Alhaji Saidu Abdullahi is the newly sworn-in President of the Nigeria Taekwondo Federation (NTF). In this exclusive interview with Blueprint, Alhaji Abdullahi, who is the immediate vice president of NTF speaks on latest emergence among other issues bordering on Nigerian Taekwondo.
A unique quest to lead
It’s not an easy one because campaigning across the country, trying to solicit for support and vote from the zonal election down to the national election, there was no much time interval. it’s just a week interval trying to convince your fellow board members who are to elect you as their leader so it was not an easy task. The national election where I was elected President eventually was a heavy one. The first round was a tie, there was a rerun and God in his infinite mercy found me feat by touching the heart of some board members who decided to change their mind and then gave their support to me, and that’s how I became the president. So it was a joyful moment, it was a dream come true, all glory be to God Almighty and I say thank you to all board members who had supported me and also to those who also didn’t vote for me, is not that they don’t believe in me or they don’t like me, we have our own different opinion but I believe my board is not going to be a divided board because after election what comes next is unity. Wether we like it or not, we are going to work together, we disagree to agree, the objective there is to work for the federation, is not to work for Abdulahi Saidu. Im just the driver, so everybody must be carried along irrespective of their political affiliation, we are all working towards a common goal, i believe we are going to work together as a board.
Concerted effort to bring all on board
I have been doing alot of consultations with the stakeholders. I have been consulting with a lot of Taekwondo stakeholders across the country and even outside the country. We have our pioneers – most of them are in overseas and they are doing well and still contributing towards the growth and development of other countries they reside. They are willing to help us here in Nigeria to develop in line with international standards. These same pioneers were the first set of national team that won medal for us in the All Africa Games in the year 1987 in Kenya. I was informed by one of them that our former national coach is now the Vice President World Taekwondo headquarters. To me, it’s a good one, as a little boy back then in Lagos learning Taekwondo, I knew him. it will be an advantage for the country to reconnect with our teacher and share experience in making taekwondo move forward.
Martins Obiora who is in UK is also willing to help us. I want to also ensure that all Taekwondo group in Nigeria are brought together for collaboration between the federation and all these groups. We need to carry all and sundry in this new quest to put taekwondo where it is supposed to be. I’m going to tap every available resources into effective and efficient use to turn things right. Over the years, it has shown that we lack sponsorship, funding is very important and sport is a very big business. If you don’t have the finance to run your activities, it will amount to tailor.
On current NTF board
This current board, I see a lot of like minds, I see young men who have spirit, with good ideas and passion. It is the passion for this sport that has taken me to where I am today. I want to bring athletes across board to my team, that still doesn’t stop me from developing local athletes. I want to see a regim where everyone is giving equal opportunity. From the athletes point of view, from the coaches point of view, from the officiating point of view we need to upgrade standards, not just exposing our athletes, we also expose our coaches and referees. By so doing, whatever we do at this local level will also be same as international level. By the time we are presenting our athletes to the world level, we are good to go, we are always up to date, with a good synergy. I will harness the best from my board members to be able to do better.
Collabo with state associations and financial drive plans
The 36 states associations are affiliates of the federation, together with bodies of association from institution, from the armed forces and para- military. Apart from the affiliation fee which is a source of income to the federation in running it’s activities, we can also launch an appeal fund. I don’t want to set up high amount. We can also send to the 36 states, let’s assume we ask each state to give a million Npaaira, what is a million naira to a state government. If I can mobilise N3 million from a state government, when you mobilise this annually, that means I will be having almost 108 million. Can you imagine what I can do using that for international tournament, kitting them, putting them in camp. I can get an MOU from private company or sporting company to kit our athletes. What it means is that the federation will have fund to send those athletes to top ranking tournaments.
Over the years I get to realize that our athletes getting to participate in international tournament make them to be low-ranked. We can qualify if we get to be participating in international tournament by point without even going for qualifier, we need to take advantage of all these.
Private sector initiatives
A group product sells itself in the market. I should be able to convince the private sector to invest in taekwondo. It’s all about packaging, sport is big business. A lot of Federations will be coming into the pool to get the same funding, they need to see results. Once we are performing and the result is there to see, they believe in our objective, they will support us, and by so doing, we are also helping them in building a strong brand for that company.
You can imagine if Adidas support my athletes and they become an Olympic champions, people will feel Adidas wear is champion wears, that’s the strategy, it doesn’t have to be in cash. In those days, we used to have cooperate sponsor like Mouka foam. When you compete and win they used to give you a very good foam from Mouka, you would be happy winning a big mattress. Samsung used to sponsor taekwondo tournament. When you win, they will give you appliances from Samsung, you will know at least you are fighting for something. I would want to see the situation where the good old days are brought back again, where winners are well compensated. Apart from the souvenirs, you put on their neck, a package should be given to them as an acknowledgement that they’ve won. Cash prices should be introduced as well as gift, it will go a long way in encouraging participation at competition.
Developing Taekwondo in Kebbi
It took me nine to ten years to put a Taekwondo structure in Birnin Kebbi. I single handedly financed it. Everything you see in there was done by taekwondo athletes. What I did is in my training camp. Within my athletes, I have an architect, a civil engineer. I have electrical engineers, so they don’t have the money, I provide the funding but they provide their skills. So everything we did there were done by the athletes. We started slowly, my dream for that place is to make it an international center, where we can invite grade one coaches to come and impact skills and knowledge to our athletes. It will be a national training camp, where our athletes can go there to train.
Setting high performance training centre in 6 geo-political zones
Yes, it’s feasible with the support of the states. Within every geo-political zone, even a better and bigger structure than what I have in kebbi can be replicated because the government can do it if they want to. Today, if the kebbi state government wants to make it up to standard international of course they can.
Uniting Nigerian Taekwondo as biggest task
The first thing I’m going to do is to unite the entire house. The house was not United, there was a lot of bad blood going around. We must see ourselves as one family, we have one father, and that father is taekwondo. So we can’t see ourselves as enemies. We can disagree to agree. So my biggest task is to unite the house, because a united house is the strongest house. Because I believe that as long as we remain United, there’s more to come for Nigerian taekwondo. We will achieve our goals and objectives and even exceed the set targets, I believe that.
After uniting the house, everybody will begin to see the potential that we have, and we will begin to conquer, we will conquer Africa and we’ll conquer the world in addition to that. I will want to see a situation where the federation will also introduce equipment grants and allocate it to states, because I realised that most states don’t even have a training ground. I would want us to have zonal headquarters in each geo-political zone, we will like to have electronic training facility across six geo-political zones.