Alhassan Yakmut… After Rain, Comes Sunshine
The Acting Director General of the National Sports Commission (NSC), Alhassan Yakmut, went through a complete training mill as a sports administrator, waiting patiently for his time to come.
He had a fruitful journey round the nation’s sports, capturing attention of the media from his days as schoolboy athlete in the north, to his moment as national volleyball player and through his time as Director of Grassroots Sports Development in the National Sports Commission (NSC).
Yakmut is certainly a cat with nine lives, having served more than 13 sports ministers since the beginning of his career, which started in the early 1980s.
The ex-volleyballer, who holds a Masters degree in Sports Administration from the University of Ife (now Obafemi Awolowo University), was said to have been directed by the Presidency to step up as Acting Director General of the NSC, following the removal of Gbenga Elegbeleye, who allegedly fell out with the Sports Minister, Tammy Danagogo.
To some stakeholders in Nigerian sports, Yakmut’s appointment as Acting DG of the NSC is coming at the right time.
“First, Yakmut is someone who has seen it all in sports and I can say his coming will do Nigerian sports a lot of good,” the National Coach of Nigerian weightlifting team, Emmanuel Oshoma, told The Guardian yesterday.
Yakmut studied Physical and Health Education at the Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria, before obtaining his Masters in Sports Administration at Ife.
In his schoolboy days with ABU, Zaria, in 1982, Yakmut was a warlord in the volleyball court. He helped ABU to stop the then University of Ife from winning their consecutive 12th volleyball gold medal in the Nigerian University Games (NUGA).
Yakmut and the gang made volleyball so popular in the north, especially the city of Kano, that many people paid gate fees to watch them in action.
One of the legacies he left in volleyball was leading Kano Superstars Volleyball team to beat the famous Zamalek of Egypt in front of their home fans inside in Cairo.
Oshoma said that Yakmut would have a lot to do for the nation’s sports, especially in preparation for this year’s All Africa Games holding in Congo Brazzaville, and the Rio 2016 Olympics Games.
“As a former athlete, Yakmut should set the ball rolling immediately by making sure that all sports federations that will represent Nigeria in both the All Africa Games and the 2016 Olympics Games hold national championships to select their athletes in readiness for camping.
“I am saying this because majority of the sports federations, including our weightlifting federation, have been selecting athletes blindly for competitions. If the various sports federations held their national championships now, it would be easy to name athletes who are qualified to fly the country’s flag by the time the NSC is ready to open camping,” Oshoma said.
Yakmut was appointed sole administrator of Plateau State Council in 1993, where he turned the sports around in terms of performance and provision of equipment. He is among those who have been canvassing for decent sports equipment in Nigerian secondary schools.
Yakmut once told The Guardian in an interview that there are no decent sports facilities in the nation’s school sports up to the point that athletes still run barefooted like they did many years ago.
“Surviving many sports ministers was a chemistry of experience because the mental attributes of those ministers were never the same,” Yakmut recalled in the interview with The Guardian.
Before serving as Director of Grassroots Sports Development under the current Sports Minister, Tammy Danagogo, Yakmut had served as special assistant to four ministers, personal assistant to two, and independent adviser to about six of them.
“But each time a non-professional comes, as we are polishing him to become expert, he would be removed or redeployed,” he said. “It is very difficult to say which among the ministers was the best because none of them lasted long enough to be assessed properly. But they have individual qualities beyond the imagination of public observers.
“There was none who did not want to change the fortunes of Nigerian sports. The area I suffered in silence was that almost all of them were politicians and not technocrats. And poor me, I had no powers to change it,” Yakmut said in the interview.
In October 2007, Yakmut was saddled with the responsibility of overseeing the Nigerian Football League body.
As at the time of his appointment, there was an unhealthy rivalry between the NPL and the football federation. He became a shuttle diplomat between the two bodies. From the NPL, Yakmut had also been drafted to troubleshoot in the NFF some time ago.
The intrigues and power play at the NSC resulted in the removal of Gbenga Elegbeleye during the week to pave the way for Yakmut. But the immediate cause of the removal of Elegbeleye was said to be “insubordination” following his alleged refusal to carry out a directive from the minister that he should revert to the status quo some of the redeployments he made concerning two directors.
According to reports, Danagogo was said to have directed Elegbeleye to return Mrs. Hawa Kulu Akinyemi to her position as the director of Planning and Research, while Yakmut be moved to the Federations and Elite Athletes Unit, where Bolaji Ojo-Oba occupied before his retirement.
But Elegbeleye didn’t comply, insisting on seeking clearance from the office of the Head of Service, an action, which did not go down well with Danagogo.
The minister reportedly took the matter to the Presidency and succeeded in getting President Goodluck Jonathan to approve Elegbeleye’s sack.