Unless they all show up for the 200m event on Thursday, the quartet of Godson Oghenebrume, Udodi Onwuzurike, Favour Ofili and Rosemary Chukwuma will not be at next month’s World Athletics Championships in Budapest, Hungary if the Athletics Federation of Nigeria, AFN, sticks to its no Trials, no World Championships’ rule.
The quartet were conspicuosly missing on day one of the championships, particularly in the men and women’s 100m event.
The AFN, in a circular to the athletes and stakeholders signed by its Secretary General, Rita Moshindi and dated July 3, 2023, two days to the start of the championships, warned that ‘all qualified and invited athletes MUST participate at the trials in order to be selected for the world championship.’
The quartet seemed to have ignored the warning, daring the federation to drop them if it has the will to do it.
Some of the athletes may be banking on their current form and position in the Nigerian list of top performances so far this year or given assurances by a former president of the federation notorious for this act.
Brume who ran a new 9.90 lifetime best which lifted him to the top of the 100m list this year and third all-time may feel there is none better than he is at the moment.
The result of the 100m at the championships where Ushoritse Itsekiri ran 10.02 to win while defending champion, Favour Ashe, with his 9.96 personal season and lifetime best could not even make it to the podium would have proved him wrong.
Onwuzurike is the best in the 200m event in Africa so far with the 19.76 he ran at the NCAA outdoor championships which shot him to second on the Nigerian all-time list.
The 20 year old may also be out unless he shows up for the half lap event on Thursday.
Ofili has had an indifferent outdoor campaign in the NCAA circuit and was also absent last year while Chukwuma, with an 11.01 personal season’s best, is the best in Nigeria for now.
Athletics observers however feel the AFN must instill discipline in the team as no athlete is bigger than the federation.
‘A former, two-time president of the AFN started this nonsense, pampering athletes and shielding them from punishment,’ said a former athlete who does not want to be named.
‘Innocent Egbunike included in his report after the 2012 Olympics how a sprinter boasted that the coach (Egbunike) cannot punish her because of her close relationship with a very top AFN official at the time.
‘I just hope the AFN will not be influnced wrongly and pass the wrong message to the rest of the athletes. No athlete in Kenya or the USA dare miss the trials. They know the consequences.
‘If Tobi Amusan, a world champion and world record holder who is indisputably Nigeria’s biggest star could run at the championships, what has Oghenebrume, Ofili and Chukwuma achieved, what?,’ queried the obviously bitter former Nigeria track star who was at the Samuel Ogbemudia stadium in Benin to watch the Championships.