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…….Pray what does the Honourable Minister want?

By Paul Bassey
It has taken me this long to comment on the seeming imbroglio between the honorable sports minister and the president of the Nigeria Olympic Committee because I thought I should sufficiently educate myself on this, before commenting.

Last week, I made up my mind, after talking to Ikeddy Isiguzo, Ben Memuletiwon, Patrick Omorodion and Isaac Ibhafidon on the issue. My first introduction to this logjam, was when Alhaji Sani Toro called to inform me that Engineer Gumel had been elected to the prestigious IOC board.

I was delighted. I asked for his number abroad, called to congratulate him and wished him safe journey back. The return journey, I thought was going to be with all pomp and pageantry. Meanwhile I quickly dispatched a mail to my colleagues telling them that this was the biggest sports news in Nigeria for that week and called for celebrations. Some of them did not quite respond as expected.

Some penned back to ask when he even left for such an important event, while others needed more details. In summary, Engineer Gumel sneaked into this country and even as you are reading this, I am not aware he has been officially received by members of the sports fraternity for what I consider as one of the greatest sports positions on mother earth.

I thought this was not proper and sought to find out from him what the sports ministry and the National Sports Commission and indeed the Olympic family had done to honour this man who has again guaranteed Nigeria a voice in the highest Olympic decision making body, after General Adefope had retired.

For those who are familiar with the politics and the competitiveness of such a position in which members are guaranteed life membership as it were, Engineer Gumel’s success is no mean feat, by any standard. So, why has he not been appreciated? The reason was not too far away.

Engineer Gumel was opposing the Minister in the NOC election and any form of appreciation and recognition was likely to accord him some political points! If all was fair in war, well and good, but this was very unsportsmanly. I am entitled to a personal opinion, and that is that I have struggled to justify the candidature of the honourable minister in the NOC elections.

I am also of the very strong view that the moment that gentleman was appointed a minister of the Federal Republic, he would have graciously resigned his position as the President of the Tennis Federation. Not only did he not do that, he went ahead to re contest the position and won under very funny circumstances.

 (We will come to that ) So, Engineer Gumel why do you want to run again, after attaining such an elevated position? Worse, how dare you challenge your former boss, the sports minister? In an environment where the minister can claim command of a lot of influence, even in the media, it was only proper that Engineer Gumel’s part of the story should be heard and this, I communicated some of my colleagues.

The first bone of contention, is that a characteristically docile Gumel has come out to say that he will fight the accusation that he under performed because those that are accusing him, were key elements of his regime. The Honourable Sports Minister for instance was not only a Vice President, but the chairman of the all powerful technical committee.

There is a joke making the rounds that for election sake, the minister has even forgotten that he gave approval for the recognition of certain sports as Olympic sports, just because their chairmen are now in the opposition! “If there is a platform for contesting against me, it should not be for non performance. Our records are there for all to see,” Engineer Gumel argued.

Then comes the one I consider as the “Ikeddy VIEWPOINT” , that apart from the honourable minister having no business seeking to run a purely private concern that is the NOC, Engineer Gumel should contend himself with the membership of the IOC and also step down.

That looks very appealing but for the contention that as IOC member we are now in a position to benefit from a lot of attention, given that one of us is in the inner chambers, but for the cat and mouse relationship now existing between the minister and the NOC president, such an arrangement will come to naught.

For Nigeria to effectively benefit from Gumel’s newly found relevance, he must either continue as NOC President, or he enjoys the support and cooperation of whoever succeeds him. As all these were going on, I woke up one day to hear that the honourable minister had been disqualified from the elections.

If there is anything like “hot news”, this was it. Some of those disqualified threatened fire and brimstone. Even to the point of suggesting the immature court option. There was also the rumour that the NOC secretariat was going to be sealed off, while others still said the constitutionally elected associations may be disbanded to stall the elections. Again, I was in contact with my colleagues.

Can any of them sit down and analyse the parameters for disqualification and tell Nigerians whether the NOC erred or not? I say this because most of the stories I hear are sentimental expressions borne out of perceived allegiance and the unnecessary fear of executive positions.

Two cases interest me. One, that by virtue of a law enacted by the minister himself, no one could be elected for any association position except that candidate was PHYSICALLY present. Chief Raymond Dokpesi fell prey to this clause, yet the minister was exempted.

 The second case has to do with some documents I saw recently. Based on those documents the minister would have quietly and intelligently beaten a retreat ( since nobody resigns in this part of the world) Based on those two letters submitted by the minister to validate his nomination, he stands disqualified.

How can two letters that are supposed to emanate from two different countries be identical in all ramifications, even to the point of mistakes so committed? The same date, same wordings from the beginning to the end, same sign off but different signatures? Unbelievable. More than ten days after the minister was disqualified there comes a letter from the Tunis headquarters of CAT saying it was possible for the signature of the CAT President to be “lifted” and attached to official documents in an event where he cannot be “reached”.

Hear! Hear! In 2009, someone cannot be reached to the point where his signature “ can be lifted?” even those who go to the moon speak to their wives and children on a daily basis! They should tell us another. I have asked Patrick Omorodion why those letters have not been published.

Ben Memutilewon has failed to convince me on why the minister was elected in absentia. I was one of the first to send a congratulatory text message to the minister when he was appointed. This was followed by a letter I signed as Secretary General of the Sports Veterans Association of Nigeria.

 I wish I can withdraw them. We thought he was one of us. Regrets have been voiced but we are silenced because we asked for “one of our own” and the govt obliged. Can we complain? So soon? The arrival of the honourable minister has announced the further decline of our sports especially in the area of funding of associations and development policies. That, is a topic for another day.

For now the honourable minister has too much on his plate already and the last position he will want to annex is that of the NOC. PLEASE. See you next week


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