Call it a ‘tea party’ not AFN congress – Ebewele

Ibrahim Gusau

For some Nigerians, athletics was almost the sole reason they paid attention to sporting activities. The sport had rescued the nation at many international competitions, where others failed to live up to expectations. From the All Africa Games, Commonwealth Games and the Olympic Games, many Nigerian athletes hit jackpot in the track and field business. But the last six months have seen a torrent of crisis with some board members of the Athletics Federation of Nigeria (AFN) seeing discord or crying injustice over the manner in which their president, Ibrahim Shehu Gusau is allegedly handling issues concerning the federation.

The Annual General Congress of the AFN held at the Nicon Luxury Hotel, Abuja to address some pressing issues on Thursday may have done more harm than good to the nation’s athletics, if expressions by some of the board members were anything to go by.

“Don’t call it a congress, it was a mere tea party,” former national Decathlete and board member, Brown Ebewele told The Guardian shortly after the congress.

“Shehu Gusau has only succeeded in postponing the evil day. Instead of facing the reality on ground and finding a way out of the crisis in the AFN, he brought politicians like the Sports Minister, Solomon Dalung, Amos Adamu, Patrick Ekeji and Gbenga Elegbeleye to preach peace. At the end of the day, more salt was added to injury and nothing has changed,” Ebewele stated.

According to the former Sports Commissioner in Edo State and one time Technical Director of the AFN, the unveiling of the Federation’s Constitution and New AFN Logo during Thursday’s congress in Abuja was ‘stage-managed’ by Gusau and his few loyalists without contribution from majority of the board members.

He asked: “Who were the board members that drafted the AFN Constitution and who headed the Constitution Drafting Committee? And who were the people that rectified the New AFN Logo? Gusau and his few loyalists even went further to say they had concluded plans to construct a five star hotel to be called AFN hotel in Abuja. Who were the board members involved in that decision?

“Now, many board members who were clapping for Gusau are beginning to have a change of mind. Some of us knew long before now that nothing good would come from the Gusau-led leadership, unless he has a change of style and attitude towards other board members. As I said, what we had in Abuja on Thursday was a mere tea party, but not a congress. But I am happy in a way because when we earlier drummed out loud that a few individuals have taken over the affairs of the Federation, those board members who are now expressing bitterness were not in support of our fight. They exhibited nonchalant behaviour,” Ebewele stated.

Another board member, Professor Emmanuel Ojeme, who is representing National Association of Physical Health Education, Sports and Recreation (NAPHSER), had expressed his worries that the Federation’s Constitution was approved without passing through due process.

According to Professor Ojeme, the process for approval was not followed as there was no first and second readings and adoption. “Members heard about the Federation’s Constitution just at the venue of Congress”.

Apparently not pleased with the development, Prof Ojeme expressed worry over the goings on at the Federation and added that the right thing was being done at the wrong time.

For the Technical Director of AFN, Sunday Adeleye, there was nothing wrong in the approval of the Constitution. “Those condemning what we did are entitled to their opinion,” Adeleye, who is Athletes’ Representative on the board said yesterday

The new AFN logo replaces the old one that had been in use since 1944.

At the AFN Congress on Thursday, Sports Minister, Dalung urged the board members to set aside their differences and go back to the development of the sport at the grassroots.

“What is needed of you today is for you to bring qualitative leadership to drive the passion of athletics to great heights. If we provide the desired leadership, other African countries will queue behind Nigeria and we will be able to shape the destiny of Africa. If we organize ourselves, Nigeria will be the economy hub of the entire West African sub region.”

He appealed to the board members to respect one another to bring about the desired change in athletics.

“Respect and value yourselves including the past and present leaders because a system that does not recognize history cannot secure the future. You must create space in your leadership to accommodate people of diverse opinions.”

On his part, Gusau said the congress was convened to provide the framework for the Federation’s operation and future.

He stated that the decision to have a new constitution was arrived at through consultations in the last three months.



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