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We gave Egbunike many opportunities, but he failed — Ogba


Solomon Ogba, the President, Athletics Federation of Nigeria

Solomon Ogba, the President, Athletics Federation of Nigeria

President of Athletics Federation of Nigeria (AFN), Chief Solomon Ogba has fired back at coach Innocent Egbunike, describing the former Nigerian sprinters as a ‘failed’ track and field tactician.

“Nigeria has given Egbunike so many opportunities to prove his worth as an athletics coach, but he failed,” Ogba told The Guardian yesterday. Egbunike had alleged in a recent publication that Nigeria’s athletics team to the London 2012 Olympic Games failed due to Solomon Ogba’s divide and rule tactics.

In the report, which was published shortly after the Rio Olympic Games in Brazil, Egbunike claimed that nepotism and lack of discipline, among others, created a split among the athletes to produce a house of horror at London 2012 Olympics.

However, Ogba questioned Egbunike’s managerial competence yesterday saying that the ex-sprinter was brought in as coach of the Nigeria athletics team a year before the London 2012 Olympics, but failed to make a meaningful impact.

“Egbunike was named head coach of Nigeria athletics team a year before the London 2012 Olympics. What is the work of a coach? If he noticed anything wrong in the system, was it not his duty to correct it? He was given free hand to do everything as a coach. He was never sidelined and I never expect Egbunike to point an accusing finger at me for his failure in London 2012 Games.

“Now, I want Nigerians to question Egbunike on what happened to one of our U.S.-based athletes, Amaechi Morton? Why did Morton fail to qualify for the 2016 Rio Olympic Games despite collecting thousands of dollars from the Olympics Scholarship programme. I am throwing this question at Egbunike because Morton was the only Nigerian athlete he coached in the build up to the Rio Olympics, but the young man failed to even make the qualification mark. If Egbunike is a good coach as he claims to be, how come he couldn’t qualify just one Nigerian athlete under his supervision for the Rio Olympics?

“At least, Morton got the financial support he needed. He was collecting $1,000 every month from the Olympics Scholarship programme, and we expected him to be part of our team to Rio, but that didn’t happen because of Egbunike’s poor managerial skill as a coach,” Ogba stated.

In the build up to the Rio Olympics, the U.S.-based Morton, a 400m hurdler, was beaten to the ticket by Miles Ukaoma during the All Nigerian Open, which took place in Sapele, Delta State. Morton was among eleven top Nigerian athletes who benefited from the NOC Scholarship programme for the Rio 2016 Olympics.

The athletes were selected through the nomination of the Nigeria Olympic Committee with their various sports federations.An angry Ogba tongue-lashed Innocent Egbunike for trying to incite Nigerians against him saying: “What actually did Egbunike and his collaborators want to achieve by their campaign of calumny against me? Was AFN responsible for the poor outing of Team Nigeria at the Rio Olympic Games? The AFN produced two finalists at the Rio Olympics. We had Ese Brume in the women’s long jump final, where she eventually placed 5th, and our women’s 4x100m relay team. If athletes from other federations were able make it to the final, I am sure we could have come back with more medals instead of only one bronze from football.

“I want Egbunike to explain to Nigerians why he failed to grab the job of Director for the High Performance Centre in Abuja? At least, the former Sports Minster Bolaji Abdullahi gave him the chance but he failed. I agree he was a fantastic athlete in his days, but as a coach, Egbunike has disappointed us. Those who are conspiring with Egbunike to wage war against me should know that I am not looking for a job. They should know that I am not a hungry politician who always jump from place to place condemning others because they are desperate to grab another political position,” Ogba stated.

Among other things, Egbunike had accused Ogba in a recent publication that he selected the team for the trial ahead the London 2012 Olympics without recourse to the laid down rules.

“Considering that the Olympic trials is a competition that gives athletes the opportunity to compete for a spot on their nation’s team, the 2012 Olympic trials in Calabar was faced with class division among the athletes. We had Delta athletes, AFN invited athletes and athletes with “A” standard from 2012 season. The “A” standard athletes were housed in a five star hotel and the remaining athletes stayed in a regular hotel. And this created divisions among the athletes. This was part of what spilled over throughout the duration of the Games.’’

“We had met before the trials and I requested that we (myself, Yussuf Ali, Maria Wophill, Gabriel Okon, and Evangelist/President Ogba) put the standard for the African Championships and the standard for Olympic Games in black and white and decided that A and B standard athletes will represent Nigeria at the African Championships and A standard athletes will represent Nigeria at Olympic Games. We were supposed to meet to pick the team after the trials. To my surprise, the team was announced that night and when I asked, I was told that it was the AFN tradition to announce the team the last night of the competition.’’

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