I will be president for all – Saidu Abdullahi – Blueprint Newspapers Limited
Alhaji Saidu Abdullahi is the new sworn president of the Nigerian Taekwondo Federation (NTF). In this exclusive interview with Blueprint, Alhaji Abdullahi, who is NTF’s immediate vice president, talks about the latest emergence among other issues related to Nigerian taekwondo.
A unique quest to lead
It is not easy because campaigning across the country, trying to solicit support and vote from the zonal election until the national election, there was not much time gap. it’s just a week apart trying to convince your fellow board members to elect you as their leader, so it was no easy task. The national election in which I was elected president was ultimately heavy. The first round was tied, there was a replay and God in his infinite mercy found me a feat by touching the hearts of some of the board members who decided to change their minds and then came to me. gave their support, and that’s how I became president. So it was a joyful moment, it was a dream come true, all glory to Almighty God and I say thank you to all the board members who supported me and also to those who did not. voted for me, don’t they don’t believe in me or they don’t like me we have our own different opinion but i believe my board will not be a divided board because after the election , what comes next is unity. Whether we like it or not, we will work together, we do not agree to agree, the objective there is to work for the federation, it is not to work for Abdulahi Saidu. I’m just the driver so everyone should be carried away regardless of their political affiliation, we are all working towards a common goal, I think we are going to work together as a board.
A concerted effort to rally everyone
I have consulted extensively with stakeholders. I have consulted many taekwondo players across the country and even abroad. We have our pioneers – most of them are overseas and they are doing well and still contributing to the growth and development of the other countries in which they reside. They are ready to help us here in Nigeria to develop in line with international standards. These same pioneers were the first national team to win a medal for us at the 1987 African Games in Kenya. I was informed by one of them that our former national coach is now the seat of the world vice president of taekwondo. For me, it’s a good one, because a little boy at the time in Lagos learning Taekwondo, I knew him. it will be an advantage for the country to reconnect with our teacher and share his experience to advance taekwondo.
Martins Obiora who is in UK is also ready to help us. I also want to make sure that all the Taekwondo groups in Nigeria come together for a collaboration between the federation and all these groups. We must take everyone on this new quest to put taekwondo where it is meant to be. I will harness all available resources for effective and efficient use to redress the situation. Over the years, this has shown that we lack sponsorship, that funding is very important and that sport is a very big business. If you don’t have the means to manage your activities, it will come down to you adapting.
On the current NTF card
This current board, I see a lot of similar minds, I see young men who have wit, with good ideas and passion. It is the passion for the sport that brought me to where I am today. I want to bring athletes at all levels to my team, that still doesn’t stop me from developing local athletes. I want to see a diet where everyone gives equal opportunity. From an athlete’s point of view, from a coaches ‘point of view, from an officials’ point of view, we need to improve the standards, not just expose our athletes, we also expose our coaches and referees. In doing so, everything we do at this local level will also be the same as at the international level. By the time we present our athletes to the world level, we are ready to go, we are always up to date, with good synergy. I will make the most of my board members so that I can do better.
Collaboration with state associations and financial mobilization plans
The 36 state associations are affiliated to the federation, as well as associative bodies of institutions, the armed and paramilitary forces. In addition to the membership fee which is a source of income for the federation within the framework of its activities, we can also launch a call fund. I don’t want to put up a high amount. We can also send to the 36 states, suppose we ask each state to donate one million Npaaira, which is one million naira to a state government. If I can mobilize 3 million naira from a state government, when you mobilize that every year, that means I will have nearly 108 million. Can you imagine what I can do using this for an international tournament, outfitting them, putting them in camp. I can get a memorandum of understanding from a private company or a sports company to equip our athletes. This means that the federation will have funds to send these athletes to high level tournaments.
Over the years, I realize that our athletes who compete in international tournaments put them at the bottom of the ladder. We can qualify if we can get into an international point tournament without even going to qualifying, we have to take advantage of that.
Private sector initiatives
A group product is sold 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 come into the pool to get the same funding, they need to see results. Once we are successful and the result is there, they believe in our purpose, they support us and in doing so, we also help them build a strong brand for this company.
You can imagine if Adidas supports my athletes and they become Olympic champions, people will feel like Adidas clothes are champion clothes, that’s the strategy, it doesn’t have to be cash. At that time, we had cooperative sponsors like Mouka Foam. When you compete and win they gave you really good Mouka foam, you would be happy to win a big mattress. Samsung was sponsoring a taekwondo tournament. When you win they will give you Samsung devices, at least you will know that you are fighting for something. I would like to see the situation where the good old days return, where the winners are well compensated. In addition to the memories that you put around their necks, a parcel must be given to them in recognition of their victory. Cash prizes should be introduced as well as freebies, this will go a long way in encouraging participation in the competition.
Developing Taekwondo in Kebbi
It took me nine to ten years to set up a Taekwondo structure in Birnin Kebbi. I financed it on my own. Everything you see in there was done by taekwondo athletes. What I did was in my training camp. Among 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 was done by the athletes. We started slowly, my dream for this place is to make it an international center, where we can invite first year coaches to come and influence the skills and knowledge of our athletes. It will be a national training camp, where our athletes can go there to train.
Establishment of a high-level training center in 6 geopolitical zones
Yes, it is doable with the support of the States. In every geopolitical area, even a better and bigger structure than the one I have in the kebbi can be replicated because the government can do it if it wants to. Today, if the kebbi state government wants to comply with international standards, of course it can.
Unite Nigerian taekwondo as the main task
The first thing I’m going to do is unite the whole house. The house was not United, there was a lot of bad blood going around. We have to think of ourselves as one family, we have one father, and that father is taekwondo. So we cannot see ourselves as enemies. One can disagree in order to agree. My greatest task is therefore to unite the house, for a united house is the strongest house. Because I believe that as long as we stand united there is more to come for Nigerian taekwondo. We will meet our goals and objectives and even exceed the targets set, I believe.
After you have united the house, everyone is going to start to see the potential that we have, and we are going to start to conquer, we are going to conquer Africa and we are going to conquer the world on top of that. I would like to see a situation where the federation will also introduce equipment grants and give them out to states, because I’ve realized that most states don’t even have a training ground. I would like us to have zone headquarters in each geopolitical zone, we would like to have electronic training center in six geopolitical zones.