Bruce Tajinere Ijirigho, Ph.D|5 September 2018
It would be an insult to the intelligence of Cross Riverians for anyone to try to re-write history in so short a time or discredit the achievement of the Senator Liyel Imoke administration in the area of sports development. The reason is because sport is the one sector where Cross River State (CRS) excelled and surpassed all other states in Nigeria during the last political dispensation, and all Nigerians know it. There would not be enough room in this rejoinder to catalogue all the achievements. Rather than concentrate on continuity and building on where the Imoke Administration left off, the current Chairman of the CRS Sports Commission, Mr. Orok Duke has been on local TV, radio programs and on social media diverting attention from his failures and peddling falsehood about the company that implemented that program. Our company Kima, Inc (Kimasports) is owned by Olympians and we thrive on excellence and integrity in the delivery of our services. We engage some of the best coaches and technical experts in the world to run our programs. Our achievement in CRS is unassailable, undeniable and the records are out there for everyone to see. Image, reputation and results are more critical to us than the amount of money we take to the bank at the end of the day. Since we have a reputation to protect, it is important that we dispel the bogus lies that Mr. Orok Duke has put out there. Our goal here is not to jump into the mud with the pig and resort to insults and all forms of gutter language, but to present the incontrovertible facts and set the records straight once and for all.
The Imoke sports revolution that took place in CRS between 2009 and 2015 is still very fresh in the minds of the hundreds of thousands of children from all eighteen local government areas of CRS that participated in the program. To this day, these children, their parents, athletes, coaches, Cross Riverians and Nigerians in general, are still in shock and wondering, why such a successful youth empowerment and human capacity building program was killed by the Prof. Ben Ayade administration. No one would have believed that a young governor with a need for state and nation-wide popularity and acceptance would be the one to terminate such a program that we successfully used to transform restive youths to champions. The program had become a strong national brand and was attractive to private sector funding for its continuity. By June 1, 2015, the private sector funding proposal for the project was ready, waiting for the young charismatic and eloquent governor to support and pitch to already identified and interested companies. That never happened because the new governor was wrongly briefed, misled and fed with loads of falsehood on assumption of office. To this day, the false propaganda has continued unabated by those who destroy what is good for society, only for their own personal gains.
Among all other things said and written, below is a verbatim quote of what Mr. Orok Duke said about Kimasports and I in his article published on social media and other platforms titled RE: LIYEL IMOKE WAS RIGHT SCRAPPING THE BOARD ON SPORTS – BY EUGENE UPAH: A MISNOMER.
“B) That the engagement of Mr. Bruce of Kimasports Ltd. to organize 6 out of 43 sports, at the cost of USD 1,400,000.00 (one million, four hundred thousand US dollars) helped Cross River State? Please kindly show us where the discovered athletes are: a Database of achievements and what he did with the other 37 sports. Let me put on record that Mr. Bruce sold 14 young Basketball players from Cross River State to US colleges and pocketed the proceeds as an agent. He also negotiated and sold 8 female athletes to Bahrain (they are all Bahranian citizens now). In his uncontrollable greed, avarice and determination to continue fleecing Cross River State, Kimasports sued Governor Ayade and CRSG to claim the sum of 10 billion US dollars in 2016 and lost. He has since filed an appeal in the Court of Appeal, Calabar Division. I am standing in for CRSG and will try my best to prevent him from further carting away scarce and limited financial resources. *The thief cometh not, but for to steal and to kill, and to destroy: I am come that they may have life, and that they might have it more abundantly. – John 10: 10-12.”
Only the truth can stand the test of time and here is the truth about our program, backed by facts. Kimasports is not and will never lobby to be re-engaged as sports development consultant to the CRS government. In the history of this country, only the Governor Samuel Osaigbovo Ogbemudia regime in Midwest state from 1966 to the mid 1970’s has surpassed the achievement of Cross River State in grassroots sports development under Senator Liyel Imoke, from 2009 – 2015. Here is a very brief summary.
BRIEF SUMMARY OF ACHIEVEMENTS
Over 30,000 young boys and girls participated in Governor Liyel Imoke”s Comprehensive Sports Development Program (CSDP) in the six years of its existence and we achieved results never before envisaged for the youths of CRS and Nigeria. The results catapulted the image of CRS to great heights as the State dominated youth sports in the nation. At the peak of the program, CRS not only had the best sports development program in Nigeria, but many athletes from the program represented Nigeria in various sports at the African, Commonwealth and World levels of competition and won Gold, Silver and Bronze medals. The program remains the best model to emulate for sports development in Nigeria.
During the first year of the program, CRS climbed from 10th place in 2009, to 6th place in 2010, at the National School Sports Festival (NSSF). At the NSSF 2011, CRS emerged first place and national champions for the first time in the history of the state. From 2011 to 2015, CRS won the NSSF for four consecutive years and are the current defending champions. CRS won the South South Athletics Championship every year from its inception in 2011 to its end in 2015. CRS has the second best team overall in Nigerian elite athletics today. CRS had the best junior team in athletics, boxing, weight lifting and swimming in Nigeria from 2011 to 2015. In 2013, four swimmers from this program represented Nigeria and won 14 gold medals at the Africa Zone II Junior swimming championship in Akure. Also in 2013, six program athletes represented Nigeria at the African Youth Athletics Championship and won three Gold medals. Two represented Nigeria in the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF) Youth World Championships in 2013. In 2013, CRS won the maiden edition of the U-17 National Youth Games held in Abuja. At the national Youth Games, CRS dominated boxing by winning four gold, one silver and two bronze medals out of the eight weight categories fought for. In 2014, three program athletes represented Nigeria at the African Junior Championship in Botswana and won two Gold and one Silver medal. Two athletes (Blessing Ofonime Edidiong Odiong and Edoki Imeh) represented Nigeria at the IAAF World Junior Championships in 2014. Blessing Edidiong Odiong an athlete from this program (representing Bahrain) won the 200 meters women gold medal at the IAAF U-20 championship in 2016. Two female athletes (Mercy Ntiaobong and Endurance Essien) from this program were 6th and 8th position in the 100 meters in that same IAAF World U-20 championship in 2016. Four athletes from this program participated in the Olympic Games in 2016. Since 2011, Patience George Okon, a star athlete from this program has been a permanent member of the Nigerian Elite athletics team. She has won numerous gold, silver and bronze medals for Nigeria at the African, Commonwealth and other World competitions, including a gold medal in the 2018 African Athletics Championship.
Since 2010, over 35 athletes from this program have been admitted into Nigerian universities with full scholarship from program funds. Kimasports obtained admission with full scholarship for four of its athletes to study and pursue their athletics careers in U.S. universities. Two of them have now graduated with their Barchelor’s degree. The complete list of annual achievements is provided in the full report submitted to the CRS government in June and September 2015. The government of CRS acknowledged our success and contribution in the May 2016 Edition of their in-house publication, Giant Strides.
Engagement of Kimasports to organize 6 out of 43 sports.
At the inception of the program in 2009, we recognized that in order to produce international stars early, we needed to focus and dedicate extra investment to a limited number of sports to achieve both high performance and broad participation. So, we chose to develop six sports with multiple medal potential at the Olympic Games for CRS and Nigeria. This strategy worked perfectly and was later adopted in the final report of the Presidential Sports Sector Retreat organized by President Goodluck Ebele Jonathan, after Nigeria returned from the 2012 Olympic Games without a single medal. At that retreat, CRS was acknowledged as the only state with a well-structured and result oriented grassroots sports development program in the country. Sixty eight (68%) percent of participants and stakeholders at the retreat chose poor sports administration and management over inadequate funding (30%) as the key impediment to sports development in Nigeria. It is that poor administration and management that is now killing sports in CRS.
Orok Duke Says he Cannot find the athletes Kimasports Discovered.
A database containing the bio data and performance records of all athletes who ever participated in this program, their schools and locations in their local government areas, was submitted to the state government along with hard copies of that information. Mr. Orok Duke cannot claim not to know where the discovered athletes are. No nation or state ever keeps all their athletes in one city or location always. They all train in their various cities, villages or schools and assemble in camp only when they are preparing to represent the state in major competitions. Using the database, the athletes can easily be found in the 18 local government areas of the CRS. So, Orok Duke has all the information he needs to work with his coaches and continue producing star athletes for this state. He has no excuses. I suspect that he has no clue about what to do with the information at his disposal. Meaning that he is a square peg in a round hole and cannot deliver what he does not have. He should stop chasing shadows and dissipating energy on perceived enemies and instead, concentrate on continuing the legacy Governor Imoke left behind in sports. Only a satanic individual will concoct lies and outright falsehood to discredit and bring down others, and deliberately mislead the governor to cover up his incompetence and inadequacies, while pretending that he is fighting on behalf of the people of the state. Xenophobia has no place in modern sports. That’s why the 2018 World Cup winning team from France is comprised of athletes and the best technical personnel from more than seven different nations, woven together by the best coach, to conquer the world. Only the most parochial and backward states, nations or individuals would seek excellent results, by downplaying result producing experts, simply because they do not come from their state. Cross River is the state that produced progressive governors like Chief Ebri, Donald Duke and Liyel Imoke; visionary governors who brought the best minds into the state from wherever they are, to deliver the best results and bring progress to their people. We are in the 21st century already and do not need to be dragged backwards. The world is now a small playing field reserved for those desirous of giving their very best to humanity. Everyone reading this piece should go to the U.J. Esuene Stadium, Calabar and ask the athletes, coaches, organizing secretaries and administrators about the condition of sports since May 2015, in comparison to what it was from 2009-2015. They will tell you it is a one man mess of porridge. No activities, no competitions, bad and sad news everywhere. All the administrative, technical, and program structures left behind by the Imoke regime has collapsed.
Selling Athletes to USA and Bahrain
Basketball was not one of the sports developed by Kimasports and we did not produce a single player in this sport. So, how could we have come up with the 14 players that Mr. Orok Duke claims we sold to USA and pocketed the money? Pure madness!! Also, he claims that we sold 8 female athletes to Bahrain. Another malicious lie. I was in the USA in December 2014, when Blessing Ofonime Edidiong Odiong, Endurance Essien and Goodnews left the shores of Nigeria to seek greener pastures in Bahrain. I was not surprised that they left, knowing fully well that they had achieved international performance standards in their events while Nigeria does not have the required welfare package to retain all their best athletes at home. When I returned and was told that they left, I was initially upset and disappointed because they did not carry me along in their planning. After I got over my displeasure and saw the remuneration package they were given, I gave thanks to God and prayed for their success as a father would do for his children. I was paying them N10,000.00 naira monthly in CRS and Bahrain gave them a fantastic annual base salary plus bonuses for winning, plus housing, feeding and everything else provided free.
I discovered Endurance Essien and brought her into athletics by scrutinizing her physique when she was serving me food at the Calabar Museum restaurant in 2011. There, she was struggling with life and earning N5,000.00 per month. She had never been in active sports before that. I invited her to the stadium to try out for me and the rest is history. Three years later, she is in Bahrain as an international star athlete and bread winner for her family and taking home over 10 million naira per year as base salary. That is human capacity development at its best and one of the desired outcomes for the athletes in our program. All three athletes are still in Bahrain and doing well, glory to God and thanks to Senator Liyel Imoke. Every parent in CRS, including Mr. Orok Duke himself, would pray to have such a child. Blessing Ofonime Edidiong Odiong, joined our program in 2010, in JSS2.
While in our program, she won several gold medals for Nigeria in the international Youth and Junior competitions and was able to help build a house for her mother at 8-miles Calabar, from her prize monies that ran into millions of Naira. At that time she was still in SS1 and SS2. In late August 2018, Odion won three gold medals (100 meters, 200 meters and 4×100 meters relay) while Endurance Essien won one gold medal at the Asian Games held in Jakarta, Indonesia. I am proud and overjoyed by their personal achievement.
Mr. Orok Duke claims that Kimasports Sued HE Ayade and the Cross River State government for 10 billion US dollars.
Despite the successful completion and handover of the program in October 2015, the Cross River State government is still owing Kimasports $1,971,868.149 (One Million, Nine Hundred & Seventy One Thousand, Eight Hundred & Sixty Eight Dollars, One Hundred & Forty Nine cents) for the 2013 – 2015 contract years. This is the amount we have sued to recover from the state government and not the 10 billion dollars sensational lie that Orok Duke has been peddling on radio, TV and social media. We entered into a contract to provide this service to CRS and since government is a continuity, we have tried through formal and informal channels to contact the Governor, HE Senator Ben Ayade, to discuss this matter and arrange payment, to no avail. He simply refused to grant us audience or pay us the outstanding contract sum. We owe banks in Nigeria and USA, we owe our foreign technical staff two years of their contract fees and the boxing coach from Cuba was stranded in Calabar and roaming the streets in poor health for three years before we were able to arrange his departure to his home country in April 2018. The Cuban coach was recklessly abandoned in Calabar by the government despite the fact that his contract was co-signed by the Government of Cross River State.
After two years of no effort by the government to pay us and with mounting pressure from the threat of lawsuits against Kimasports in the USA, we decided to try alternative dispute resolution (ADR) as stipulated in our contract with the CRSG. The state government was invited on three separate occasions by the ADR Registrar but they refused to appear. Thereafter, the ADR registrar advised that we proceed to the State High Court to seek redress. If governments can dishonor contracts and court processes with such impunity, and influence court rulings, how do we expect to attract the best experts from around the world to help develop Nigeria? In March 2017, the case was filed at the state high court in Calabar but it was dismissed in a very bizarre ruling by the presiding judge in October 2017, without trying the case or entertaining its merits. There are too many coincidences with the case dismissal to ignore. However, “There is God oh…” We have filed an appeal against that ruling in the Court of Appeal of Nigeria, Holden at Calabar. We are prepared to withdraw this case from court if the Cross River State government agrees to a negotiated settlement and payment of the debt. All we are asking is to be paid for work meritoriously completed. Even God acknowledges in the Bible that …”A WORKMAN IS WORTHY OF HIS MEAT”…
Finally, to succeed in youth sports development, it takes a clear vision of what you want to accomplish, laser beam focus on your goals, current technical knowledge and expertise in the various sports, contagious passion for the success of the program, genuine love for the youths, a good welfare package, and the human nature to take care of the youths and protect them the same way you would do for your own biological children. Above all, you must be imbued with human compassion and empathy because you are working with children from the poorest of backgrounds. Once these conditions are met, and the program is centred on the athletes themselves, there is no limit to what you can get out of them. This is the secret behind the success of our program in CRS. As the Nigerian saying goes, “soup wen sweet, na money kill am”. The money, moral support and political cover was provided by Governor Liyel Imoke, who completely took ownership of the program/vision and drove it from top down. The Deputy Governor and entire cabinet played their role and individually supported the program from the beginning to the end.
My greatest pain right now is not our unpaid money but the destroyed lives and careers of many young discovered stars, among whom is Nkiru Iroha of Ikom LGA, who in 2013 ran the second fastest time ever in the world for a 12 year old, in the 800 meters event (2 min. 12.2secs), when she beat a strong field of over aged 17 year olds to come second at the U-17 National Youth Games in Abuja. These unfulfilled stars are the biggest losers and so is CRS and Nigeria. Equipment worth over 200 million naira was delivered in 2013 for establishing six schools of sport and academic excellence (two in each senatorial district) for program continuity and sustainability. These equipment are rotting away in storage today and the identified schools have not taken off. These are the issues that currently should be giving sleepless nights to Mr. Orok Duke and His Excellency Professor, Senator Ben Ayade.
Dr. Bruce Ijirigho is the President of Kimasports.