*Upsets likely to be the order of the day
By Olayinka Elebute, Oluwole Francis
In athletics, we can report with some authority that the fight may be one-sided. As at last night, the tilt is heavily towards the emergence of Alhaji Ibrahim Gusau. The feelers are too strong to be abandoned.
With sprinter Mary Onyali getting so much sympathy votes for her current sports project rubbing off on the Gusau camp, it may be a one-sided vote at the end of the day.
Many of the delegates in separate meetings were considering who best will give them the future the sport deserves after an almost 20 years hiatus.
Commodore Omatseye Nesiama who dropped out citing personal and familial reasons still came up. Olukayode Thomas and Alhaji Tunde Abdulkareem may have worked so much against themselves. More impacting is the identification of a merger between the Abdulkareem camp and Brown Ebewele-led Rosa Collins’ camp which scared so many of the delegates to the Gusau camp.
Former quarter-milers Enefiok Udo-Obong and Gadzama Fidelis were missing in the last minute calculations.
Unlike in other sports where the influence of the Directors of Sports was pervasive, many former international athletes were seen canvassing for ‘just the best candidate.’ The horse trading were on till late as 1:00am where the arguments wilted so much and in many cells, Gusau seems takes the lead.
Handball: This is another three-line fight. Amongst athletes and officials, there is a sharp divide in the sport. Two former Nigerian internationals: Sam Ocheho, a banker and Jubril Saidu may be holding the ace between them. Feelers are very strong within the sport for a fundamental change.
If these are the final setting, Alhaji Yusuf Dauda, the outgoing President whose second term was worse than the first may not be having the votes. According to a pundit, “this is if between Saidu and Ocheho, one steps down and supports the other camp. This is what we are working on. Before morning, we shall have a working formula,” said this source who refused to be named at 12:23am of Tuesday.
Most of the delegates are incidentally former players of the game. They are variously camped in three separate hotels.
Tennis and its two-horse race:
In tennis, it is a straight fight between Godwin Kienka and Chairman of the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) Tennis Association Dayo Akindoju. Both men are aspiring for the presidency of the Nigeria Tennis Federation.
While we could not reach Kienka for his campaign promises, Akindoju has promised to sustain the country’s rising profile in tennis in the world.
He said he plans to make Nigeria one of the leading destinations for the game in the African continent by attracting more international tournaments in order to meet up with global standard.
Besides that, Akindoju promised total overhaul of the Nigerian tennis with emphasis on players’ development, facilities, sponsorship and awareness.
“I have been running tennis in the FCT in the last three years and if we look at what we have been able to achieve, you can easily come to the conclusion that if given the chance to be at the helm of affairs at national level,” he declared.
Akindoju, who has been bankrolling the Dayak Championship ITF Futures tournament in the Nigerian capital for two years, said he will use the template of top nations like the USA, Spain, Australia, China and others to not only elevate the game but to make sure that Nigeria reaches a very high level in tennis in the next few years.
He also emphasised the need for improved sponsorship, which he said will be achieved through corporate bodies and individuals.
“Under my leadership of the NTF board, we will put all mercenary in motion to help us get more tournaments by convincing companies especially those that used to sponsor tennis to re-identify with the game adding that by way of openness and professional approach, they will get full value for their sponsorship and support for tennis in Nigeria,” he added.