Former World Boxing Federation (WBF) titleholder, Bashiru Ali (aka Bash Ali) is stranded in Tripoli, the Libyan capital that has been the turf for violent clashes between opponents and supporters of Muamar Gaddafi, the country’s besieged strongman. Mr. Ali is the highest profile Nigerian caught in the violent uprising sweeping through Libya.
Mr. Ali sent out a distress email yesterday to friends and journalists expressing fear that he might not survive the haze of firepower that has gripped the North African nation.
Mr. Ali had gone to Libya to seek the financial support of the embattled Gaddafi in the boxer’s bid to become the oldest pugilist to engage in a championship title fight. Mr. Ali claimed the authorities in Nigeria refused to back him due to "corruption". The flamboyant boxer then traveled to Tripoli to explore the possibility of taking his highly publicized Guinness World Book of Records fight to Libya.
Mr. Ali, who currently holds the WBF cruiserweight title, decided to take his fight against American Bobby Gunn to Libya after fruitless attempts to get a sponsor to bankroll the fight in Nigeria.
Mr. Ali’s distress message read: “My dear brothers and sisters, I am caught in between bullets here in Libya and I am not sure that I will live to tell my own story to the world but for those who do not know why am here, I will give u a short brief. In June 2006, the then president of Nigeria, Obasanjo, asked me to allow Nigeria to host my world boxing championship fight for the Guinness world record in Nigeria. I agreed because I want to write boxing history in Nigeria as the oldest boxer to win a world title.
“It is instructive to inform u that the oldest boxer to do it is Joe Bugner of Australia who set the record at the age of 48 years 110 days.
“After putting all the fight papers together and personally paying all the appropriate fees since 2006 to the World Boxing Federation (WBF) and the International Boxing Union (IBU), the National Sports Commission (NSC), Director General, Patrick Ekeji then asked for $5M out of the $14.2M USD fight purse.
“I refused to allow him because the money is ear marked for the fight. After the refusal, Patrick Ekeji has done everything possible to rubbish me and he has told different lies to people to cover his corrupt tracks.
“He has told different lies about this matter to the senate president, David Mark, he lied when he appeared before the House of Representatives, he lied before Chief Tony Anenih and many more people.
“I have personally complained about this matter to President Jonathan, Obasanjo, David Mark, Dimeji Bankole, Tony Anenih, Gen Yakubu Gowon (retd), IBB, current Inspector General of Police among others and the matter has been reported in most newspapers, TV and over the radio in Nigeria and nothing has been done about the matter after promises from all the who is who that I have complained to.
“The president of Nigeria, Dr Goodluck Jonathan, in Feb 2010 sent me a letter praising me to high heaven for all the things I have done for Nigeria through sports and telling me that he is looking into my matter and up till today, has not done anything and in June 2010 I sent him a letter to remind him that I am still waiting and that I will never work with the NSC unless it is on a transparency note. The president forwarded my letter to the same NSC asking them to advise him on how to handle my matter.
“HABA!!!! WHAT A WAY TO FIGHT CORRUPTION.
“I was shocked and still shocked.
“This historic fight would be seen live in 132 countries by an estimated worldwide audience of between 10M and 12M people on Pay Per View TV at the rate of $50 per view for a minimum profit of $500M USD and above all, 9 Sports Academies would be established FOC across Nigeria.
“Now, after all these benefits to my country, u are wondering why I have to give $5M USD from the fight purse before the money is released.
“After sending several letters to President Jonathan and not getting a reply and after getting several calls from people who claim to be from the presidency saying the fight money will never be released unless I agree for them to take $5M out of it, I then decided to come to Libya to meet Muammar Gaddafi so he could sponsor the fight in Libya.
“Now, I may never live to tell my story to the world and if I die in the process of not encouraging CORRUPTION in Nigeria, then nothing could be more redemptive.
“I am worried. I am stuck in my hotel home waiting to die. I can hear gunshots around me. I have not eaten in a couple of days and am not hungry. I just spoke with Nigeria's consular general in Tripoli and he has promised to help me get out of here alive.
“My phone number here is +21******
“HELP ME TELL THE NIGERIAN GOVT AND THE WORLD THAT AM IN TROUBLE IN TRIPOLI, LIBYA, PLEASE.
“I still love Nigeria, though. God bless us, always.