Abuja – A meeting between Sports Minister Bolaji Abdullahi and cruiserweight boxer Bash Ali ended abruptly on Tuesday in Abuja with both sides giving contrasting views of what had happened.
The meeting was earlier said to be a courtesy visit to Abdullahi by Ali on the proposed historical fight.
Officials at the minister’s office at the National Sports Commission (NSC) had earlier said Ali was expected to apologise to the minister during the meeting.
But Ali had walked out of the meeting after about 15 minutes.
He later told newsmen that while he was there to apologise to the minister if he had offended him but he felt he was being interrogated.
The boxer said the minister refused to co-operate with him on the boxing fight which would have created employment for athletes.
“Nigeria is bigger than all of us. We have a big fight to do that will bring about employment and provide an avenue for athletes to exhibit their talents. But, unfortunately, the minister refused to co-operate with me.
“We discussed for 15 minutes and I told him if I have done anything in the course of trying to bring the historical event to Nigeria which has offended him, I am very sorry,’’ he said.
According to him, “the minister went on and wanted to do more interrogation and I told him this was not the appropriate time for allegations and I walked out.’’
However, the minister’s Special Assistant on Media, Julius Ogunro, while responding to inquiries on the issue, said Ali had apologised to the minister at the meeting.
He also confirmed that the event ended in a deadlock, saying the minister had asked Ali to tell him (Abdullahi) if he ever asked him for money.
The minister’s aide said Ali could not respond to the question and the development had ended the meeting.
“The meeting ended in a deadlock because, after he apologised to the minister that he was sorry, the minister asked him whether he (Abdullahi) asked him for money. But Bash (Ali) could not respond.
“And the minister said if he (Ali) was not willing to tell the whole world that he did not ask for bribe he would not have a meeting with him,” he said
Ogunro said even though the Nigerian government does not sponsor professional sports, but the sports minister had wanted to help Ali out.
“He will go out of his way to do that, which is a privilege and not a right,’’ he said.(NAN)