The long awaited Annual General Assembly of the Athletics Federation of Nigeria (AFN) was held on Thursday, November 16th, 2017 at the NICON Luxury Hotel in Abuja, even as several innovations were brought to the public domain at the event which is the first of its kind.
Some of the dignitaries at the event include the Minister of Youth and Sports Barrister Solomon Dalung; President of the Nigeria Olympic Committee (NOC) Engr. Habu Gumel; three former Director Generals of the then National Sports Commission – Dr. Amos Adamu; Dr. Patrick Ekeji and Otunba Gbenga Elegbeleye; immediate past AFN President Solomon Ogba, Board members of the AFN, delegates from 31 states of the federation, and stakeholders of the sport.
In his speech, AFN President Ibrahim Shehu Gusau disclosed that the new board had taken several steps to reposition the sport within the last three months.
He said, “Distinguished delegates and guests, I am delighted to inform you that following extensive consultations in the last three months, the AFN has developed its constitution which would be laid before this august General Assembly held this day 16th November 2017, for amendments and ratification.
“In the three and a half months of this administration, there have been concerted efforts to rebrand and reposition the AFN as a global competitive brand. In a short while and collectively as a family, be part of history-making events occasioned by the unveiling of a new AFN logo put together by a consortium of consultants. I welcome you to a brand new world of Athletics in Nigeria propelled by People, passion and Performance.
“Our plans to make the Nigerian Athletics environment the strongest sports economic platform is set. We shall strive to give every discipline in the Athletics event the best of equipment, the best competitive atmosphere, the best athlete-centred, coaches-focused and rewarding system. Part of our plan is to build an Athletics resort with hotels. We have concluded the plans. The architects designing the project have already reached an advanced stage.”
Most of the special guests in attendance called for unity amongst the stakeholders, with Dr. Adamu urging the AFN President to carry the board members along in the decision-making process, whilst appealing to the members to co-operate with the president so as to move Athletics forward.
Dr. Ekeji emphasized on the need to develop the sport, considering that Nigeria’s first Olympic medal came from Athletics. In his own speech, Elegbeleye called on the board to commence preparation for the Tokyo 2020 Games as soon as possible:
“Nigeria didn’t win any medal in Athletics at the London 2012 Olympics and Rio 2016, so failure to do so in Japan will be the failure of the whole Athletics board, so you have a daunting task ahead. The next Olympics is already around the corner so work ought to start now”, he said.
Whilst addressing the Congress, the Sports Minister emphasized on the need for Nigeria to provide the required leadership for the continent as far as the Track and Field is concerned. He also appealed to Gusau and the different factions on the board to work together to take the sport to greater heights, and promised increased funding for Track and Field.
He said, “The only thing that makes a leader succeed is humility. You must create space to accommodate differences; you must carry everyone along. The board has collective wisdom, so you must all work together, train more coaches and discover more talent. We are going to invest more in Athletics. We will take a critical look at your programme and see where we can come in.”
The new logo of the AFN was unveiled by the Sports minister, while the prototype for the planned hotel, which was presented by the Architect in charge of the project, was also unveiled by Dalung. The board members and stakeholders then met in a closed-door session, where the new constitution was presented and adopted by the board.
Speaking to Making of Champions on some of the issues that were discussed during the closed-door session, the Technical Representative on the board, Brown Ebewele disclosed that he wasn’t entirely satisfied with the proceedings.
He said: “Some of us weren’t privy to seeing the constitution. When they asked those in support to say ‘Aye’, everybody did, but I didn’t because this is the first time I’m seeing the constitution. A lot of corrections have been made but we have not seen the final document, yet we were asked to adopt it. For me, that is fundamentally wrong. Professor Ojeme also made that submission, but because everything is always organized and stage-managed, whatever you say now will make you look like a deviant.
“As far as I am concerned, I spoke when I needed to speak, and disagreed when I needed to. For instance I was against the idea of going to Cuba to bring coaches. We have seen before now the disparity in terms of the remuneration between Cuban coaches and Nigerian coaches. We travelled to Cuba on a training tour and we discovered that the Cubans sent here as Track and Field coaches, were just gym attendants in their country. So they just take advantage of our negligence to give us whatever they like. Those were some of the issues I didn’t agree with.
“This is the first time some of us are knowing that there are new innovations. I can guarantee you that majority of the board members don’t have access to the constitution that was adopted today. Most of us are only hearing for the first time that the federation is planning to build a hotel. I can’t be a board member, come in to a meeting and then for the first time hear about these things and you expect me to support it without giving room for scrutiny.”
However, AFN Technical Director Sunday Adeleye countered that argument while speaking with Making of Champions, saying that the decision-making process wasn’t done in secret:
“I would disagree with those who say they are just seeing the constitution. They’ve probably been negligent because this constitution was sent across to other board members. How did I get mine? How did others get theirs? Maybe they didn’t make this their priority. I disagree when people say that the board is not united because if we are not united, we would not have sat down together today to discuss.
“We have to keep moving forward, so we only hope they realize and jump on the train so that we can work together to develop Athletics. Hosting the congress has been a wonderful experience as everybody has agreed for the board to move forward. We are coming up with innovations. The former logo which had been in existence since 1944 was changed.
“We are also talking about having a money spinner for the federation so that we do not have to only rely on the government all the time, and that is why we are planning to build a hotel. The President is an engineer so we are going to tap into his wealth of experience to achieve that. In terms of the development aspect, we are going to the grassroots because we need to invest more in them”, he added.