here for.
National Athlete Development Centres: Our plan is to have six centres before the end of 2018 operational and working. We need about 124 trained coaches to man these centres. We hope before the end of this year to deliver the middle and long distance centres in Jos. We are working with the Ondo State government to do the Akure centre. If we deliver this two, I will be satisfied. We are also thinking of the Abakaliki centre. We are working the modalities with the Federal University Alike-Ikwo.
Each of these centres must have a University to collaborate with. The new generation of athletes in our sports must combine academics and sports. Academics has a way of boosting the entire environment and performance of the athletes.
Two, we want to start the preparations for the 2024 Olympics now. For the 2020 Olympics, we shall in due course unveil the big plans. In all, at the end of the day everyone that has anything to do with athletics should have a bragging right of the gains we would have brought to bear on our common patrimony, athletics.
Golden League: Truth is, you know I have a small athletics academy in Gusau. I have for years been sponsoring a regional athletics meet. I already got my training to see the athletes as my own children. Now, as a responsible father who is God-fearing, I cannot open my eyes and see pains and sorrow in the eyes of my children.
That was why when we were to have our first assignment after our election being the National trial, I told the officials, never again will athletes sleep in open corridors because they want to bring honour to this country. I insisted everyone must have a safe place to sleep. That is basic.
For the Golden League, I won’t want to give out the package. All I know is that our athletes and coaches will no more sleep in open barges. No. Accommodation is a must. Feeding and a basic transport allowance will be provided.
While this will start the season, we have a plan to improve that minimum standard before the season ends. I am bringing my private sector orientation up here.
Athletics is a big business. It can run by itself. We are supposed to reposition it, rejig it, make it very attractive to be marketed. We can make a N2billion to N3billion income per season. It is possible. That is where I am driving the sport to. We want to ask the Federal Government for the funds to take Team Nigeria out but we want to raise and use funds we can generate to make the sport bigger than football.
We have different teams working their bones as we speak to make the difference. So, for us, this regime is athlete-centred and coaches-focused. These are the two principal parties for whom we are here.
So, in reality, this first year is a replanting period for us. Consolidation will follow. Growth and maturity will follow. With our nation’s size, human intelligence, resources and national pride we must not be where we are. It is a collective vision. Every year we shall meet to do an appraisal. That is the essence of the AFN Gala Night which will be done after the AGM.
Impeachment fears: It is you people in the media that are dangling the so-called impeachment thing. I or anybody must have committed some offences before impeachment can be employed. There are processes that is also involved.
I am not aware anyone is gathering signatures to call a congress behind the secretariat of the AFN. Is it possible? Is it in accordance to our statutes? It sounds hollow. So, there are some people who still live in the Stone Age?
We cannot be distracted. There are laws in this country. If that is true, then, let us wait and see. Athletics is too big for a few disgruntled folks to say they will make it ungovernable. What about the interests of the young men and women who are hoping to make a career out of the sport? What about the families of the coaches who have no other things to do apart from athletics?
Doping: I will not lead a federation where doping will embarrass our nation. We shall frown heavily at the use of performance enhancing drugs. We are drawing up new structures. Every athlete found guilty of doping will have their coaches and other support staffers also sanctioned.
Two, we are working to make the sport a high income earning sport. The quest not to drive people into doping was part of what informed the standards we shall be releasing in some hours.
Three, with the plans we have put in place, you can actually be in athletics within Nigeria and earn a very decent life and future, build your own house, buy your type of cars and send your children to the best of schools. Before the middle of the current season, the impact will start to flow.
People in Nigerian athletics can actually make an income of about a million minimum yearly. You can make more. For instance, we are aspiring to make the next National Trial a N100million prize money event. The Golden League from the 2018/2019 edition will be a N20million per leg prize money. Why do you want to dope if you can make these type of money?
Apart from this, we are going to embark on aggressive doping education and campaign. Every athlete will be expected to know and understand their rights and privileges in matters of doping. Officially, we will not accept any form of doping infractions. We shall frown seriously at it.