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Opinions of Thursday, 20 November 2008

Columnist: Agyekum, Kwabena

Part 2: Athletics; why the Ministry's absurd policies ....

Part 2: Athletics; why the Ministry's absurd policies are helping to kill the sport

This article is the second part for an earlier write-up titled “Part 1: Athletics; Why the Ministry's absurd policies are helping kill the sport. The first part, discussed the deputy Minister for Education, Science and Sports (MoESS) order calling for cancellation of the athletics congress. It outlined some of the reasons reportedly cited in the Ministers letter and offered counter arguments why I believe the Ministry’s actions were meant to hurt Ghana athletics instead of helping to rebuild the battered sport.

Clearly, the vast majority of Ghanaians, including MoESS admit that athletics in Ghana is broken and underperforming. However, the ministry is now resisting efforts to fix something they have not been able to fix and conceded not too long ago had to be fixed. Indeed, the actions of the Ministry seem to indicate that it will like to keep the status quo i.e., Mr. Sandy Osei-Agyemang, the current chairman of GAA. Mr. Osei-Agyemang has been a vocal advocate for athletics during this tenure. However, one cannot deny that under his helm, Ghana Athletics has done far worse. He has spent much more time complaining on the airwaves than solving problems that very often have little to do with inadequate resources. This came to a finale with Ghana’s horrible performance at the 2008 Olympics. So why would the Ministry, an organization that has in the past privately called for the removal of Mr. Osei-Agyemang be working with him to undermine the democratic process as outlined in the constitution of the athletics association?

In his public interviews justifying the cancellation of the athletics congress, Hon. O. B. Amoah accused a group of athletes as trying to jeopardize the sport. It seems the Ministry is either misinformed or purposefully spreading rumors. For those of us in the media who had the privilege of attending the stakeholders meeting organized by representatives of the Athletes Association, we were pleasantly surprised by the diversity of groups represented at the meeting. By some strange coincidence the only missing entities were representatives from the Ministry and the Chairman of GAA, Mr. Sandy Osei-Agyemang. Yet the Minister is demonizing fellow citizens for launching an initiate to bring people together to solve problems?

We members of the media were at the stakeholders forum that included a majority of the current GAA executive council members, representation from the Ghana Olympic Committee, National Sports Council, security services, athletics coaches, marketing consultants, sports medicine personnel, administrators, past and present national athletes (including athletes from as far back as the 1960s: Robert Hackman, Mike Ahey, and others), and past chairmen of GAA. We all remember that it was a date in October that was recommended for forwarding to GAA as the date for Ghana’s first ever congress. According to GAA executive council members, a revised date for congress, November 12th, was set by GAA at a meeting chaired by Mr. Osei-Agyemang. Yet, the Ministry seems to be suggesting that a handful of renegade athletes have forced congress on GAA. Perhaps, the ministry is not aware that as far back as April 2008, IAAF sent a reminder to Ghana that the term of the current GAA executives was up and that Ghana needed to go to congress to elect new leadership as it promised in 2005. Why is the Ministry opposing a democratic process to fix something that is so clearly broken, and one clearly consistent with IAAF’s prescriptions?

Unfortunately for the Ministry, hiding behind the Sports Bill as a justification for opposing the athletics congress raises a lot of questions about its judgment and understanding of the legislative process in Ghana. The referred to sports bill has been before parliament for many years without action. Secondly, there is no guarantee of passage after the presidential elections in Ghana. Third, it is widely known even by the ministry that to meet IAAF standards, GAA executive council members have to be elected rather than be appointed. Therefore, the athletics congress is a process that is and must be independent of the current sports bill and the government. Trying to find a way to appoint or reappoint a favored friend can only jeopardize Ghana’s standing with IAAF, and they know that. So, why are they risking Ghana’s position?

A funny, yet disturbing issue is that the minister in his letter to the National Sports Council seems to indicate that athletics should be national in character before congress can be authorized. Is the hon. minister claiming that he doesn’t know that athletics is national in character in Ghana? In good faith, one can assume that being “national in character” means having regional associations in all regions. But if you make that assumption, then it raises some serious questions about the motives of the Ministry and the Chairman of GAA. A review of the existing GAA constitution does not indicate any stipulation that having a regional association is a pre-requisite for going to congress. Rather, the constitution encourages the promotion of regional associations and gives existing ones voting rights at congress. However, for the sake of argument, let’s also assume that the constitution requires 10 regional associations before congress. The current chairman and the Hon. Minister have served in their current positions for at least 3 years. Therefore it is only fair to ask what they have done about this issue so dear to them. It is as if the Ministry and the Chairman have decided to change the rules of the game 5 minutes to the end.

Maybe, both the Ministry and the National Sports Council should heed the words of Hon. Miss Elizabeth Ohene; "There is something wrong with our associations and sports in general” and "So often, we deceive ourselves that all is well because the Black Stars may be doing well, but the truth is we are going nowhere and are not as special as we think sometimes”.

Source: Kwabena Agyekum (2008 Media Ghana)