The streak of crisis rocking the nation’s sports characterised by poor results and dipping form trailed it to the Sports Federation elections organised by the Ministry of Sports and Youth Development at the main bowl of Abuja National Stadium was on Tuesday. The event which was supposed to be an exercise of casting and counting of votes was marred by fighting, verbal abuses and protests following petitions and counter petitions by contestants of various positions.
Taekwondo federation and the Athletics Federation of Nigeria (AFN) were the centre of attraction to the journalists who monitored the election.
The athletics federation got the large chunk of the crisis as candidates and delegates engaged themselves in a free for all fight before the intervention of security agents.
Event degenerated when officers of the Nigerian police molested former female athlete, Charity Opara, who was not only denied voting right but also matched out of the voting arena.
Trouble started when Brown Ebewele who had last month won an election as the technical director into the AFN board was replaced by Gath Onumegbu, who finished second behind Ebewele.
Taekwondo federation was equally enmeshed in crisis when a South East delegate, Ferguson Oluigbo, who was earlier screened, cleared and given delegates tag to vote, was later told that some of his credentials were missing in the documents he submitted.
The bigger problem with the taekwondo federation became evident when the name of one of the presidential candidate and immediate past federation’s boss, George Ashiru, got missing in the original candidates’ list.
The incident led to the declaration of Ashiru’s 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 which also led to a serious protest by the Ashiru’s supporters who were angered by the development.
Security agents immediately gave protection to the electoral officer as he compiled the overall result.
The Hockey federation was not devoid of the crisis where the Sports Ministry almost disqualified the incumbent president, Senator Abdul Ningi over what they termed “non-submission of age declaration certificate”.
Some of the stakeholders blamed the Minister of Sports and Youth Development Solomon Dalung for the crisis.
Ebewele who spoke to the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) lamented that he cannot understand how his name got missing in the delegates list, stressing that all his efforts to reach the minister including through text messages and calls proved abortive.
According to him; “My grouse is that I participated in an election and won with 31 votes and one other person who participated and finished second is now cleared as delegate for the election. It is even more worrisome that the person is a civil servant on level 9.
“I have sent text message to the minister but he has not replied. There is nobody to tell anybody anything. We just came to the venue of the election and noticed that our names are not on the delegate list. We asked questions but no one attended to us.
“They gave the same treatment to Rosa Collins Okah who won the election to represent the Association of Nigerian Women in Sports as delegate but was replaced by Gloria Obajemi who was not even in the country when the election was conducted.
“The implication is that the election is very fraudulent and as far as I am concerned, I don’t want to believe that the Minister has a hand in this because he has continuously preached transparency, free and fair election. If he is aware and he cannot cancel this election, I will be disappointed,” he noted.
For Senator Ningi, “the matter will end in court”.
Ningi who threatened to drag the minister to court for defamation wondered why the electoral officer should think of disqualifying him for a document (age declaration) he submitted.
“This is the last time we will allow the Ministry of Sport to conduct election for us. We have discovered that they are very ungrateful people. These manipulators don’t have anything good to offer to sports; they don’t have passion for sports.
“How can somebody sleep and wake up to say I should be disqualified for not submitting age declaration which I did.
“I suspect foul play by the minister and I was warned beforehand by some stakeholders.
“I never wanted to contest but stakeholders said I should run for a second term and now they electoral officials are saying they are sorry after seeing the photocopies of my age declaration and after disparaging my name in an election I am contesting unopposed.
“Going forward, this defamation must be taken to the court of law because I don’t like anybody to defame me on a matter I am on my right.
“I am taking to court the minister and everybody that said I did not attach my evidences. Even the electoral officials know it is a hatchet job, so I will take them to court,” Ningi said.
Some of the presidential candidates that were successful include Ibrahim Gusau (AFN), Senator Abdul Ningi (Hockey), Hon. Silas Agara (Karate), Olagunsoye Oyinlola (Golf) and Daniel Igali (Wrestling).
Others are Elizabeth Binga (Taekwondo), Isiaku Tikon (Table Tennis), Samuel Ocheho (Handball), Mohammed Yahaya (Weightlifting), Prince Timothy Nsirim (Judo), Dare Aiyemola (Cricket), Musa Kida (Basketball) and Musa Nimrod (Volleyball). NAN