By Salifu Usman, Abuja
The much awaited election into the various national sports federations have come and gone with little or no surprises to the gladiators and observers alike.
The election, which came barely a year after Team Nigeria’s dismal and disastrous outing at the Rio 2016 Olympics, was expected to produce people with fresh ideas, new directions and visions on how to move the country’s sports sector forward. It was also hoped that it will chart a new course as to how Team Nigeria will fare after last year’s show of shame in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil in the next Olympic Games in Tokyo, Japan. The argument has been the nation’s sports administrators lack the leadership skills and determination to lead Nigeria sports to the desirable destination. Some even argued that most of the administrators are in sports just for what to grab for themselves and not really to enrich the country’s sports.
Contrary to the expectations of most Nigerians, particularly sports fanatics, the June 13, 2017 elections offer nothing different from the past elections except that it has further sowed the seed of discord among Nigeria sports personalities. Most of the federation elections ended in crisis as there were allegations of manipulations to favour certain candidates.
For many, it wasn’t a surprise because the handwriting on the wall which needed no interpretation was towards satisfying certain people’s interest and the initial guidelines released by the sports ministry had elicited protests in different quarters.
For instance, elections into the board of the Nigeria Rugby Federation were postponed as the delegates could not agree on the guidelines. The secretary-general of the Nigeria Olympic Committee (NOC), Tunde Popoola told newsmen at the venue of the elections that the elections failed to hold as scheduled because the delegates did not comply with the guidelines.
He said the delegates could also not come to an agreement on the way forward, and this led to the need to call off the elections. “I am going to inform the Federal Ministry of Youths and Sports of the decision we have reached. The delegates were uncontrollable, so we needed to postpone the elections to enable us address some issues,’’ he said.
Also, a presidential candidate in the elections, Olukayode Thomas, accused the Minister of Youth and Sports, Solomon Dalung, of manipulating the process to produce his cronies and cover up alleged fraud in the federations.
Thomas, who ran for president of the Athletics Federation of Nigeria (AFN) in a statement made available to LEADERSHIP Weekend sports, vowed to submit a petition to the National Assembly over the matter.
He alleged that the Minister assembled a biased electoral organising team and changed the delegates’ list to predetermine the outcome of the elections held in Abuja.
“As of 11.30 p.m. on Monday night, I was cleared to contest the election by officials of the Federal Ministry of Sports that was to supervise the election,” he said in the statement.
“It was my greatest shock on Election Day to see the name of Gloria Obajimi on the delegates’ list.
Obajimi did not contest the NAWIS election, Rosa Collins did and won. How come Obajimi, who was in the United States when the election was conducted, has become the NAWIS representative?
“I was equally shocked to see that Gad Onamugbu who did not contest the coaches’ election was the delegate for coaches.
More shocking was the name of Hammed Adio as representative of sponsors, philanthropist and ex-official. Adio has had no business with athletics for the last 15 years.
“Long before the elections, SolidWorks, the sponsor of AFN Golden League and others activities, had been given a letter as the representative of sponsor on the board.
Even if there will be a change, why not have elections among the sponsors and let Adio contest? Why that choice in a field that is full of better qualified individuals and corporate bodies?”
Mr. Thomas further alleged that a candidate was allowed to stand for the election, in spite of not residing, working or paying tax in Nigeria, while two other candidates were not cleared to contest.
He accused the minister of mismanaging the sports federations’ funds and ensured at the polls that those who would check the alleged fraud did not emerge as federation presidents.
No fewer than 177 of 396 candidates that were seeking for elections into the various boards of national sports federations were disqualified in the June 13 elections held at the Abuja National Stadium. While
the election that threw up Musa Kida as the new president of the Nigeria Basketball Federation (NBBF) has now put Nigeria at the risk of a FIBA sanction. FIBA approved the election in Kano that returned Tijjani Umar for another term as president.
Umar’s purported disqualification from the Abuja election violates the constitution of the game’s governing body. A former Nigerian senior basketball team Captain, Olumide Oyedeji, who was voted as Umar’s vice-president at the Kano election, is FIBA’s players’ representative for Africa.
Speaking to LEADERSHIP Sports prior to the elections, former chairman of Gombe State Football Association and sports critic, Ahmed Shuaibu Gara Gombe, accused the Youth and Sports minister, Solomon Dalung, of embarrassing the government, saying the electoral guidelines produced by the minister was a calculated attempt to destroyed sports federations who are the bedrock of sports development.
“We cannot get the best people elected in these forthcoming charade called ‘elections’. Already, we are on auto-pilot in sports. In the first place, the guideline is unthinkable and there was no proper consultation.
“These sports federations are affiliated to international bodies, both continentally and internationally. As affiliated bodies, they have their constitutions and guidelines. So, why should the ministry produce guidelines for them to conduct elections? It has been happening which is wrong. You produce guidelines for a federation that is affiliated to another body without consultation and it is wrong. What they ought to have done is to look at their constitution and draw the guidelines from there. Why should the ministry even draw guidelines for sports federations when they only play a supervisory role just like they do during the NFF elections? If they cannot draw guidelines for the NFF, why should they draw guidelines for other federations? That is why there is confusion; simply because certain people have vested interests and, in order to establish these interests, mislead the Minister who doesn’t know, refuses to ask questions and ends up embarrassing the government.
“The minister’s action embarrassed the government and it doesn’t have to be so. The sports federations’ elections are just a confusion and Nigeria sports is being destroyed. The federations are the bedrock of sports development, institutions that develop sports. We have shot ourselves in the feet and only a decisive presidential intervention can correct this mistake,” Gara stated.
Also the former chairman Nigeria Football Association (NFA), Alhaji Ibrahim Galadima has labeled the sports minister, Solomon Dalung as an anti-sports progress.
Reacting to the confusion and intrigues that trail the June 13 federations elections, Galadima, said the minister has succeeded in supervising the destruction of sports in the country. “The whole drama of intrigues and manipulation of the election process will create confusion in sports. Dalung has run sports down and there is no likelihood that it will improve under his tenure,” he said.
He appealed to the media to stand up and fight the injustice the Youth and Sports Ministry has meted to aspirants in the election.
The former NOC vice president took a swipe on the minister for appointing him to head a committee for the reform of football in the country but failing to receive the report over a year after the committee completed its work.
By Salifu Usman, Abuja