The Athletics Federation of Nigeria (AFN) says it is committed to an open, transparent and efficient management of track and field in the new year and beyond.
Acting President of the federation, Honourable Olamide George says the federation has learnt from the mistakes made since the current board was inaugurated and will put all supporting structures in place this year to ensure a proper and sustainable growth for the sport.
“The era of square pegs finding unmerited home in round holes is over. The AFN will be governed by its constitution and international best practice. It was the total disregard for this that made us objects of international ridicule right from the Commonwealth Games in the Gold Coast, Australia in 2018 where we ran foul of an international freeze on change of allegiance to the embarrassment in Doha at the World Championships in the last quarter of last year, when Blessing Okagbare and Divine Oduduru were initially disqualified from the championships just because somebody failed to discharge his responsibility,” said George, a former member of the Ondo State House of Assembly.
“Never again will it happen where Nigeria will be stripped of medals won by her athletes at international championship/games because those saddled with the responsibilities to ensure proper things are done displayed uncommon incompetence. We all saw how Oyesade Olatoye was stripped of her Shot Put gold and Hammer throw bronze medals after the African Games in Rabat when a clear one month or so to her event, the IAAF (now World Athletics) notified the AFN of the girl’s ineligibility. What was painful then was that we still had time to get the Nationality Review Panel of World Athletics to reverse the decision. But like we have noticed time and time again, you cannot give what you don’t have,” George added and says the federation will provide the initiative and support towards talent discovery.
“Nigeria is blessed with talents waiting to be unearthed and nurtured into greatness. What the AFN will be providing henceforth is the administrative and technical leadership to make sure we discover and nurture more talents into limelight as well as make our elite athletes perform at their optimal best,” George assured and praised the Minister of Sports, Honourable Sunday Dare for taking the giant step towards the preparation of Nigerian athletes for the Olympics in Tokyo in August.
“We are lucky to have a Sports Minister who understands the business of sports and what is required for its development. The adoption programme has been the best thing that has happened to our athletes in the last 20 years. Now the athletes will not be talking about lack of support from Nigeria. What the federation will add is the administrative and technical management of the athletes.
“We intend to open our final camp for the Games in Europe sometimes in May where athletes will converge for training and for competition. None of our relay teams has made the standard for the games and this is why we are discussing with an international meet promoter and manager who will get a good training camp in central Europe and meets for our athletes, especially the relay teams to compete towards securing qualification for the games.”
George assures that the AFN has the athletes to deliver podium appearances in Tokyo.
“What we lacked in the past year or so was the administrative and technical capacity to help the athletes. This we now have with the huge support from the Federal Ministry of Youth and Sports Development headed by the visionary Sports Minister,” George explained.
The AFN acting president reveals the federation’s programme is not limited to the Olympics.
“Track and field in 2020 is not just about the Olympics. We have plans to make the Golden League very attractive. We are going to partner with corporate organisations, individuals and state governments in the development of the sport from the grassroot level. We will also organise seminars and workshops for our coaches and technical officials as well as games masters at secondary school level. Our programme for the year will capture all of these and more,” he said.