October 4, 2007
7 mins read

Amun is the boy, Ojo Oba is my boy,everybody in Nigerian sports is my boy”-Doctor Amos Adamu

Just about two weeks ago, a former sports minister, Chief Alex Akinyele, called on the Nigerian government to sack Dr Amos Adamu. Adamu is the powerful bureaucrat who has held a firm control of Nigerian Sports since he first emerged into the limelight in 1994. My earliest recollection of Adamu’s place in Nigerian sports dates back to the lead to the effort by the Nigerian football team, the Super Eagles, to win a ticket to participate in the 1994 World Cup. Amos Adamu, as sole administrator of the NFA, provided the leadership for the combination of factors which eventually earned Nigeria its first participation in the World Cup. Ever since, Adamu’s profile has continued to rise in Nigeria’s sports.

In the past fifteen years or so, no individual has so completely dominated the nation’s political turf in the manner that Amos Adamu bestrides our sports like the lenendary colossus. Today, Dr Amos Adamu is the Director- General of the National Sports Comission. But he packs an even deadlier punch of titles: he is, in the words of an erstwhile Assistant Sports Comission, Coach Fanny Amun, ‘ everywhere: FIFA, CAF, WAFU, NFA, NFL.”

Dr Amos Adamu must certainly be the most powerful individual bureaucrat in sports anywhere around the African continent today. As I said earlier, his organizational ability came to the fore in the lead to the 1994 World Cup. It is this victory that propelled the gradual ascendancy which he earned over the years. It is obvious that there must be something he does which endears him to succeeding administrations in Nigeria. They don’t only retain him within the circles of sports; they also tend to give him even higher responsibilities. Who can forget Amos Adamu organized the Abuja 8th All Africa Games in Brazzaville in 1965.

So what is happening to Nigerian Sports today? Why are members of the fraternity of sports now beginning to ask for Amos Adamu’s head? A cursory look will reveal that there must be a lot amiss in the house of sports. At the heart of the crisis is the amount of power concentrated in the hands of a single individual, in this case, the hands of Doctor Amos Adamu. I have followed sports all of my life and I feel very passionate about the place of sports in the well-being of any society. I regularly discuss the politics of Nigerian sports with our in-house sports editors to get a feel of what is going on in the various associations controlling our sports.

Although Nigeria occasionally records victories in the international sporting events, it seems to me that we do not have a sustained attitude to our sporting development regime. What seems to reign is the time-tested “fire brigade” approach; camping for various international events are often haphardly put together and many times leaders of sporting associations failing to put up  teams for internationall events for lack of funds!This is in Africa’s largest oil producing country!!

Yet, it is obvious to observers that there is a lot of money in Nigerian sports. This explains why internecine fights for control of sporting associations remain a recurrent decimal in Nigerian sports.Those who are favored  in this exceedingly  corrupt system of sporting control make a lot of money, while the atheletes and sportsmen and women are often short- changed. There are recurrent talks of lack of funds to assist the training programmes of elite athletes, while bonuses due to them are often withheld.What this corruption has bred is the trend of leading athletes abandoningNigeria (such as Gloria Alozie and Francis Obikwelu), members of the Super Eagles and Falcons refusing to train or refusing outright to even play for Nigeria. At the last All Africa Games, Africa’s fastest runner, Adesoji Fasuba refused to do a lap of honour with the Nigerian flag to protest the shoddy manner that officials had handled his preparations for the event.

The rot in sports has deepened in recent years, first as Amos Adamu has consolidated his obviously strangulating hold on Nigerian sports. There is something unusual about it all. Amos Adamu was fingered as the past master in the manipulation of the system to ensure his own continued domination of the field of sports even if his near total control has become the basis of the gradual decline in sports. Adamu is far too interested in the political control of sports than in any seriously sustained development of Nigerian sports. He is the Nigerian voice everywhere, from FIFA to CAF to WAFU, and at home he installs and removes heads of sporting bodies at will. The one field that holds very closely to the heart is the  ‘milk cow’ of  Nigerian sports, football. Adamu has installed and has also removed FA chairmen with a regularity that you can set your watch by! It is part of his total control stategy to put individuals in place and when he no longer has a use for that individual then engineer a crisis to ensure his removal.

One of the most recent examples of the power which Amos Adamu wields was the sack of Ibrahim Galadima a the chairman of the Nigerian Football Association. That dragged for a very long time, because of Galadima’s stubborn resistance and Adamu’s own resolve that Galadima must be sacked. Early this week, another estranged member of the house of sports, Fanny Amun has thrown more light on the manner that Amos Adamu engineered Galadima’s ouster from leadership in the NFA.

Amos Adamu was especially well- placed during Obasanjo’s presidency, so in attempting to remove Galadima, Amun revealed that “sometimes they will drop the **** of Obasanjo and say Baba is not happy that Galadima is fighting why he has to go;  that  FIFA is not happy, that CAF is not happy. They were all lies… they were lies by the ghost to get Galadima out! Of course, we must not forget that Amun has a grouse to nurse against Amos Adamu, but we have to place such angst within the context of an elaborate process of control, domination and manipulation of the entire field of sports by just one man, Doctor Amos Adamu. And so sure is he of that control any wonder that Doctor Adamu would describe all the major personnel of the field of sports, “my boys”. It is precisely because he can afford to call people “my boys”, which underscores his domination and control.

It might be well to have one individual at the heart of sports, but the problem  emerges only when that individual accumulates so much power that he can no longer delineate the boundaries between his own personal ambitions and the health of the Nigerian sports. Frankly, I think Dr Amos Adamu has become too powerful in Nigerian sports, he has has become stupendously rich, he has manoeuvred himself into every level possible in sports. He is Director-General of the National Sports Commission; he is in the leadership of FIFA and CAF; he literally single-handedly organized the recent botched takeover of WAFU; he controls NFA and he is the big masquerade at the NFL. He controls too much of our sporting life and I honestly think of ***** to Nigeria’s future in sports.

We have had very dominant individuals in our sports in the past and the best example was the late Chief Isaac Akioye. What was different with Akioye was that he used his postion to open up a methodical approach to sports development, which remains the backbone of our sporting success till today. Akioye has a tremendous capacity for thought, hard work and organizational abilty, and his vision led to the emergence and consolidation of Nigeria as the African sporting superpower we became in such sports as track and field, table tennis and football, to mention just a few. I discussed this point with Segun Odegbami a few weeks ago, and we both agreed that Isaac Akioye was the quintessential sports administrator. He is the type which Nigerian sports needs today and in the future.

What is happening now is that there is so much money in sports today. At the same time, there are too many desperate men at  the heart of our sports; individuals who milk our love for sporting success to satisfy their own desires. The infrastructure of sports has not developed to match potentials and enthusiasm, while sportsmen and women have become increasingly frustrated by the less-than-transparent manner that things are done by the people who control their sporting life. And it shows in the decline of Nigeria’s chances in major intyernational ***. For those people who love sports, there is **** this frustration which has driven the limelight **** that  stranglehold that Dr Amos Adamu has on our sports. Let us, if we may, borrow from wrestling; Amos Adamu holds our sports in a bear hug, and we need to break that hold if our sport is going to breathe easy and freely. It is obvious to me that having an individual at the helm of our sports for such a long time as Amos Adamu has been at the top of the pile can only lead to serious injuries to sports. No wonder our sports is in so much pain.

UNDP: In the eye of a storm

The United Nations Development Programme(UNDP) has been in the eye of a storm recently largely as a result of an oped piece, which we published on September 11. The piece in question made some damaging allegations, including xharges of racism against some of the laeding individuals within UNDP in Nigeria. That such allegation would surface at all give an indication of the presence of some disquiet within the organization. I don’t know any details about the working of the UNDP, but as a multinational and multicultural institution, the potentials exist for a day-to-day type as might be expected of such an organization. But I honestly do not think that it is a racist set-up.

Last year, I had the opportunity to be a short-term consultant with the UNDP and I came away from that expeience impressed to the amount of work which it does not in such  capacity building, poverty development as projects and so on. I met very dedicated members of staff who I used to imagine never seemed to stop working, because they wer always available to answer questions we were asking to facilitate our work. Of course, many individuals have criticized the work of the UN system for all kinds of reasons over the past few years; however, I think the multinational ambience of the UN system has been one of the few areas where issues that touch the lives of people in third world countries are taken up for resolution. If tensions emerge within UNDP Nigeria, I believe that all concerned will move fast to help resolve them, because the institution does a lot of good work that we must hope will not be affected by whatever tensions and misgivings emerge from within it.

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