The crisis raging in the Para Powerlifting Federation of Nigeria was shamefully played out on the global stage as the Para Powerlifting World Cup holding in Abuja got off to a farcical start on Wednesday.
The ongoing power tussle between the ministry of sports and president of the PPFN Queen Uboh took on another dimension as both sides presented rival teams at the event.
Ms Uboh, who has been at loggerheads with the ministry and several members of her executive board over control of the tournament which has the personal imprimatur of Nigeria’s First Lady Aisha Buhari, reportedly presented a different team “Team Unstoppable” to the official Team Nigeria presented by the sports ministry.
Sources at the International Conference Centre venue of the event. said Ms Uboh attempted to hijack the accreditations meant for Nigerian representatives for her team and had the ministry of sports delegation locked out of the venue for a while.
Ms Uboh has increasingly clashed with the ministry of sports over what she believes to be an attempt to sideline her from a project she views as her personal venture.
A source told busybuddiesng.com that the struggle for control of the tournament is not unconnected with a fight over the expected windfall from funds raised for the tournament with Ms Uboh having told Channels TV that certain board members wanted her to “share money” meant for the championship.
The infighting inside the PPFN board and between Ms Uboh and the sports ministry nearly derailed the tournament after several Athletes refused to attend the ministry-sanctioned Abuja training camp over claims that Ms Uboh had directed them to remain in Lagos.
The athletes were later convinced to camp in Abuja but a source told busybuddiesng.com that athletes were banned from speaking with Ms Uboh who the source said was also banned from visiting their Bolingo Hotel camp.
In a message to the athletes on the eve of the tournament, sports minister Sunday Dare apparently referring to Ms Uboh’s continued intransigence, repeatedly stressed the supremacy of the ministry over any federation even as he admonished the athletes to do the country proud.
The shameful scenes that played out at the tournament opener on Wednesday echoes events at the closing ceremony of the International Para Powerlifting Invitational staged in Lagos in January 2019 where angry athletes disrupted the ceremony as they protested unpaid allowances and winning bonuses.
Ms Uboh promised to pay the aggrieved athletes but that promise was never followed through.