Saturday, May 18, 2013

Strangers in the house of Nigerian sports

*Directors of sports made a whole lot of money from elections
*Four-some boycott in basketball
Minister Bolaji Abdullahi
We can reveal to you that some sports will never wake from their deep slumbers due to the fact that those who are saddled with the management of the sport disciplines in question are absolute strangers to the sport they are supposed to manage.
In the Squash Racket, there is heavy disquiet within the rank and file of the players of the game. The President was a hockey player. He was on the board of the heavily infected last management that helped strangulated the sport. His Vice is a tennis player who does not know how the squash racket looks like.
In Darts, it is a slightly wild case. Those that won the election (is it not better we call it selection process) belong to another body called Nigeria Darts Association (NDA) and not the registered body known as Darts Federation of Nigeria (DFN). Both the new President and his Vice belong to the Association and not to the Federation.
Meanwhile, our investigations revealed that the method designed by the National Sports Commission (NSC) whereby the 37 Directors of sports, including that of the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) are he electors at the zonal level was bastardised. They practically collected monies from all the parties contesting. Where you refuse to part with your money, you are sheved and where you do not pay enough, you are dropped.
Those who got elected to serve on the various boards of the sports federations were the highest bidders. That is why many of the sports federation boards had practical strangers sitting on their boards thus, making nonsense out of the plans of the NSC to attract worthy representation as a media to galvanise the various sports.
Our investigation showed a critical case in squash racket where a former Nigerian number two player came out to join in the management of the game that produced him, took him to several nations and made him rich today. Unknown to him, he was persuaded to leave the slot for another person who had no business of any sort since he can come in from the athlete representative.
Another case in the Kaduna centre, a particular candidate from Kano never sponsored any championship as required by the guideline. When the matter was raised, the Directors of sports pleaded that he should be left and will be voted out for the former player of that sport. The result turned otherwise. That was how the loser protested “despite each of the Directors of Sports collecting N50,000 and accommodation from me.”
A further investigation revealed that the winning party had doled out more. How much he gave became a conjecture as neither the giving party nor the taking party confirmed the amounts involved.
Four-some boycott: In basketball, there was protest by the quadruple of Messrs Musa Khida (south-south), Babs Ogunade (south-west), Osita Nwachukwu (south-east) and Mark Oguche (north central). Ironically, they are two-third of the members elected from the zones. The remaining two were joined by the selected five stakeholders and held the election.
As it is, the quartet will carry over the boil to the rest of the four years of that board. Will these not make one of the three sports federation in the last term (2009-2013) being Basketball, Scrabble and Chess not be made to face a new crisis that can destroy all the gains of the steady development of the last four boards which culminated in the De’Tigers’ London 2012 spectacular qualification? Can the wounds be healed for the sake of the game?
Pockets of dissent rent the air: With the outcome of the protestations and tribulations expressed by the old but retired player structures against the population and manipulation of outsiders to manage their game, is it safe to predict that some of the federations especially the prime ones may witness earthquakes?
The forebodes came on the eve of the inauguration of the sports federation when handball was taken to court by a league of the former international players. As soon as the court papers came, I screamed that the virus of litigation that struck our football with internal bleeding is here. Where and when will this stop?
Once one or two sports pick the virus, the entire body polity of Nigerian sports would have been destroyed. Certainly, there are likely going to be such legal niceties in a couple of years. People realizing they can approach the courts to adjudicate on conflicts which years back were left to chance then we run the circle of drifting backwards into oblivia.
Sports justice: The case of an overbearing sports federation killing opposition voices with bans not commensurate to punishment as was the case of athletics on the eve of the election remains a new addition to the quality of injustices in the land.
There are no Courts of Arbitration in Sports (CAS) in Nigeria with a virile field of operation. This need was obviously on the front burner when the litigations started in football. Here we are, the need gnaws us at the face again. A situation where the sports minister is a stranger to issues and developments in the industry, he/she CANNOT and WILL NEVER understand these felt needs of the industry.
I won’t be surprised if one day some aggrieved parties seeing the fact that going to a regular court will not give them justice will not learn to out of frustration take the laws into their hands and do what they think is best. We are heading to the Hobbesian state of anomie where the rule of the strongest is survival.
Olympic holiday continues: Safe for some other lesser sports like Taekwondo, Weightlifting, (not too sure of table tennis), and Chess who got some fresh air who ironically are not on the radar of development plan by the NSC, I presage Nigeria for another 12 years may be on Olympic medal holiday. The omen are bleak, the paths are dark, the travellers have no idea of navigating out of the deep forest. God help Nigeria.
The ritual of selection or election has come and gone. The imagined stronger foundation for real time development seems to have refused to cross the hurdles. For the gods of sports, the NSC has performed the rites, where the propitiation and libations are correct, the pregnancy in the belly of time will tell what type of child is to be born. Like the human will born in nine months, we wait for the Expected Date of Delivery (EDD) in Rio de Janeiro. May this belly not be blank like London.

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