Embattled president of the Athletics Federation of Nigeria, Ibrahim Gusau, speaks on his problems with the Ministry of Sports. Excerpt…
What has been the relationship between your board and the Ministry of Youths and Sports Development?
We have tried to reach out to sponsors but they’re all saying that if we are with government, they cannot give us money.
The interference we are talking about is getting too much. We don’t want that to continue and for us, we really want to have a smooth working federation that will achieve success.
Right now, we are trying to replicate what is obtainable internationally in Nigeria. We have decided that we would still be alright even if there were no more government funds.
You can’t have peace if while you’re trying to get things done, they are accusing you of getting having abysmal performance and yet, they are not there to support you.
How do you want to manage without funds from the government?
The last time I moved athletes to Abidjan for a championship, I was maligned for asking the athletes to travel by road, but nobody gave me support to take them by air.
Yet, we did so well at the championships.
So, if pulling away from the ministry will give us peace, then we are ready. We are looking at the corporate organisations to support us so we can move athletics forward in Nigeria.
One of the problems we have is the fact that the secretary and the treasurer of the AFN are from the ministry and they have the chance to go into the account and take funds which they use as they wish
The 2020 Olympic Games is just around the corner; how do you want to prepare the athletes for the game?
One of the discussions at the congress we had in Awka at the start of the month was the preparation for the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games, and approval of the calendar for the year.
We knew some athletes already qualified and we are trying to get more athletes to qualify.
For example, the relays have been our strongest point in the past but we are yet to qualify for any.
We are pushing ahead to see how fast we can qualify and also push ahead for camping as soon as possible.
I want to use this opportunity to thank the Delta State government.
I was in Port Harcourt few days ago and met some athletes at the High Performance Centre training.
These are athletes who already qualified for Olympics. After asking questions, I was told the Delta State government was already preparing and sending money to athletes who already made it to the games.
That’s commendable. We are just six months away from the Games and we are having issues.
What I expected from those people trying to cause rancour should be to be helping us to prepare for the Olympics by now because the accolades go to them and not to Gusau as president when medals arrives. We are trying to put all hands on deck and see how far we can go in Tokyo.
My goal is for us to get a minimum of two gold medals.
Since Nigeria has been attending the Olympics, we have had only two gold medals for athletics and not from a single competition, so I want to break that record and get two in Tokyo.
At a point when there were several allegations against myself and the board, I submitted myself to the EFCC, ICPC, SSS and the Police for investigation and I’m sure investigation is ongoing and the truth will come out
Can you clear the air on the $135,000 overpayment by the IAAF to the AFN?
One of the problems we have is the fact that the secretary and the treasurer of the AFN are from the ministry and they have the chance to go into the account and take funds which they use as they wish.
I was only aware of the money when we arrived London for the World Championships in 2017 and the IAAF asked me for the money for which they had already written letters to the country.
Immediately we returned, I pushed for the money to be refunded, and after several letters the money was paid and I think that is part of the anger of the ministry against me because I pushed so much for that money to be refunded.
The last minister paid part while the current minister completed the payment.
But who actually took the money?
That continues to be the question because the board of the past president led by Solomon Ogba was already dissolved and there was vacuum before we came in as a board.
At a point when there were several allegations against myself and the board, I submitted myself to the EFCC, ICPC, SSS and the Police for investigation and I’m sure investigation is ongoing and the truth will come out.
What about the current $150,000?
The matter came up at Asaba 2018 and the AFN was only a participant because there was a local organising committee (LOC) in charge of the championships and Nigeria participated like every other country. The CAA paid money directly to the LOC, so the AFN was not involved in the money. But from my personal investigations, the fund was used judiciously by the LOC.