Sports Ministry Versus Sports Federations: A Paradigm For Tokyo Ignominy?

Sports Ministry Versus Sports Federations: A Paradigm For Tokyo Ignominy?

The Ministry of Youth and Sports Development may have pulled the tiger by the tail with the announcement of the dissolution of 31 National Sports Federation boards. The decision took everyone by surprise.

The elections that produced the boards were sanctioned, monitored and supervised by the Ministry in June of 2017. The boards were inaugurated in July 2017. So, the boards actually 2 months to go as there was a clear mandate that the tenure of the boards, according to the common rules used for the elections, was 4 years.

But then, here is the twist.
There are no indicators that the boards are preparing for new elections. There are processes with a fixed time-line that must be followed leading to new elections. Those steps and processes should have started by now and must be known to all stakeholders and the public in accordance to the guidelines of the federations.

Unfortunately, historically, most boards are compelled to end their tenures as they never keep to the sanctity of thè dates of their tenures. They would brazenly disregard their statutes and, when forced, would set new dates (always extended) that only satisfy their own private agenda.

The Minister may be pre-empting such shenanigans that have characterised most previous elections, seeing that the guidelines for new elections are already being broken, with the coming Olympics as their perfect excuse.

In intervening, however, the Ministry may have stirred the hornet’s nest. A section of stakeholders and the media have already ‘descended’ heavily on the minister, threatening fire and brimstone if his decision is not reversed immediately.

One or two International Federations have been surreptitiously contacted by affected and aggrieved board members, asserting government interference in their internal affairs.

If it was not considered an ‘interference’ when the ministry ‘conceived’ the federation boards, why would it now be considered ‘interference’ when they choose to ‘abort’ the same babies?

One or two International Federations, IFs, are already threatening to ban Nigeria from participating in their international competitions. Does their power extend to the Olympics? Will any such ban psychologically affect Nigerian athletes’ performance at the Olympics?

The reality is that the Federations do not present teams for the Olympics. That is the responsibility of the national Olympic Committees as contained in the Olympic charter. Federations’ role is limited to teaming up with the National Sports Commission/Sports Ministry in preparing the athletes.
The primary funding for the Olympics comes from the federal government. In the failing to understand and separate fundamental roles, some federations erroneously shoulder the responsibility.

On the matter of national federation elections, many boards have illegally extended their tenures giving rise to chaotic and crisis-ridden successions, even leading to injunctions and litigations in civil courts.

The Ministry may have acted to forestall such crisis, to prevent abuse and disregard of established federation statutes and halt any attempt to manipulate the weakness in the system. Incumbent leaderships gain undeserved benefits.

Unfortunately, even as a government supervisory body, the Ministry has no right, according to the general statutes of sports federations, to get involved in the domestic affairs of what should be private organisations registered by the CAC and operating entirely outside of government.

But are these federations all registered and operating without government funding and logistical support?

He who pays the piper dictates the tune. Thats what the government has done.

This is all a demonstration that there are serious fault lines in the existing structures and systems in Nigerian Sports.

What can be realistically and specifically done now with the present situation of things?

Meanwhile, the ministry is forging ahead. Caretaker committees have already been appointed and inaugurated to replace the boards.
Can government now be made to take back its vomit?

The Olympic Games are primarily an NOC and government project. It is the NOC that registers all thè athletes and takes them to the Olympics under the Nigerian flag. Individual federations are not featured at the games. They operate under the umbrella of their National Olympic Committee.

Thats why it is the NSC/FMYS that hire national coaches, arrange camps, fund the training, and lead the national delegations to the Games.

Finally, how does the dissolution of federations affect athletes that are not directly under them for the purpose of the Olympics?

There are many questions to be answered in this unfolding and expanding drama with new twists and turns that leave Nigerians in a daze of incomprehension

There is need for caution, diplomacy and plenty of wisdom.

Segun Odegbami

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