Once again, the sports fraternity in Nigeria is sharply divided over Engineer Habu Gumel who is the incumbent president of the Nigeria Olympic Committee (NOC). He wants a fifth term in office but some sports stakeholders are vehemently opposed to it while some are bent on giving him another four years to preside over the NOC.
Fortunately or unfortunately, depending on where you belong, when the 2022 NOC Electoral Committee released names of aspirants who had met the December 6 deadline for submission of nomination forms for the December 15 elections in Jalingo, Taraba State, Gumel’s name appeared prominently. In fact, he was listed before other contenders like former minister of sports, Engineer Sani Ndanusa of the Tennis Federation and Hon. Ibrahim Gusuau of the Athletics Federation.
So, based on the release by the electoral committee, if given final approval, the trio of Gumel, Ndanusa and Gusau would contest for the plum job of NOC president next week at the elective congress in Jalingo. Although none of the aspirants is very popular among Nigerian sports stakeholders, there is no doubting the fact that Gumel is the one who has come under the fiercest criticism for eying another term in office.
As it is, the Jigawa born sports administrator and former Director of Sports facilities in the Federal Ministry of Youths and Sports Development should be ready to fight so many battles, if he is to realise his present political ambition. The last time he faced a similar challenge was in 2010 when he was forced out by the then minister of sports, Engineer Ndanusa. Gumel had served for eight years from 2002 to 2010 as the NOC president.
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It will be recalled that in 2010, Ndanusa, who was serving as minister of sports, as if driven by greed, declared his ambition to succeed his professional colleague as the NOC president. However, Gumel who had tasted power and money for eight years was not ready to leave. It became a serious tussle as the two sports administrators tried to outdo each other. In the course of the struggle, Ndanusa, who for eight years was the second in command to Gumel at the NOC was accused of using the state apparatus to realize his ambition just as Gumel was said to have also used the NOC Executive to push Ndanusa aside from contesting the election.
However, it was Ndanusa who triumphed in the end as he successfully used the instrument of government to force out Gumel. How he achieved victory over his rival is a long story for another day. So, to cut it short, from 2010 to 2014, Gumel lost his most cherished position but he bounced back after four years when he was elected for his third term in 2014. His present tenure which started in 2018 is his fourth and it will end at the December 15 elective congress in Jalingo.
Interestingly, the same man who interrupted his reign as NOC president is back again to fight for the juicy office. As it was in the first clash between the two gladiators, camps have since emerged based on personal interests. But it is really difficult to understand exactly what these two gentlemen who should honourably take up roles of advisers in Nigerian sports are still looking for. As a former minister of sports and former NOC president, what again is Ndanusa coming to offer sports that he didn’t when he was given the opportunity so many years ago?
The same goes for Gumel who has been around for so long that nobody even remembers that he was once a General Manager at Bauchi State Cooperatives Building Association Limited; Director of Engineering, Bauchi State Agricultural Development Program; Deputy General Manager of the Federal Housing Authority; Executive Director of Operations for the Federal Housing Authority; President of the Nigerian Society of Engineers (NSE); President of the Council for the Regulation of Engineering in Nigeria (COREN) and recently the Executive Secretary of the National Lottery Trust Fund.
Indeed, Gumel who is also a fellow of the Nigerian Academy of Engineering, is someone who is passionate about sports especially volleyball but there should be time for leaders to avail their subordinates the opportunity to show what they had learnt under them. Or is there no retirement age in sports administration? It is becoming a case of till death do us part.
Therefore, it is unfortunate that some of the young and energetic stakeholders who are ready to lay down their lives for Gumel to continue as NOC president have the capacities to succeed him and even excel in the same position that he has occupied for 16 years. Instead of advising ‘our senior colleague’ to give them a chance to build on his legacies, they are right now reminding everyone that there is no tenure limitation in the NOC.
The implication of this unsavoury gospel is that Gumel is permitted by the statues of the NOC to become a life president, if he wants. And this is where some of us feel the problem lies. Even when one is allowed by law to have as many terms as possible, common sense, which is not so common, should prevail. Leaders shouldn’t perpetuate themselves in office in the name of service to the fatherland.
Truth be told, most times, those who impose themselves on others are only after power and control of resources. This is not to insinuate that both Gumel and Ndanusa who have presided over Nigerian sports for decades are only after their selfish interest. However, if they are not careful, soon it would be hard to exonerate them from selfishness.
It is on this note that I courageously ask again, what exactly is the duo of Gumel and Ndanusa looking for as NOC president? Haven’t their ‘disciples’ come of age? We sure need a breath of fresh air in Nigerian sports.