By Dr. Rashid A. Balogun
I guess Nigerians woke up to the reality of death of the country’s sports administration. Concerned and well-informed citizens had been out-numbered by paid spin-doctors some of whom had seized by force our administration of sports at the international level while few of them was carried along as personal coaches.
Favorite quotes by Athletics Federation of Nigeria (AFN) spin-doctors:
“Our athletes are raring to go and we as the AFN here in London, we have perfected our technical strategies to make Nigerians proud. “The spirit in camp is high. Its a winning spirit and we are doing everything to maintain it at that tempo,” Navy Captain O. Nesiama (AFN Technical Director)
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“I know that many Nigerians are apprehensive that Team Nigeria has not yet gotten any medal, they should not worry; the athletic team will bring smile to their faces”, Uti
“Athletics is coming up on Friday. I still maintain that Team Nigeria will win four medals in Athletics…Asked if the medals will be gold, Ali retorted; ‘’Gold? I don’t know their colour but I know that we will win up to four medals.” Yussuf Alli
Of course only few Nigerians disagreed with the spin-doctors but more amazing is how the publishers of those foolish spins failed to even present the critics side of the story for response even in the interim when it became a tall order for the nation to win a medal.
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On the other hand, our athletes displayed courage and performed to the level they have not reached before, for instance to reach 100m women final Blessing had to run 10.92 and Muizat ‘Ajoke’ Odumosu ran 54.40seconds to be finalist in 400m hurdles women (a new national record).
Blame game: AFN Boss was quoted as saying that the Federal Government delayed funding request and hampered athletes’ preparation. Other well-intentioned observers joined Ogba that the country’s losses were strictly based on funding.
And I say NO, because Ms Okagbare received upward of 15million Naira from various parties (AFN jackpot, Delta governor, First Bank, etc) whereas Ajoke was borrowing money and as alleged even from Solomon Ogba for about 1million Naira. Both athletes’ performances were identical, therefore, I see no genuine argument in respect of athletes funding. I am very sure Afghanistan Olympics Bronze medallist did not get anything near 1million Naira.
Furthermore, for those who do not know of Ogba, he was in former Delta State governor Ibori’s cabinet as Commissioner and he claimed to have left that office broke because when he was appointed AFN boss, he had borrowed monies from several people including Rosa Collins for athletics team foreign trip.
In three years without a job, he claimed to have personally spent millions of Naira on some athletes. I ask where did he get this amount if not AFN athletes’ funds? AFN was in fact funded by Pastor Olukoya, Nkoyo Ibori foundation (earlier), Cross Rivers State government (in excess of N100millions) and several others as well as individual athletes / clubs /states for registration and accreditations.
Ogba’s spin-doctors came out in droves to start blaming the Federal Government for delay in release of Olympics funds but failed to address the fact that the athletes in fact prepared for the Olympics except perhaps undiscovered talents and ignored northern athletes. Ajoke and Blessing will tell you that they gave 110% in preparation and Olympics games, so I really don’t see how anyone can blame delayed funding on preparation.
Key Problem: What then is the problem? I believe the administrators of sports in Nigeria and Nigerian Olympics Committee (NOC) remained the problem. Sixteen years ago several individuals including myself complained about the Director of Sports’ lack of effectiveness, blacklisting and interference with Sports Federations’ operations and now that same Director of Sports continues to lead National Sports Commission (NSC) even after his mandatory retirement age. Our athletics team is worst now than 16years ago, so also is our football team, boxing and other sports.
The new Minister called for drastic change to reflect democracy and effectiveness but he also said he will wait until after National Sports festival to do anything. He agreed that there is problem and restructuring sports federation is required but I don’t think it is reasonable to delay doing what is necessary because quoting the Minister suggests that any delay remove Nigeria in achieving medal at 2016 and 2020 Olympics Games. The Minster was quoted as saying that it takes eight years to achieve Olympics podium result and for him to chip away about 3-4months from such goal suggests that the NSC lacks the will to pursue Olympics medal.
NOC led by Sani Ndannusa (former Sports Minister and President of Tennis Federation Board) and his vice president Solomon Ogba (AFN Chairman and President). Tennis Federation has achieved nothing with the presence of Ndannusa’s tenure so also is the nation during his term as Minister. Ogba destroyed Nigerian athletics team by focusing on Delta State athletes and it would not be a surprise if Nigerians were told that 90% funds available to AFN was spent of few athletes while others ran into debt even from Ogba based on his statements.
Mr. Ogba thought he done good by dashing away money to Blessing (Delta indigene) while lending money to Ajoke (non-Deltan). And I say, his view backfired because it is not only discriminatory but also stupid to acknowledge he cannot voluntarily cater for the athletes from AFN funds.
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The Olympics result suggests that Nigeria’s team as a whole deserves better administration and unitary focus and the time is now to begin such transformation failure of which the country will revert to square one. Nigerian athletes are yearning to switch their country due to neglect and feeling of discrimination based on their state of origin.
Recommendations: The Minister must act now to disengage Patrick Ekeji (NSC Director of Sports), restrict Bank accounts of all federations, restructure all sports federations beginning with disbanding all federations’ Boards’ as they are all improperly constituted and illegal. In addition, all Board Chairmen must be made to account for their tenure and turnover all funds to their respective secretariat.
Following this, NSC should set new format of appointing Board members and call for nationwide applications to be President of each of the federation.
Former Board members are excluded from further appointment and one term of six years must be imposed. All potential Board member must pass criminal / fraud background check by the EFCC and Police along with a minimum business or sports administration related degree.
To deal with gender equity, minimum number of female members must be set at 30%. The Board membership must reflect federal character and no state can have more than one representative (for example, a person born in a particular state and his/her parent was indigene from that state cannot represent Lagos or FCT on the Board simply because he / she now lives in Lagos or FCT and well connected to that state seat of power).
The new President cannot be member of the Board, must not have criminal background and must hold at a minimum business related or sports administration degree. Preference should be given to former athletes in those particular sports with verifiable degree (we are not talking about “I used to play sports in primary school”). The key question is can you administer that sports and how?
The President key responsibility must be defined and must include power to hire and fire coaches with supervision by the Board. The Board must act unanimously except in key areas such as removal of President where a Board member can veto such move. I think the readers get the idea here.
Dr. Rashid A. Balogun, CPA, LLB(Hons), LLM(London)