London 2012 Olympics, my story

AFN President, Solomon Ogba.

AFN President, Solomon Ogba.

I have stayed away from reacting to articles and comments about the 2012 Olympics and my less than six-month stint as head coach of Team Nigeria to the London 2012 Olympic Games. But, since the President of Athletics Federation of Nigeria (AFN), Solomon Ogba’s satanic verses came out in The Guardian Newspapers: “We gave Egbunike many opportunities, but he failed” — Ogba, written by Gowon Akpodonor on September 24, 2016, I have received numerous calls and emails from family, friends and well-wishers from far and near on the need to set the record straight because when lies are allowed to fly for many years, it may be taken as the gospel truth.

Ogba was against my appointment
Ogba stated that he gave me opportunities and it is interesting that he will say that, considering that he did not give me an opportunity in 2012; it was a friend of the then Honourable Minister of Sports, Mallam Bolaji Abdullah that introduced me to him.

Ogba, at the meeting of the Ministerial Committee on London 2012 Games, headed by Alhassan Yakmut, vehemently opposed my appointment and that of a US-based female coach.

During the meeting, he fought against appointing aides who would support me as assistant coaches. He told many members of the athletics family that he will make life hell for me which came to pass.So how can Ogba, an Evangelist, lie that he gave me opportunities?

Six months stint insignificant in four decades career
I worked with AFN under Ogba’s tenure for just six months, so how could anybody judge my over 28 plus years with Nigerian Track and Field, filled with glittering feats and achievements, including records, with just five months plus with London 2012 Nigeria Track and Field team?

For Ogba’s information, I have been associated with nine Olympic Games as an athlete and coach, and several IAAF World Championships indoor and outdoor, the African Games, African Championships and several athletics championships.

I won bronze medal as a member of Nigeria’s 4×400 meter relay team at the 1984 Los Angeles Olympics and a silver medal in the 400m at the 1987 IAAF World Championships.

I have been with Team Nigeria as a coach since 1992 Olympic Games. I was with Team Nigeria at the Barcelona’92 Games as an athlete (Captain for Team Nigeria) and a coach, and during that Olympic Games my athletes Davidson and Osmond Ezinwa won Silver medal in 4x100m, Fatima Yusuf Silver medalist at Atlanta ’96, the 4x400m team that won the gold medal at the Sydney 2000 Olympics, the 4x100m women team that won silver medal at Beijing 2008 games. The only time I didn’t win a medal was with Team Nigeria at the London 2012 Olympics due to Ogba’s shenanigans.

But my medal-winning streak at major games and championships does not begin and end with Team Nigeria. At the London 2012 where Ogba’s divide and conquer approaches contributed immensely to our failure to win medals, my athlete, Chris Brown won a gold medal for Bahamas.

My other achievements as coach include but are not limited to coaching American Angelo Taylor to a gold medal in 400-m hurdles and 400m, and bronze medal at the IAAF World Championship.Apart from winning at London 2012, Chris Brown has won several other medals on my watch. They include 400 World Indoor title, and Olympics Silver Medal.

I coached Calvin Smith Jnr to win the 4x400m World Indoor gold medal with a world record, Gary Kikaya of Congo, and Milton Campbell 400m Silver Medal at World Indoor.

Other illustrious athletes I have worked with include such world class athletes as Jamie Baluch 400m, Alice Brown, Milton Campbell, Solomon Wariso, Merlene Ottey, Robert Reading, Amadu Diaba and Doris Williams, Tyree Washington, Omar Luom Joseph Batangdon, Gary Kikaya, Mickey Grimes, Avard Moncur.

For my contributions to athletics in America and coaching Americans to win medals, the United States Olympic Committee honoured me with the Order of Ikkos medallion for excellence in coaching in 2008.

Less than six months to prepare for london 2012
Shamefully, Ogba told an absolute lie when he stated that I had 12 months to prepare the team for the London Games. I came to Nigeria in Nigeria February 2012 to be introduced to the media as Head Coach of track and field to the London Games. The first set of athletes arrived in Atlanta on March of 2012 to train with me less than six months before the Games.

If you check The Guardian library, you will see a story in The Guardian of Tuesday, 14 August 2012 where a former director in the National Sports Commission (NSC), Dr. Tijani Yussuf, said I should not be blamed for the team’s poor performance, ‘I differ on putting the whole blame for Nigeria’s athletics dismal outing at the just concluded London 2012 Olympic Games on Egbunike, he can’t prepare a team for the Olympics within six weeks’’.

Some of the issues on Nigeria camp
Ogba’s claim that I had a free hand was false. In fact, my problem with Ogba started when I was the head coach during the Beijing 2008 Olympics. He wanted an athlete from Delta State to be included in the women 4x100m but I told late Sunday Bada that it will never happen, that I am the Head Coach and I will make the decision on who will run and who will not.

Despite the odds, the team won the silver medal. Since then, Ogba is always looking for ways to malign or sabotage me. After my appointment, he did everything to incite the athletes against me during the African Championships in Porto Novo, Benin Republic which we won. Some athletes, who ordinarily should have been disciplined for refusing to participate in the relays practice or come late for training or breaking camp rules, were not sanctioned.

In the run up to the games, two incidents happened, which Ogba believed I leaked to the press because the stories were written by a reporter I know.Ogba, for reasons I don’t understand, told an employee of Diamond Bank, Esther Obiekwe, that she has been nominated to become the first Nigerian woman to represent the country at the marathon event at the Olympic Games.

Obiekwe, a hobbyist runner, never met the standard to qualify to participate in any major marathon talk more the Olympics but was told by Ogba that she was on the Nigerian team to the Olympics.

Ogba also hoodwinked the management of Diamond Bank, who held an elaborate reception where she was presented the certificate of nomination to the board and management of the bank.

Uzoma Dozie, then Executive Director, Diamond Bank, expressed the bank’s support for her as their ambassador. She got kits like other Nigerian athletes and came to the camp.

Somehow, the press discovered the scam and it became the headline in national dallies; Ogba believed I told the press about his shenanigan.
The second incidence was his attempt to accredit an American coach and I was called into a meeting by Mr. Alhassan to discuss the fact that Ogba was bringing in a coach that had drug issues as personal coach for a Nigeria-American sprinter. Like the Obiekwe story, Ogba believed I leaked the stories to the media and from that day, he did everything to undermine me and used the athletes against me.

Divide and conquer at London Olympics
When some athletes refused to run at the African Championships, Ogba and I agreed that there must be consequences for that, but he later reneged on our understanding and instigated some of them against me.

Some of the athletes were so rude that they even had the effrontery to insult me to my face. When I told them there would be consequences for their actions, they told me they know somebody who will overrule me. One of them, the Nigeria-American sprinter whose coach was denied accreditation as personal coach, told me she would ensure I never coach in Nigeria again.

From the moment we arrived London, confusion reigned. Despite the huge cartons of kits delivered by Nike, our athletes were not allotted kits, athletes complained of being short-charged in the payment of allowances and other entitlements.

Ogba, instead of aiding the bonding between the athletes, fostered a divide. There were the Nigerian-Americans who are above the law and who got everything they need or want and the home-based Nigerian athletes who were treated as second class citizens, abused and reprimanded on a daily basis.

This divide and conquer attitude he exhibited polarized and affected our relay teams. Four years after, what has changed? If I was the clog in the wheel of success, four years after I left, Ogba led the team to a worse performance in Rio. A statistical analysis of London and Rio Games show that London was better than Rio. Even Blessing Okagbare in an article published in Punch Newspapers a few days ago attested to the fact that our performances in London were better than Rio.

In London, things got so bad that Honourable Minister Abdullahi and the Director General, Dr. Patrick Ekeji, banned Ogba from the Games Village because of his disruptive character.

He had one of his female athletes going around spreading stories that I will never be a head coach on the Nigerian team as long as he is the president of the AFN while the 2012 Olympic games was still going on.

Another major issue was who ran in the relay. He even tried to tell me who I should put on the relay team.He wanted to pick the team and I told him, not on my watch; this infuriated him and told people he will deal with me.

Amaechi Morton was not in Sapele
Ogba claimed that my athlete, Amaechi Morton, came home for the trial and was beaten by Miles Ukaoma to the 400m hurdles slot.As an evangelist, Ogba should realize that God expects a very high standard from his servant. Amaechi started the season well, running 49.6 seconds in his first race. Along the line, he got injured and it was at this time that Ogba called him and said he should come and run in the Penn Relays a few days before the meet. The young man said the federation ought to have informed him early in the season and that Penn Relays is not even in his plans.

Ogba called me and I explained to him but he said all kinds of unprintable words about Amaechi and that he will ensure that Amaechi does not go to the African Championships. Amaechi is alive, anyone can ask for his version of the story. You can check the picture and records archives of the event and confirm that he was not there.

Ogba knows the athletes that got money from Olympics Scholarships that were in Sapele and could not make the team but he will not name them because they are not coached by Egbunike.

I advised the AFN President to stop running from his shadow, I am not collaborating with anybody against him. I wrote a report in 2012 and it got leaked to the press. If I want a media war for all the ills you did against me in 2012, I won’t wait four years, I would have done it long before now.

AFN Failed Nigeria In Rio
Ogba should be man enough to take responsibility. If AFN is not responsible for our failure in Rio, who is? You inherited a federation that was winning medals at every Olympics before you came in and since you became the President, your only feat is qualifying more athletes for games.
It is a shame that under Ogba we are celebrating the qualification of athletes for the Olympics while before him, we celebrated their achievements. I know because I was an athlete and a coach.

Elite athletes’ development takes between six to seven years, if you had invested all the money you wasted on buying American athletes (One of them confessed recently, it’s on ENNE WORLD Blog) on development of talented athletes at home and coaches, Nigeria would have produced a champion in Rio.

Your insinuation that Mallam Abdullahi rejected me after London 2012 Olympics is false. He was aware of all you did to cause confusion in the camp and how you used the athletes against me.

I also know that after the London Olympics, you worked assiduously against my appointment because you want a coach you can bully. Three years after you hired the ones you can bully and they are being paid thousands of dollars monthly; please show their scorecard and achievements in athletics. If it is better than mine, I will quit coaching.

Finally, I have coached Olympic medalists and world-class athletes from different nations from 1992 to 2016. My records speak for themselves and Ogba cannot even deny them. Nigeria’s track and field was successful before Ogba and it will thrive again after him.
• Innocent Egbunike, an Olympic medallist, was Team Nigeria’s head coach to the London 2012 Games.

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Solomon Ogba

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