NIGERIAN SPORTS, AN ABATTOIR-ADERINOKUN
Otunba Eddy Aderinokun needs no introduction in Nigerian sports fraternity. He has seen all the intrigues as an administrator. As former chairman of Nigeria Volleyball Association, in 1991, Aderinokun waved a magic wand, which made the association the envy of others. His achievements till date were yet to be equalled by any of his predecessors.
In this interview with Daily Sunsports, Otunba Aderinokun bores his mind on the current poor state of Nigerian sports occasioned by the acts of the administrators, who he said, had turned the once fertile ground to a wilderness of hopelessness. Excerpts.
Sir what can you say about Nigerian sports 17 years after you left the scene?
It has been condemned to the dungeons. We are now in a sports desert because our administrators are no longer interested in developmental programmes. Vermin are now running our sports. I mean people who have no business in sports are now the lords in our sports administration. Such people have failed to realise that athletes are the focal point in any sporting activities. Instead, they are after what gets into their own pockets. It is a tragedy.
During your days in volleyball, the sport was the envy of others, what was your secret?
I feel flattered when people refer to my days in volleyball. When I got into volleyball, I ensured that we had three competitions every month, my athletes were even begging for respite then. I wore the sport like a garment and sponsors were falling over themselves to be part of our programmes.
Before my era in the association, athletes were issued with certificates after competitions, but I changed everything. I rather made them to be earning up to N100,000 as prize money when they performed, and that was big money in that early 90s. I succeeded in cutting off all the loopholes created for wasting money and used what we were able to save in taking care of my athletes, and we flourished well for those positive moves.
Despite achieving so much in volleyball, what led to kicking you out of the Volleyball Association in just about two years in office?
I spent two years and three months in that office. It was the politics in the Nigerian Olympic Committee (NOC) that occasioned my removal. There were squabbles then to dethrone Alhaji Ibrahim Adejumola, who was my in-law. And my friend, Chief Alex Akinyele was the sports minister. So, somehow, I was caught up in the crossfire.
The late Bryon Aynote of the Boxing Board of Control and I, were then ruling the waves in Nigerian sports. Volleyball became very vibrant, but sadly, 17 years after I left the scene, I have seen things condemned to the dungeons.
You were equally the chairman of Nigeria Amateur Wresting Federation
I had a stint of about three months in the Wrestling Federation as chairman before Chief Patrick Ekeji hacked me down. Ekeji conspired to ease me out because, as a principled man, I don't compromise my standards.
Recently a new sports minister was appointed to replace Engr Sani Ndanusa, how do you see the development?
Ndanusa was the architect of his own misfortune and that was why he ended up in the thrash can. When he came in as sports minister, we all had great expectations from him because he was one of our own, but he dashed our hopes. Ndanusa spent 15 months as sports minister and all we got were platitudes, there was no meaningful impact. As the sports minister, he could not even bring sponsors to tennis, the sport he was heading before becoming the minister.
Apart from the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) Tennis Championship, which he inherited, he could not harness or bring in more sponsors to the sport. His status alone could have had corporate bodies tumbling over themselves to give him sponsorship deals if only he had knocked on their doors. But instead, like his predecessors, he became a football minister and could not perform.
So what path should the new Minister, Isa Bio toe?
There is a saying that the dog you don't know can beat the hunter's dog and brings the fattest meat home. So, I think we should, for now, give the new minister a chance. If he has good vision for sports like he had for the Transport Ministry, I think he will succeed.
I suggest that he should be listening to good advise, but certainly not one from the like of Patrick Ekeji. Bio must beware of Ekeji, because he is a chameleon. Ekeji would try to buy the minister over, all in the guise of helping him as the director of sports. The minister should be wise.
Many generations of talented youths have been wasted in Nigerian sports. I expect Bio to help us revamp our sports so that we will stop wallowing in the wilderness we have been into for a very long time.
Sir, Ndanusa is still interested in becoming the NOC president, what do you say about that?
What is he going there to do? Thank God for what I have been reading in the newspapers that even the people he thought would help him have disqualified him already. I believe they must have seen the other side of Ndanusa, which prompted their action.
But as for Engr Abu Gumel, he is a lame duck that does not know what to do. In his eight years as the NOC president, what was the extraordinary thing he achieved? What they have failed to understand is that people are silenced by good performance, even in the international community.
Gumel and Ndanusa should jettison their ambition of becoming the NOC president because none of them is a performer. If you are good, your performance goes ahead of you to wherever you are going.
I feel sad that our administrators have sold their souls to the devil. It is tragic and unbelievable that dog is now eating dog in Nigerian sports. If we have conscience, we will understand that what we have now are administrators presiding over sports deserts, which is tantamount to manslaughter. Everything has gone underground, hence the perishable commodities, which are the athletes, are diminishing due to lack of attention. It is painful that those in authority have failed to address the truth.