Athletics stakeholders want ex-Nigeria internationals to take control of AFN

Athletics stakeholders in Nigeria believe the time has come for accomplished former track and field internationals to take over the administration of the sport in Nigeria.

Since 1966 Commonwealth Games history maker, Violet Odogwu (now Mrs Nwajei) left as AFN President in the late 2000s, the federation has been run by politicians.

Solomon Ogba took over from Mrs Nwajei, Ibrahim Shehu Gusau succeeded Ogba who spent two terms and now we have Tonobok Okowa at the helms of affair.

The AFN has seen more crisis with politicians in charge and stakeholders are convinced it is time to copy what is happening across the globe.

Samuel Fatunla, a statistician and former worker at the AFN gleefully spoke about the time he was in the AFN under the late Alhaji AK Amun and Mr Smart Akraka.

‘Those were men together with Mr MAK Ogun, Rotimi Obajimi and Yusuf Ali who ran the AFN like a professional body that it should be. They were able to do this because they knew the wants and the needs of the athletes.

‘We had so many of our athletes competing in major one day meets in Europe with some like Sunday Bada and Chioma Ajunwa achieving landmark successes as home based athletes,’ said Fatunla.

He also remembers the few years Engr Oluyomi Adeyemi-Wilson spent as AFN President as a former schoolboy champion and somebody from the corporate world.

‘Engr Adeyemi-Wilson’s era was known more for athletes welfare. It was during his era the AFN signed the lucrative FILA kitting contract and he ensured athletes benefitted from it by giving them, including home based athletes, training grants.

‘When politicians took over, there suddenly developed a non-disclosure clause in a kitting contract which prevented as many as 11 members of a 13 member board of the federation from knowing the details of the contract. The politicians have killed AFN,’ added Fatunla.

Umar Adamu, a sports enthusiast who follows athletics religiously is convinced former Nigeria track and field internationals should take over the running of the AFN from the next dispensation if those running it now cannot honourably resign.

‘We have seen what some of the ex-internationals on the board of the AFN have been doing to bring some sanity and transparency into the running of the AFN but are being held back by politicians and the Sports Ministry officials,’ he stated, alleging that some, not all of the politicians have only used the federation to feather their nest.

‘Look at what is happening in the AFN at the moment and how complicit the Sports Ministry has been. There was an audit committee report that the ex-internationals wanted it to be debated but those on the board who called themselves businessman, politicians and ex-service men are insisting must not be debated albeit it was glaring in the report that there are established instances of maladministration, misappropriation and mismanagement of resources at the AFN.’

Adamu says he is also aware of what some past Presidents of the federation did, using the AFN to take money from their states and turning around to claim the money from Federal Government as a personal loan to incur expenditure on behalf of government,’ he alleged and wants the Sports Ministry and the anti-corruption agencies to probe Tafida Gadzama, the first vice president of AFN’s disclaimer on a reported N250m Okowa reportedly loaned to AFN without documentation and approval.

‘I think it is important this happens so that we don’t go back to the era of those who claim money gotten as assistance from their states as personal expenses,’ he said.

When contacted, a member of the board of the current board of AFN, Dare Esan agrees the time has come for that change from politicians to former track and field internationals.

‘Just look the names of those in World Athletics. Seb Coe was an Olympic champion and World record holder in his time. Ximena Restrepo, one of Coe’s vice presidents ran with our own Falilat Ogunkoya. Tell me, what will our politicians who have never represented Nigeria know about the needs and wants of athletes?

‘What do they know about the science of the sport, the role of say the brain in performances? The other day one who is outside the administration of AFN but mingles with the politicians who run the board was talking about the opening of a ‘C’ sample in an antidoping issue. Tomorrow, this fellow will want to aspire to be AFN president,’ revealed Esan.

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