‘We’ve not heard the last of national federations’ elections’
The June 13 elections into the boards of the National Sports Federations have been described as a clear departure from the former arrangement where members of the various boards conducted the polls to get their officers. This time, the Ministry of Sports and the Nigeria Olympic Committee (NOC) supervised the polls to according to them, give every qualified aspirant ‘the fair opportunity’ to test his popularity among the electorate.
However, good as the intentions were, Tuesday’s polls did not go without the usual controversies such that in some cases the contestants and their supporters resorted to fisticuffs in trying to sort out issues.
Some of the aggrieved candidates have threatened to go to court over alleged foul play that denied them their expected mandate at the polls. One of the most troubled federations is the Nigerian Basketball Federation (NBBF), which now has two ‘elected’ presidents. The NBBF issue is a continuation of the acrimony that trailed the 2013 polls that returned Tijjani Umar as the president of the federation. In the last polls conducted in Abuja on Tuesday, the camp opposed to Umar-led board was declared winners. But Umar and his group had a day earlier conducted their own polls in Kano, where the board was ‘returned to power.’ The Ministry of Sports, however, declared the election, illegal.
Yesterday, the Umar board in a statement signed by Patrick Omorodion, said it followed ‘due process to the letter in conducting its affairs including the election of 12 June, 2017.’
It added: “The Nigeria Olympic Committee (NOC) is in custody of the NBBF ratified Constitution and the election rules and regulation which the NOC made input into for the conduct of the election. Let it be known to all therefore that the NOC was fully aware and briefed on the intention of the NBBF to conduct its election according to its Constitution which is the best practice around the world.
In addition, the International Basketball Federation (FIBA) was consulted and it made input into the Constitution of the Federation before it was adopted and ratified by the Congress of the NBBF Annual General Meeting on 30 January 2017. The Constitution is superior to any document guiding the NBBF in the conduct of its affairs and there are articles and clear provisions empowering the Federation to conduct its election and stipulating the composition of the Board of the Federation.”
It accused the NOC of betraying the Nigerian Olympic family, adding that it has “forwarded to the International Basketball Federation (FIBA) and all who should know a full report on the election and will await any action or decision from it.”
Former international tennis star, Godwin Kienka, was philosophical in handling his exclusion from the elections. Kienka, who headed a Sport Reform Committee set up by the Sports Ministry last year, said being excluded from the polls by “the cabal in the sports ministry and outside of it who were fighting to nullify the reforms up to the day of the elections is a very small prize to pay for the ongoing reforms.
“The cabal asked the NTF Electoral Officers to insist that candidates for Vice President and President could only come from the 13 members of the board made up Zonal representatives and Institutional representatives when there was no such provision in the guidelines and the Minister of Sports, Solomon Dalung, had taken pains to explain at the inauguration of the ECs and given clear directives that all those who met the deadline and requirements must be allowed to contest.
“Proof that I was pointedly targeted, because they were smarting from the reforms, was that Mary Onyali with no constituency was allowed to vote and be voted for in Athletics while I was accredited as a delegate, allowed to vote but not qualified to be voted for.”
He said his exclusion was a small prize to pay for spearheading the reforms ‘which has, by God’s special grace, come to stay.’ Aggrieved former board members of the taekwondo federation say they are contemplating going to court over the omission of the manes of their candidates, including former president, George Ashiru.
The absence of Ashiru’s name from the ballot papers led to the declaration of his opponent, Elizabeth Binga, as the winner of the election. Ashiru’s name was later discovered to be in the original list few minutes after the election was concluded.
Sources at the Sports Ministry told The Guardian yesterday that it would review the conduct of the polls with a view to correcting some of the anomalies noticed in the process.
They, however, advised any aggrieved candidate to avail himself of the legal process set up for petitions in seeking justice.