Top row: Dalung, Umar, Bach and Gumel Bottom row: Ogba, Ndanusa, Okagbare and Popoola
•IOC hammer looms
By John Egbokhan
Just when we thought that Nigerian sports was out of the woods, following past FIFA threats to sanction Nigeria following government interferences, another terrible storm appears to be brewing after the release of the Federations Election Guidelines by the Minister of Youth and Sports, Barr. Solomon Dalung.
One of the guidelines released in Abuja on April 13, states that any candidate who has served at least two terms as President, is not eligible to seek a fresh mandate on the next board.
Besides, any Nigerian currently serving on the board of an international federation, has been banned from contesting the national election while there is no longer room for a government nominee on the federations boards.
While election into the position of the president and vice-president is scheduled to hold on June 9, the guidelines stipulate that the electioneering process will commence on April 25, with the release of nomination forms, while the forms are expected to be submitted on May2.
Dalung said zonal elections would hold on May 9 while submission of names of representatives of other constituents was slated for May 12. The minister added that verification of all the names would hold between May 16 and May 17.
Speaking at the Stakeholders Forum, where he reeled out the guidelines, Dalung said the Election Guidelines were agreed upon by sports stakeholders.
Apparently defending the guidelines, Dalung said they were the first in a series of steps aimed at reforming the sports sector, vowing to wield his power to ensure its smooth operation.
“I am particularly delighted because giving stakeholders the opportunity to craft the document that will guide federation elections is the right thing to do.
“I must however make it crystal clear that reforming the sports sector is not a hundred meter dash but a gruelling marathon. And this requires stamina and an ironclad resolve to surmount the daunting challenges along the way.
“One of the challenges of the sports sector lies in its foundation, the structure and leadership of National Sports Federations”, he said.
But the guidelines have not gone down with the Nigeria Olympic Committee, an affiliate of the International Olympic Committee. NOC is the only legitimate body that is empowered by IOC o authenticate and validate the results of the forthcoming election.
Rising from its Executive Committee held on April 19 in Lagos, the Secretary-General of the NOC, Tunde Popoola said the Sports Ministry’s National Federations Election Guidelines were at variance with the Charter of the International Olympic Committee.
He particularly pointed out that the clause that bans two-term Presidents from seeking another fresh mandate was not in the IOC Charter and constitutions of International Sports Federations.
He noted that whoever advised the Sports Minister to include this clause in the guidelines, either acted out of ignorance or wanted to expose Nigeria to international ridicule, shame, sanction and ban.
In Popoola’s words, “the rule is that you are entitled to seek a first term of four years and subsequently, you can go for as many terms as possible, as long as the electorates deem you fit to occupy that post
“That is what is in the IOC Charter and in the constitution of international federations and we made this point clear to them but were surprised that our advice was not taken. There is no way the guidelines can stand the test of time.
“There were meetings held between the Ministry of Sports and NOC , where we agreed that the Olympic Charter would be used but unfortunately, what we read was different from the recommendations”
The likes of current President of the Volleyball Federation, Habu Gumel, Tennis Federation President, Sani Ndanusa, Handball Federation President, Yusuf Dauda and Basketball Federation, Tijani Umar and Athletics Federation President, Solomon Ogba, have been knocked out from the electioneering exercise by this clause as they have all served at least two terms as Presidents of their respective federations.
Popoola, a board member of the Nigeria Hockey Federation, further noted that another offensive clause in the guidelines was the non-eligibility of Nigerians serving on the boards of international federations. Particularly affected by this clause is the President of the NOC, Habu Gumel, who is a serving Executive Committee member of the IOC.
Shedding more light on the issues at stake, Popoola said, “It is important to do things legally because in the Olympic Charter, there is no place that says you cannot do three terms after two terms. Most of the Presidents of international federations have been there for more than seven terms.
“If we do otherwise, we are infringing on the constitution of the IOC and the federations. But the rules are sacrosanct and cannot be manipulated. They are clear as daylight”, added Popoola.
But proponents of the guidelines said that some federations presidents have overstayed their welcome, pointing out that no credible achievements have been recorded since they became presidents.
In the thinking of the Stakeholders Forum, the only way to stop the further perpetuation of such persons in the corridors of power was to put a cap on the number of terms that Presidents can serve.
But countering back, the NOC scribe faulted this line of argument, pointing out that it was only through the electioneering process that longest-serving President can be removed.
“A good example is the way Issa Hayatu was taken out of office by CAF electorates at the last Congress in Ethiopia. They did not ban him but mobilised themselves by following the rules to the letter. They followed due process.
“The rules bestow the power on the electorates to decide who will preside over their federations. It is not the stakeholders forum that decides that. They can’t alter what is in the constitution. If they want to be heard, they should mobilise and prepare like the anti-Hayatou group did at the CAF Election.
“I am surprised that people are moving in the wrong direction after we all saw how Hayatou was democratically removed. The process of election into the national federations boards is a democratic one and any foreclosure ton legitimate people to contest is against the rules of the IOC Charter”, added Popoola
Warning that the IOC was going to sanction Nigeria if the current guidelines were used for the election, Popoola said, “the NOC will not allow things to go this way because we love Nigerians and have an IOC member in our midst and such will represent such a massive blow to the country’s sports.
“If IOC says we have not done things well, we may lose our membership with them. And that is the worst thing that can happen to our sports. Our sports will die in isolation. For the benefit of the minister, it is the electorates that decides and it has nothing to do with the length of tenure. The way it is now, the fundamental rights of people are being infringed upon by the Ministry’s Guidelines.
But the Sports Minister said persons who feel aggrieved by the guidelines are free to seek redress in the court of law or through the Court of Arbitration for Sports (CAS) in Switzerland.
“I know these guidelines would not go down well with some people who are affected. But my message to them is to seek justice in the court”, said Dalung.
In his response, the NOC’s scribe said that it would not be party to any election conducted using the guidelines, noting that there was no need to seek justice in the court or CAS when the IOC is already monitoring the situation and will only certify results validated by the NOC.
“IOC is aware of what is going on and are in contact with us. It is the results that we verify that they will accept. Already, we have resolved not to be part of the process using the said guidelines with those contentious clauses. I will not certify any result that does not comply with the IOC Charter. Although I appear to be a gentleman, I can challenge institutions if things are not done legally.”, said Popoola.
On accusations of poor performance levelled against some current Presidents, the NOC top official said performance was a product of adequate funding, lamenting that such was in gross short supply from the federal government.
“It is like throwing the baby with the dirty bath water away. How do you judge one’s performance? Results. But government also plays a role in the actualisation of set goals.
The intentions to get good results are commendable but without giving, we cannot get back because sports is about big-budget and consistent funding.
“And I repeat that due process process must be followed to get dead woods out of the system. Not through any other means because that will only draw IOC hammer on us, which we as concerned stakeholders want to avoid”, he added.
Another aggrieved stakeholder faulted the guidelines, pointing out that besides not meeting the standards of the IOC and International Federations, that they have not passed through the appropriate channels, comprising the Council of Sports and Federal Executive Council, where Dalung should have presented it as a memo for deliberation and subsequent adoption.
“It was a completely badly done work by the ministry and the stakeholders forum. To do such a thing, you must legalise it, through the Council of Sports. It is not a sports policy because it has not gone through the Council of Sports. And the Federal Executive Council. I am surprised that such a process was done without following these processes. It is faulty in its entirety”, said the source.