The June 13 sports federations’ elections were marred by brazen fraud and manipulations orchestrated by three aides of Barr. Solomon Dalung, the Minister of Sports. OLUKAYODE THOMAS, an aspirant for the President of Athletics Federation of Nigeria, who was unjustly disqualified is therefore calling on higher authorities to compel the Minister to investigate the atrocities, if at least to absolve himself of complicity.
Serving on the board of the Athletics Federation of Nigeria (AFN) between 2013 and 2017 greatly taught me the virtue of patience and restraint but on June 13, 2017 at the National Stadium, Abuja, venue of the National Sports Federations Election; I had to call a spade a spade.
Despite battling screening and eligibility issues till the wee hours of the morning before being cleared to contest, I arrived at the stadium early and started distributing my campaign leaflets, which detailed how I intend to get Nigeria’s track and field back on track, to the delegates.
I had garnered amazing support based on my campaign mission that the tripod of education, entertainment and sports offers and enduring platform for youth and economic development.
Then, a friend drew my attention to the list of candidates that were qualified to and disqualified from contesting the AFN election.
I found my name, Olukayode Thomas, listed among those disqualified for not having a constituency. If my disqualification was shocking, more shocking was the name of Gloria Obajimi on the list of delegates qualified to vote.
Obajimi, a highly respected sports administrator, and lecturer, is the President of National Association of Women in Sports (NAWIS).
NAWIS has a representative on the board of each of the federations. The representatives were elected in an election supervised by the Federal Ministry of Youth and Sports Development weeks earlier. At the time of the election, Obajimi was in the United States.
Rosa Collins, a co-contestant for the office of the President of Athletics Federation of Nigeria (AFN) won the election to represent NAWIS on the board of AFN. I could not hide my disgust and there and then I told Obajimi off for usurping the seat of one of her members.
‘Sister, I can’t believe you could be part of this fraud. We look up to you as a role model and someone to emulate, you are the President of NAWIS, yet you want to usurp the seat of one your members, a junior one at that. This is not dignifying at all ma’, I told her.
NOT JUST NAWIS, IT WAS EVERYWHERE
Collins and I were not the only victims of the fraudulent manipulations perpetuated by three aides of the Minister of Sports led by Namsel Nimyel at Nicon Luxury Hotel between 2am and 3am on June 13. The two conspirators others are Abdullah Muhammad, the president of Traditional Sports and Archery and a Senior Officer from the Youth Section of the Ministry of Youth and Sports Development.
Brown Ebewele who had won the election to be the representative of Coaches and Technical Officials was dropped by the trio. Henry Amike who was second runner-up in the election was not on the list as replacement, neither was Femi Emmanuel who came third.
Ebewele’s replacement was Gad Onamuegbu, an Abuja based coach who did not even participate in the Coaches and Technical Officials’ election.
The inclusion of Hamed Adio, a colleague of Nimyel at Nigerian Television Authority (NTA) as representative of Philanthropist, Ex-Official member or Sponsor category on the AFN board could only be explained these three aides; hence, my call for investigation into their roles during the elections.
Immediately the electoral guideline was released, SolidWorks Nigeria Limited, the most prominent sponsor and philanthropist in athletics in the last ten years in Nigeria and for about two decades in Delta State, had been issued a letter as the representative of this category on the board of AFN. SolidWorks therefore ought to nominate the representative of this crucial category on the AFN board.
But Adio, though a good athlete in his days and a member of the board of AFN over 15 years ago, does not qualify either as a Sponsor or Philanthropist. He has no history or record of being either, and if the definition of Ex-Offico member is anything to go by (An ex officio member is a member of a body (a board, committee, council, etc.) who is part of it by virtue of holding another office. The term is Latin, meaning literally "from the office", and the sense intended is "by right of office"; its use dates back to the Roman Republic) Adio does not qualify. He was nowhere near athletics in the last ten years at state or national level. He is not a member of any board, committee or council in athletics.
So how did Adio become the representative of Philanthropists or an Ex-officio member or Sponsor on the board of AFN? It was part of the grand agenda by Nimyel to disenfranchise some people and perpetuate electoral fraud.
Nimyel has questions to answer: if Adio being on the board was above board, why was his name not announced weeks before the election? If the Ministry of Sports does not want SolidWorks to present a representative for this category, why not call for election of the representative of the category so that Adio can contest and see if stakeholders in that category would want him to represent them on the AFN board, just as was done for Institutional Representatives, NAPHER/SD, NAWIS and other categories?
The decision to allow the ‘election’ of athlete representatives to stand was in clear violation of the election guideline.
The electoral guideline states that ‘an athlete representative shall in addition be an active athlete or have retired not more than four years prior to the election. Such athlete must have also represented Nigeria in at least two major international competitions and with no drug related infraction’.
The winner of the election retired from athletics more than four years ago. Secondly, there is no record of his participation in two major international competitions.
WAVES OF DISQUALIFICATION
The supposed winner of AFN President Election, Ibrahim Gusau, rode on waves of unjust and mysterious disqualifications, beginning with the zonal elections in the Northern Zones.
In the North West, Gusau from Zamfara State, the obvious beneficiary of the manipulations of Nimyel and others, had Charles Yaok from Kaduna State to contend with.
To ensure Gusau had no opposition from the zone, the electoral officers told Yaok to go and bring his evidence of tax clearance and before he returned, Gusau had been elected unopposed as the Zonal Representative.
In the North East, Fidelis Gadzama was up against Haruna Bako. While Bako was disqualified because he did not present a tax clearance, Gadzama was cleared to contest, without presenting tax clearance.
A Prison Officer, Gadzama, had been granted leave of absence from work by the Nigerian Prisons Service from May 2, 2013 to May 21, 2020, based on the letter he wrote to the Prisons management in which he claimed that the AFN had chosen him to scout for athletes for Nigeria at home and abroad.
He is based in the United Kingdom. He served on the last board of AFN, while away from Nigeria. Gadzama called himself board member on paper. How he was cleared to contest and Bako who lives and works in Nigeria was disqualified, remains a mystery that Nigerian authorities should compel Nimyel to explain.
Even after Hawa Kulu-Akinyemi, the director of Federations and Elite Athletes, granted all aspirants waiver to contest and produce their tax clearance before inauguration on July 13, 2017, Nimyel and group ensured Bako and Yaok were not allowed to contest to pave way for Gusau and Gadzama to be elected unopposed.
In North Central, Titus Ayodele, a civil servant, was also disqualified because of tax clearance but was cleared even he quickly rushed to his office in Abuja to get photocopies of his tax clearance.
ELECTORAL COLLEGE AND INDEPENDENT CANDIDATES
The Minister of Sports, Solomon Dalung, on several occasions, made it clear that the office of the President and Vice President of Federations is open to all aspirants with strong pedigree in the sports and that they will be elected by the Electoral College.
There were also insinuations that it will be used to disqualify some aspirants. Determined not to fall prey, I approached the former President of AFN, Evang. Solomon Ogba, to be SolidWork’s representative on the AFN board, since the company had been appointed by the Ministry to produce the representative for the Philanthropist category. He agreed and as the director of the company, he made me the representative of SolidWorks instead of Malik Ogba who had earlier
A day before the election, there were rumours that some ministerial aides were determined to disqualify independent candidates seen as opponents of their preferred candidates but the Minister at a press briefing during the inauguration of the Electoral Committee Members dismissed the rumour.
Then at about 6pm, the rumour resurfaced. My campaign manager and I met with all the relevant authorities and I was cleared for the election. The meeting lasted till 11.30pm.
On Election Day, Nimyel and gang told the electoral chairman that the Minister said all independent candidates are disqualified.
Even when it was brought to his attention that the Minister had announced on the social media and radio that all aspirants who had filled the form would be allowed to contest, Nimyel looked at me and told me clearly that I cannot contest and that he is acting on the instruction of the Minister.
I was also disqualified from contesting as the representative of Sponsor/Philanthropist and Ex-Officio Member.
The slot earlier given to SolidWork was transferred to Adio, I was also not allowed to contest as an independent candidate, yet in the same election and at the same venue, Mary Onyali contested as an independent candidate and was voted for by the Electoral College.
The irregularities and fraud were met with resistance and protest leading to assaults. While some of us were civil and decided there and then to protest to higher authorities, some took the law into their hands.
Coach Gad Onumegbu who usurped Ebewele on the board physically assaulted former 400m runner Charity Opara while Rosa Collins and Brown Ebewele were also manhandled.
OBSERVATION OF CREDIBLE SPORTS PERSONALITIES
For the former Vice President of the Nigeria Olympic Committee, Alhaji Ibrahim Galadima, the conduct of the elections with “the whole drama of intrigues and manipulation of the election process will create confusion in sports. Dalung has run sports down and there is no likelihood that it will improve under his tenure.”
Former National Sports Commission Director-General, Mallam Al Hassan Yakmut, revealed that voting delegates were openly bribed with money.
“A whole lot of money exchanged hands. It was for the highest bidder
and those of us who have no money to spend lost out.”
Senator Abdul Ningi said “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 do not have anything good to offer sports; they don’t have passion for sports. I suspected foul play by the minister and I was warned beforehand by some stakeholders,” former President Nigeria Taekwondo Federation, George Ashiru said.
“The election was not free, not fair and not credible as everything was done in secrecy. They nominated people with most delegates not knowing how the process was conducted. The minister said everything should be done by election but nomination was done. Behind our back, none of us were aware when the Sponsor was replaced.”
OBSERVATIONS AND COMMENTS:
Weeks before the election, The Minister promised a level playing field for all contestants but the reverse was the case. His aides who claimed to be acting at his behest made life hellish for many aspirants.
The Guideline, the bible for the election, was altered on several occasions The Minister’s aides, Nimyel and group, romanced some contestants especially in athletics and what happened on Election Day confirmed the fears of many.
The Minister has set up a panel where those with protests could appeal to. Many do not have confidence in the panel because past appeals
A case in point is the AFN athletes’ representative. An appeal against his choice was ignored and he was a delegate at the election despite not satisfying the requirement to be an athlete’s representative. If the directives of Nimyel, a ministerial aide could supersede a Ministerial pronouncement as was the case with Mr. Dalung that speaks volumes of his control of the Ministry.
I have been voting for President Buhari since 2003. Between 2014 and 2015, I was a volunteer for Buhari Campaign Group for seven months because I firmly believed that Buhari’s Government will bring positive Change but the story in sports has been contrary. The 2013 National Sports Federation Election that I participated in under the government of President Goodluck Jonathan was not only free and fair, as a government nominee, I led the opposition against Evang.
Solomon Ogba, who we perceived as the government’s candidate. The election was held several times but I stood my ground. After the election I was neither intimidated nor victimized.
Spin doctors in last few days have attempted to heap the blame of the fraud and manipulations that characterized the election on the directors in the Sports Ministry but by so doing, they have only made the Minister looked weak and lacking in authority. The real culprits that alter the master list were Nimyel and his two partners who claimed they were acting on behalf of the Minister. In any normal organization, sanctions to deter future violations of rules and directives are the norm. Weeks after the election, none of his aides who altered the delegate list have been queried or sanctioned by the Minister. From this, we could infer that they were acting his script as they claimed.
The Minister is an activist; a disciple of Fidel Castro, Che Guevara, Thomas Sankara and others. Would any of his mentors be comfortable with the action of Nimyel and others under his watch? Most likely, the answer is no. President Buhari was a victim of electoral fraud on many occasions; would he have been proud of the last election and the fraud that characterized it? Most probably, no.
The Minister must be compelled investigate the role Nimyel and others played in the altering of delegate list, disqualification of candidates and other electoral fraud perpetuated that day. They must also be sanctioned to prove to the world that the Minister is not in support of their action. Mere restoration of those denied their place is not enough. Beneficiaries of the fraud must be disqualified from participating in future election or a rerun. Cancellation of the AFN June 13, 2017 National Sports Federation
Election because of the widespread fraud and electoral irregularities. Those who suffered financial, emotional and other losses must be compensated. Public office is based on trust; some of the Minister’s aides, led by Nimyel, have abused and raped this trust several times in the last few weeks. I am appealing to higher authorities to compel the Minister to investigate the role of Nimyel and others in the irregularities and fraud that characterized the last federal election and sanction them. Failure to do the above would mean Nimyel and the others were acting the Minister’s script as claimed.
Olukayode Abimbola Thomas
An Aspirant for AFN President in the June 13, 2017 elections.