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AFN and its endless crises

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Things are not working out properly in Nigerian athletics…sprinter Blessing Okagbare seems to say. PHOTO: AFP

The board of the Athletics Federation of Nigeria (AFN) was inaugurated same time alongside other sports federations in Abuja.

However, while other federations such as wrestling, table tennis, taekwondo and basketball have since hit the ground running, achieving remarkable results in continental and world championships, athletics, which is the nation’s second biggest sport, seems to be running backward. It has been riddled with a series of crisis, with board members plotting to outdo one another.

And what appears the mother of all battles in the AFN may be afoot, following an alleged plan by the federation’s president, Ibrahim Gusau to install the Athletes’ Representative on the board, Sunday Adeleye as the Technical Director.

Adeleye’s emergence as board member of the AFN is still generating controversy, as some of the board members insist that he never represented Nigeria at any international competition as stipulated by the election’s guidelines.

With the controversy yet to settle, the federation’s president, Gusau is said to have perfected plans to install Adeleye, a former 400m runner, as Technical Director of the body.

A board member of AFN, Brown Ebewele told The Guardian that Gusau would incur more trouble for himself if he continued with the plan.

“In the first place, Adeleye has no business being on the board of AFN,” Ebewele declared. “This is someone, who did not meet the election guidelines. For someone to qualify for such a position as Athletes Representative on the AFN board, he or she must have represented Nigeria in two international competitions. The person must not be above 30 years and must not be below 20 years of age. Adeleye is above 30 years and he never represented Nigeria at any international event. A protest lodged by former 400m hurdler, Henry Okorie, against Sunday Adeleye’s eligibility for the election is still pending.

“Gusau cannot just wake up and pick such a person as Technical Director of AFN because we are not in an association of blind people,” he stated.

Ebewele, a former Technical Director of the AFN, disclosed that the board members would resist the move, adding that even the federation’s president (Gusau) still has so many issues hanging on his eligibility as AFN President.

“Gusau is not qualified to be the AFN President in the first place and we are still pursuing that issue. He was only imposed on the board and we won’t accept it. I am confident we will get justice at the end of the day,” Ebewele, who is representative of Coaches/Technical officers on the AFN board stated.

When The Guardian contacted Gusau on phone to speak on the issue on Thursday evening, he responded angrily, saying: “You should know that I am a Muslim. Tomorrow (Friday) is Sallah, and I am in the mosque praying. I don’t have the time to speak on AFN matters at the moment.”

Gusau also failed to respond to a text message on the issue.

On his part, Adeleye has maintained that those doubting his eligibility as qualified Athletes’ Representative on the AFN board are enemies of Nigerian athletics. In a recent chat with The Guardian, Adeleye said that he represented Nigeria at two different international events in 2003, including participating in the COJA All African Games.

Meanwhile, Adeleye has narrated his side of the story in his recent face-off with reigning African triple jump champion, Tosin Oke, in London.

Oke had accused Adeleye of ejecting him from his hotel room in London during the IAAF World Championships, which was concluded in London last month.

In his protest to the AFN, Oke narrated how Adeleye, who is on the board of the AFN to protect the interest of the athletes, drove him out of the hotel room he shared with quartermiler Nathaniel Samson around 10 pm on Friday August 11, two days to the end of the championships with clearly no justifiable reason.

Some Nigerians have given Adeleye knocks over the issue, saying that he betrayed the trust of athletes he is expected to protect.

While Okey Eziuka could not believe that athletes voted for Adeleye in the first place when he was not qualified to contest for the position as spelt out in the electoral guidelines, Nicholas Osikhena Imhoaperamhe joined others in calling for Adeleye’s resignation as athletes’ representative, saying he has failed the simplest of tests of protecting the interest of athletes.

But Adeleye has said the triple jumper contravened camp rules during the IAAF championship in London.

Speaking with The Guardian on what transpired in London, Adeleye said: “Tosin Oke was going to his usual work and at the same time coming to compete for Nigeria in the competition. He was coming into the athletes’ hotel late in the night, by 1.00 am and 2.00am, which was against camp rules. I want Nigerians to judge if it was proper for Oke to be competing for Nigeria in a major championship and at the same time working full time in London? He was paid his full estacode. What happened was that we needed to secure a room for the woman that brought the money from Nigeria in the hotel. She was not accredited by IAAF, so I pleaded with our quartermiler, Nathaniel Samson to vacate his room for the woman, which he did. By this time, Oke had already finished his competition and was going about his normal work duties in London. Oke resides in London. Was he actually supposed to be going to work and at the same time coming to disturb other athletes in the camp?” Adeleye asked.



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