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Bahamas 2015: Okagbare got it wrong, says Ogba

By Gowon Akpodonor
08 May 2015   |   1:47 am
The President of the Athletics Federation of Nigeria (AFN), Solomon Ogba, has described as unfortunate comments by reigning African queen of the tracks, Blessing Okagbare-Ighoteguonor, that his board was killing Nigerian athletics by recruiting foreign athletes.

The quartet of Blessing Okagbare, Regina George, Dominique Duncan and Christy Udoh won the 4x200m relay gold medal in Bahamas. Okagbare says she has no grudge against AFN leadership.

Athlete makes u-turn, Okon calls for truce

The President of the Athletics Federation of Nigeria (AFN), Solomon Ogba, has described as unfortunate comments by reigning African queen of the tracks, Blessing Okagbare-Ighoteguonor, that his board was killing Nigerian athletics by recruiting foreign athletes.

Also, the Technical Director of the AFN, Navy Commodore Omasteye Nesiama, has carpeted Okagbare over her bombshell, saying such comment was least expected from her considering that Okagbare has been one of Nigeria’s most ‘pampered’ athletes.

However, Okagbare yesterday cleared the air on her comments, saying she had no personal grudge against the leadership of the AFN, particularly Solomon Ogba.

Okagbare, who is currently in Kingston, Jamaica, for tomorrow’s World Challenge, an invitational competition sanctioned by the IAAF, had accused the AFN leadership of paying more attention to recruited foreign athletes, who, according to her, were not better than home grown talents.

She made the comment after propelling the country’s 4x200m relay team to the gold medal at last weekend’s IAAF World Relays in the Bahamas. But the AFN boss, Ogba, is not taking it lightly.

Speaking to The Guardian from his base in the United States in the early hours of yesterday, Ogba said: “Blessing is going about it wrongly and I won’t take it.

In as much as I don’t want to join issues with her, I want Blessing to know that she is becoming too self-centered. “Her major interest is money and money all the time and it is not good for an athlete of her status.

Blessing accused us of not caring for local athletes, which is not true. The AFN has organized three local competitions this year. Even in the midst of serious financial challenges, we took our U-20 athletes to defend their title at the African Junior Championship in Ethiopia, and also our youth athletes to the championship in Mauritius.

“We want a situation whereby the AFN has a pool of athletes to select from, whenever we are going for competitions. We don’t want one single person to hold us to ransom, as Blessing is trying to do.

Those athletes she complained about are Nigerians who are based in America. They have the right to run for their country,” Ogba said. Okagbare had pointed out that the AFN was not being kind to home based athletes, arguing that the money being paid to the recruited foreign athletes was more than enough to support the local athletes.

But the AFN boss countered her saying: “Has Blessing ever showed any sign of caring for our local athletes in her career? “Tell Blessing to go to Cote d’Ivoire and see what her mate, Murielle Ahoure, is doing there for up coming athletes. Ahoure has a contract with Nike and she willingly gives out free kits to young athletes from time to time.

Can Blessing do such for her fellow Nigerians? Why is everything about Blessing is money, money all the time? The moment she realized that we were struggling to raise money for the trip to Bahamas, she told me she was not coming until I promised her that I would refund her ticket money. “She accused the AFN of not organizing trials for the athletes we took to Bahamas. I am baffled with her level of ignorance.

The Cross River/All Nigerian Open usually serves as our trials for major competitions like the All African Games, Commonwealth, IAAF World Championship and the Olympics. Our home-based athletes like Ogho-Oghene Egwero, Oghenetega Odele, Rilwan Fasasi and Tosin Adeloye could not make the trip to Bahamas due to certain reasons.

Egwero was already at the airport in Lagos, but he suddenly took ill and was unable to come to Bahamas. This caused us to put up a no show in the men’s 4x100m and we had to use some 400m runners to complete our 4x200m men event,” Ogba explained.

AFN Technical Director, Nesiama, said: “ I never expected Okagbare to throw such a bombshell considering the fact that she has been one of Nigeria’s most ‘pampered’ athletes.

“I feel embarrassed by her comments. It is totally out of place for her to make such a comment at a time the AFN is supposed to be commended for the star performance in Bahamas.

Her comments show lack of respect for order, structure and authority. It must be placed on record that no athlete is bigger than the Federation and the Federation would deal with the issue appropriately.”

Speaking further, Nesiama said: “We have given Blessing the due regard she deserves as an elite athlete, but we will not because we need her services, fail to do the needful to checkmate acts of insubordination from her.

Enough is enough. She is like my daughter and everyone knows that, but this action of hers would be addressed appropriately,” Nesiama added. On his part, the President of Nigerian Athletics Coaches Association, ex-international, Gabriel Okon, has called for a truce between Okagbare and AFN saying: “Okagbare is Nigeria’s Sports Ambassador and she has represented us well.

This kind of face-off between her and the AFN is uncalled for, especially now that we have just returned from a glorious outing in the Bahamas.” Okon, who was part of the coaches to the IAAF World Relays in Bahamas, explained that the trainers played a great role in the success of the women’s 4x200m relays by insisting that only those capable of delivering the medal ran the race.

“It will be unfair for anybody to say that the coaches did not do anything in Bahamas. Okagbare wanted Gloria Asumnu and Patience Okon to be part of the 4x200m relays instead of Dominique Duncan and Christy Udoh, but we said no way.

Asumnu ran the slowest leg during the Penn Relays in Philadelphia and we felt she won’t be good for the 4x200m in Bahamas. We were proved right,” Okon stated. Meanwhile, Okagbare has declared yesterday that she had no evil intention against the leadership of the AFN, particularly Ogba.

Speaking with The Guardian shortly before she left Bahamas for Kingston, Jamaica, yesterday ahead of tomorrow’s World Challenge, Okagbare said: “I don’t have any bad intention against them (AFN).

Ogba and I have come a long way and there is no way I will talk evil against him. The only thing I want ‘oga’ to realize is that some of the people around him don’t like him. He should be very careful with them before they cause problem for him.

I leave in America with those athletes I talked about and I know what I am talking about,” Okagbare said.