‘Stranded’ chess star, NCF in war of words over alleged neglect
• We are looking for ways to help him return to Nigeria, says federation
The Nigeria Chess Federation (NCF) has denied abandoning international master, Oladapo Adu, who is currently stranded in Abidjan, Cote d’Ivoire since March after featuring in a championship in Sierra Leone.
Adu said he could not return to Nigeria after the championship in Sierra Leone following COVID-19 outbreak induced restrictions on travels by the West African country.
According to Adu, his ordeal started in Freetown, Sierra Leone where he competed in the Zone 4.2 Individual Chess Championship. He said he was forced to travel with two other players (a Ghanaian and a Liberian) by road for three days to Abidjan, where he was supposed to connect an Air Cote d’Ivoire flight to Lagos, adding, however, that the final leg of the journey was cancelled due to the coronavirus outbreak.
According to Adu, he elected to return to Nigeria by road, but on getting to the Cote d’Ivoire/Ghana border, he was denied entry into Ghana.
Adu, who flew into Nigeria from the United States to compete in the chess championship, said he has been making frantic efforts to return to Nigeria through the Nigeria Chess Federation and other relevant government agencies but has not received any positive response from anybody.
He lamented that it has been difficult for him to feed and pay for his accommodation in Abidjan “with no help from the NCF.”
Reacting to Adu’s complaints, NCF President, Lekan Adeyemi, through the federation’s Media Officer, Femi Solaja, said in a statement that the player was only trying to blackmail the board.
“I will give a brief reaction to Mr. Oladapo Adu’s situation. I have my WhatsApp chat with him, my Facebook messenger chat with him and the Nigeria Chess Federation WhatsApp group discussion on the matter.
“The issue is that the tournament he went for was in Sierra Leone and not in Abidjan. Four of them from Nigeria went for it and the rest of them returned home safely. It was while I was checking on them that I was informed he stayed behind and was caught up with the lockdown in Sierra Leone.
“I personally started my search for him till I found out that he was at the Cote d’Ivoire/Ghana border at Elubo. He didn’t even inform the federation that he was in that situation. When he arrived in Cote d’Ivoire at night, he contacted the Director-General of the Cote d’Ivoire Chess Federation, who arranged a paid hotel accommodation for him before he proceeded to the Cote d’Ivoire/Ghana border the following day.
“I was told regrettably that he was travelling with more than one person and he wanted the Cote d’Ivoire Chess Federation to accommodate the other person at their expense, which they declined. He then said the accommodation was not befitting and they had to take him to a bigger hotel at the expense of the Cote d’Ivoire Chess Federation. When he wasn’t allowed to cross the Ghana border, he returned to Abidjan and while I was making arrangements again with the Cote d’Ivoire Chess Federation and some persons I know in Abidjan to get him a place to stay, he told me he already got an accommodation, which, according to him, was excellent.
“On the 10th day, he told me again the person who provided the accommodation said he could not continue with the gesture anymore. He then went to stay with their top chess player in Cote d’Ivoire. I contacted the president of the Ivoirian Chess Federation, who works and lives abroad and he decided to give Mr. Adu’s new host $200 per month to feed him and ensure his comfort for as long as he is in Cote d’Ivoire.
“Later Adu told me he moved to a place arranged for him by the pastor of his church in Nigeria. At every time, he chose whatever option that was most comfortable for him…I was ready to assist and I am personally sad that he refused to acknowledge all my efforts to make him comfortable in Cote d’Ivoire.”
Adeyemi said he reported the issue to the NCF board, which Adu is also a member as the players’ representative, adding, “we specifically asked him what manner of assistance he needed from the board and he said all he wanted to be was for the board to be aware of his situation.”
Adeyemi said he reported the situation to the Acting Director, FEAD, at the Ministry of Youth and Sports, who advised the federation to include Adu’s name in the list of recipients of the next batch of the ongoing Federal Government palliative to athletes.
“He confirmed to me that Mary Onyali took the matter to the Minister of Youth and Sports, who is attending to the matter,” Adeyemi said, adding, “my attention was later drawn to several media publications where he alleged that the federation abandoned him in Abidjan. If he wants any specific assistance from the NCF, he should say so and stop the unnecessary media blackmail.”
Also speaking on the matter, Solaja said the NCF was trying to seek the sports ministry’s help to talk to relevant government agencies to fly Adu back to Nigeria.
“We understand his pains. Some Nigerians have also shown interest in helping him financially while he awaits further directive on his travelling plans.
“You must understand that Adu’s original destination was Sierra Leone, so tracing his transit would have been a problem. But all these will be sorted out. Adu is a Nigerian chess player… he cannot be abandoned,” he said.