Sports Minister Has Failed – Gara-Gombe

Football administrator and stakeholder, Ahmed Shuaibu Gara-Gombe, speaks to SALIFU USMAN on the controversies surrounding the recently concluded elections into the nation’s sport federations and concludes that the minister of Sports, Solomon Dalung, did not run the rule as effectively as he should have.

Recently, the elections into the boards of the nation’s sport federations were concluded, with a lot of dissent and bad blood. Accusations and counter-accusations flew back and forth. What are your views about the controversies trailing the national sports federations elections and subsequent inauguration of the boards by the Minister of Sport & Youth Development?

When some people misunderstand my position on issues affecting Nigeria’s sports, they claim that I am either looking for attention or position. I have never lobbied for position and I’ll never do that. I am comfortable and don’t need to seek attention from anybody. All I believe in is saying the truth.

When I predicted that this year’s sports federation elections would be the worst elections in the history of Nigeria’s sports, people called me names. I am mighty glad that I am being vindicated.

We have a government who we all believe in and trust to do things right and bring change for the better. Unfortunately, without apology, we have the worst minister in the history of Nigeria sports.

Let me state clearly that, if the highest authority in sport in the land cannot organise an election into the nation’s sport federation, it is most unfortunate.

Now, he has gone on to inaugurate boards, even when some people are in court, some are aggrieved and others feel disfranchised. That is the highest level of impunity any one can think of. Those in public offices should respect the right of citizens. Those agitating that their rights to participate in the elections were violated need to be listened to, because the constitution of Nigeria fundamentally gives them that right.

All these are brought about by greed, corruption, ignorance and incompetence. We’ve been having elections and, as bad as they were, they were not as terrible as the last one.

If you look at the crisis in the Nigeria Basketball Federation (NBBF), it started from their convention but it was mismanaged, simply because some people in the ministry are interested in forcing certain people out of the basketball federation.

Also, in traditional sports, the person who was declared winner of the election did not even buy the form for the election. How, then, did he come from the back-door to win the election?

Concerning the NBBF elections, you have a guideline that all elections should hold at the National Stadium, but some people went and held elections at Ibro Hotel and another one in Kano. If you said the one that was held in Kano was wrong, what made the one held in Ibro Hotel right?

These problems were caused by the Minister of Youth & Sports Development Solomon Dalung and I challenge him or any other person to face me one-on-one in a public debate on this issue. He created guidelines for the sports federation elections and that is great. Why should you create guidelines for them when he knows that the federations have their own constitutions? Apart from having constitutions, they are affiliated to international bodies who they associate with and report to. Since they are affiliated to international bodies, he ought to have taken note as well and asked for their input or stay aside and play only a supervisory role.

The Nigeria Olympics Committee (NOC) is the one housing and supervising the sports federation and not the ministry. The ministry only liaises with government to provide funds for the federations and, since they are not even giving them the allocations appropriated to them by the National Assembly, the minister has no moral justification to provide guidelines, talk more of organising elections for them. He set up an appeal committee which is also corrupt, because I have seen one of the decisions of the committee and there is no way you will convince anybody that money did not exchange hands.

As a leader, the minister ought to take every stakeholder along, but he didn’t. When they were forming the guidelines, he behaved as if it was his personal project and kept everything away from the major stakeholders, who were the presidents of these sports federations. It doesn’t work that way. The Minister is entirely responsible for the whole mess and it will consume him, because I know that the boards cannot operate without any crisis.


But the minister said the guidelines were subjected to thorough debate and approved by the stakeholders…

That is not true. He has been deceiving people, saying that the sport federations are autonomous, yet you can’t allow them organise their own elections. What kind of autonomy is that?

The National Assembly appropriates funds for the federations but these federations cannot access the funds, because the minister has refused to pass on their allocations to them. He only gave fund to the presidents of the sport federations he likes and withheld those of the ones who are not in his ‘like’ book. Clearly, this is very bad and not a sign of leadership. A great leader is fair to all manner of people, including his enemies.


What do you think is the way forward?

The only way forward is a presidential intervention. The minister has failed and it is only a presidential intervention that will solve the problems in the sport sector.

Look at the implication of this confusion: two Nigerian basketball teams, sponsored by the two factions of the NBBF, went to Togo and were sent back from the tournament. That was a huge embarrassment to this nation. The men and women Afro-basketball championships are coming up soon in Tunisia and Mali, respectively and I am sure that both factions would still send separate teams to represent Nigeria.

The International Olympics Committee (IOC) meeting held recently (I am not sure if it is in France or so) and people were ridiculing Nigeria, saying the ‘Giant of Africa’ is the only country with multiple federations, two federations in one. That is embarrassing. Look at the U-18 International Athletics Championship that took place recently in Kenya, where 129 countries flew their flags. Nigeria was the only nation that did not participate, because there was no federation in place. Look at the just-concluded Athletics Open Championship held in Abuja. It was so embarrassing; it looked like a primary school’s inter-house sport competition.

Look the Bahama trip. After endless trips to that country to ‘inspect facilities’, the minister could not get visas for Nigerian athletes to travel to the championship. How can you keep on going for ‘inspection tours’ for a tournament your athletes were supposed to go for and never gave thought to how these same athletes would have gone to the tournament? Honestly, the issues in sports are so embarrassing. We need presidential intervention in sports.


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