Engaging Bash Ali

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By Ikeddy Isiguzo
I have always found Bashiru Ali an interesting fellow. My main challenge has been how to place him. He is one fellow who hardly takes offence. You can call him names. Throw your allegations at him. If you are expecting answers, you will be disappointed.

Bash, as he is more famously known, may decide to prattle on about matters that you deem irrelevant – you have your answer. I am not particularly a fan of his, but I will not be surprised if he lists me as a friend, a brother, a companion in his journey through sports. He is so generous with his classification of relations and you have no chance to correct him, as if it mattered to him what you thought.

A letter from him to President Goodluck Jonathan was lying in my box for days. I opened it with trepidation. I was not disappointed. Bash is possibly one of a few who would address a letter to the President with “my dear brother.” The letter rumbled from allegations of corruption against everyone to pressing requests that the President intervenes personally to ensure the realisation of a world boxing title fight that would get Bash into the record books as the oldest boxer to have won a world title.

This ambition is not new. When I first heard about it 15 years ago, there were suspicions that Bash had worked his age to reflect the world record status. More recently, he has been trying to stage the same fight since 2006 when Olusegun Obasanjo was promoting the third term agenda and was willing to lean on any gleam of popularity.

Bash got support from Obasanjo, including vehicles and a Local Organising Committee, LOC, for the fight. By 2009, government set up another LOC for the fight, which has been proposed for five years, itself a world record.

Bash’s capacity to externalise what seemed an ill-fated transaction between him and a Minister is his latest tiff. His letter to the President contained his text message exchanges with the Minister who Bash said stands between him and accessing the President. “I thought you were reasonable but had to withdraw because I realised you are not coordinated, you have a loose and porous mind set and living in the air. Sad that I met you,” according to Bash was the Minister’s response on April 23, 2011 at 07:17:12 am, when Bash alleged that money for his fight was part of the Ministry’s 2010 budget.

Bash reminded the Minister that he held the national honour, Officer Order of the Niger, to which the Minister replied on April 24, 2011 at 03:22:34am, “OON, a disgrace. I will ensure that you are removed from the honours list.

I promise you that. End of story.” Bash needled the Minister that his oath of office expected him to do the “right thing.”

More caustic responses followed, “There will be no room for your apology and begging when we set up government without you.

Big fool who could not plan his life. (April 28, 2011. 11:12:27am),” and “Your foolishness has made you not to know that this is the man that can bail you out of your blindness and frustration. Time is clicking. Don’t make me change my mind again” on July 10, 2011 at 01:47:57pm.

I do not have the space to explore the language of the Minister in the Bash affair or the fact that the man had the time (busy schedule and all the burdens of office) to exchange text messages with Bash, when he should either have been in bed or attending to serious matters of state.

Bash is getting more attention that he deserves because there are no standards. Why does he take a sports project to the National Assembly, the Presidency, another Ministry, everywhere except the National Sports Commission?

Among those he lists as supporting his fight are three former Presidents, two Generals, two Inspectors General of Police, an Ambassador, two state Governors, two Senate Presidents, a Head of Service, two professors, and a horde of lawyers.

 

He projects that about 12 million, globally, will watch him fight on pay per view television. He estimates he will make a minimum profit of $500 million from the television audience. I will give an example to show how laughable Bash’s financials are. NBC (a major American television network) paid only $2.3 billion for the 2010 Winter Olympics and the 2012 Summer Games in London. The Olympic Games are multi-sports events, running for at least 16 days, and drawing global audiences of close to two billion. Which network will even pay $50,000 for one night of Bash?

From the fight proceeds, Bash is promising to build nine sports academies with Olympic size swimming pool across the Niger Delta States. He will build a sports equipment factory in one of the Niger Delta States.

When you consider how far Bash gets marketing his dreams, you know instantly that many top government officials are hardly working. They are so busy doing nothing that the likes of Bash dazzle them and they expend public resources on ventures that add further directionless to a rudderless ship that appears to be its own captain.

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