By Yemi Olus
March 24, 2010 01:36AM
It is no longer news that athletics in Nigeria has gone downhill but one person that cannot hide his anger at the present state of the sport he loves is the former national champion and long jumper, Yusuf Alli.

He is even angrier at the present board of the Athletics Federation of Nigeria (AFN) which he feels should have the interest of the sport at hand and should do all within its power to develop the sport but has failed to do so.

Forget the Games
In an interview with NEXTSports, Alli, who won a gold medal at the Commonwealth Games in Auckland, New Zealand in 1990, says he doesn't see Nigerian athletes performing the same feat in this year's edition of the event taking place in India in October:

'I remember that last year, February to be precise, I met with Sani Ndanusa (immediate past Sports Minister and Chairman of the National Sports Commission and Ekeji at the Chinese Restaurant here in the National Stadium and I said Commonwealth Games is next year, let's have a programme; the proposal is still on the table, nothing came out of it. When it is two days to the Games then we start preparing.

'I bet you we cannot win anything; we don't learn from our mistakes. The only person I think will do well is Blessing Okagbare because of her own personal talent and training but in terms of our own preparation, I don't see us doing well. Commonwealth Games is not something that you will just go and do anyhow; you will only reap what you sow.'

Winning Commonwealth gold
He says the needed preparation is lacking and gives his personal experience on how he was able to win a gold medal in New Zealand:

'I remember my preparation for the 1990 Commonwealth Games when I was living in Missouri, Colombia, a very cold area in the United States. I left and came to Bauchi in Nigeria to train and I won the competition. It's all about training; Ijebu-Ode is scanty, there is no organised programme, you don't know who the coach is so how do you want to win the Commonwealth Games? Look at Britain; do you think they are sleeping?

'They are already planning towards London 2012 and it is some of them they will still use for the Commonwealth and they will win it. You might have all the talent but sometimes these things go beyond talent. The authorities may say because I'm not part of them that is why I am talking; Track and Field is my life; this is my house and you cannot burn it down and I'll be happy. They should sit up and prepare for the Olympics and forget about the Commonwealth Games.'

Killing the Grand Prix
'When you look at the present state of athletics in Nigeria, it is very sad; it took this country over 20 years to get to where we got to. I know how the late A.K Amu fought to have a Grand Prix event in Nigeria. Nigeria has lost that Permit Meet and it is very sad because it might take us more than 10 years to restore our glory. If you're talking about Nigeria now, people don't want to hear it because you can't bring athletes from their countries and not pay them.

'That is the result you get when you take our sport and put it in people's hands because they are personal friends. The people that are there should know that you don't toy with other people's lives. We are the same people that complain that everything in Nigeria is football but athletics has been killed so people now will go and play football.'

Minister of Super Eagles
Alli, who still holds the national record in long jump with 8.27 metres which he set about 21 years ago said, the sport didn't fare any better under the tenure of Sani Ndanusa, former Minister of Sport who was dropped last week by the Acting President, Goodluck Jonathan in a cabinet reshuffle:

'Did we have a minister of sports before? We didn't. He was not even minister of football; he was minister of Super Eagles. Ndanusa came to this sport and I thought he was going to do well but he did nothing; all Ndanusa and Director General of the National Sports Commission, Patrick Ekeji did was to disorganise our sports. I don't see one thing they did. It was during his era we had the Nigeria Olympic Commission (NOC).

'Ndanusa used to stay in the corridor of the NSC looking for money for his federation when he was President of the Nigeria Tennis Federation and I thought that when he came in, the first thing he would do would be would give federations their subvention; I remember that Ekeji said if they removed Ndanusa, he will resign. He should resign now and let us see.'