The crisis rocking the Athletic Federation of Nigeria (AFN) took a new dimension yesterday with the emergence of two presidents for the track and field federation at elections held in Kebbi and Abuja respectively.
Incumbent President, Ibrahim Shehu Gusau, who has been having running battles with most members of the immediate past board was re-elected at the Congress he called in Kebbi with Sunday Adeleye and Nneka Ikem Anibeze as his first and second vice presidents respectively.
Barely an hour later, Chairman of Delta State Athletics Association, Chief Tonobok Okowa was elected unopposed as president of the AFN at an Elective Congress of the federation with Fidelis Tafida Gadzama, a member of the Sydney 2000 Olympics gold-winning 4x400m relay team as his first vice president.
Former African record holder in the triple jump and 1995 African Games champion, Rosa Collins, was elected the second vice president.
Okowa polled 41 votes with three voided in the Abuja election presided over by a former Secretary General of the Nigeria Olympic Committee, Elias Gora.
Reports from Kebbi claimed Gusau polled 20 votes while his challenger, Uche Muoma, got just two votes from the 22 delegates present at the venue of the Congress called based on the AFN constitution as amended at Awka in 2020.
Speaking after his victory in Abuja, Okowa affirmed that his mandate as President would prioritise athletes and coaches welfare.
Okowa said:”First of all, my mandate is all about the Athletes and Coaches. We ‘ll make sure we give them an enabling environment to succeed. We will give priority to welfare package. We have to draw up our programme and ensure we do proper budget especially the one that will favour the Athletes and Coaches and ensure they excel”
In his own acceptance speech in Kebbi, Gusau thanked the delegates for their support in making his first term a success while counting on their continued support for the next 4 years.
“This is really humbling. I will like to thank all the delegates for finding time to come to Kebbi in the face of intimidation.
“We call on everybody to join hands with us to build athletics because the 14 of us (board members) cannot do it alone.
He revealed that, “Very soon, we will be constituting Commissions to oversee the daily affairs of the federation while we have time to face other serious matters.”
He thanked the World Athletics and the Confederation of African Athletics for their continued support as he hopes for stronger ties with the two bodies.
The two elections in Kebbi and Abuja are the fallout of the infightings that have characterized the last four years of the immediate past board of the federation.
Despite interventions in the AFN crisis by both the Confederation of African Athletics (CAA) and the World Athletics, both Gusau and the Federal Ministry of Youth and Sports Development-backed board members stuck to their guns and refused to yield ground.
Gusau who by the 2017 constitution has the right to call the elective congress opted to use the 2020 document he amended at an improperly convened Congress in Awka. That document created a non existing position of a Director General in the history of the federation so as to sidetrack the Sports ministry appointed Secretary General who is the chief accounting officer.
Although the new board of the AFN led by Okowa will be inaugurated today at the media centre of the Moshood Abiola Stadium in the Federal Capital City, there were fears in athletics circles in the country last night that the gains made in the sports in the last decade are about to be eroded with unnecessary litigations and possible ban by the world body.