The current crisis in the Athletics Federation of Nigeria (AFN) goes as far as June 2017 when the body’s former vice president, Ibrahim Gusau emerged as the president from an election held in Abuja.
The drama behind Puma and AFN’s failed kit deal for the Tokyo Olympics [Pulse Explainer]
How internal politics and bickering led to Nigeria's failed Puma deal.
With the backing of the then-Minister of Sports Solomon Dalung, Gusau held on to the leadership of the AFN until an incident in 2019.
Current Sports Minister Sunday Dare was furious with an incident at the 2019 World Championships in Doha where both Divine Oduduru and Blessing Okagbare were initially disqualified from the 200m because they Did Not Start the 100m after being registered for the event.
Dare blamed the situation on the Gusau-led AFN board and recalled them from Doha.
Not pleased with the actions of the Minister, Gusau declared autonomy from the Ministry of Sports and continued to lay claims to the leadership of the AFN.
Meanwhile, at a parallel board meeting in Abuja backed by Sports Minister Dare, Gusau was suspended as president of the federation following several allegations bordered on gross misconduct, abuse of power and mismanagement of funds that were levelled against him.
Gusau refused to give up his faction of the AFN and conducted an election in Kebbi where he was reelected in June 2021.
There was, however, another election in Abuja, which had Tony Okowa voted as the president. This was the election that had the backing of the Sports Minister.
While he was still recognised as the only president of the AFN, Gusau in 2019 negotiated a deal with sportswear giants Puma to be the official kit sponsors of Nigeria.
In a letter in February 2020, Puma revealed that they signed the agreement in July 2019 with Gusau and has met its financial obligations to the AFN, which amounted to over a billion Naira ($2.76m).
Gusau has also been accused of misappropriation after the money from Puma was received in a private account. This issue led to the Department of State Security (DSS) investigation, although he was cleared.
It was the deal that also kicked off the bickering in the AFN that led to two factions.
With Gusau refusing to work with or acknowledge the other faction, the Okowa-led AFN negotiated another kit deal for the Olympics with Nigerian sportswear brand Afa Sports.
“The Ministry will not commit the Nigerian government and Nigerian athletes to a deal of which the Ministry has not sighted the contractual documents that ties Nigerian athletes to a five-year contract with PUMA,” Dare said, backing the Afa Sports deal.
Gusau, however, continued to go about his work. On Tuesday, June 15, 2021, he announced that his AFN faction had taken delivery of kits, apparel and other equipment from Puma for its athletes and officials ahead of the Tokyo Games.
“Having these kits on ground before the Olympic Games is really a morale booster. The Federal Government and the AFN can now focus on other things in their quest to get the best out of the athletes at the games,” Gusau said.
A video has gone viral on social media that shows several Green-and-White bags of kits.
That consignment is the one that was received and still in the possession of Gusau, Pulse understands.
The drama behind this Puma kit deal became a trending conversation on social media after Nigerian Shot Put athlete Chukwuebuka Enekwechi alleged that he was given only one kit for the Olympic Games.
Puma, on Wednesday, August 4, announced that it has terminated its contract with the AFN.
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