ASABA 2018: Abati’s Article Unfortunate, Says LOC Chairman

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Peter Uzoho

The Chairman of the Local Organising Committee (LOC) of the just concluded 2018 African Senior Athletics Championships held in Asaba, Delta State, Chief Solomon Ogba, has described a back page article written by Dr. Reuben Abati, published in THISDAY Tuesday, August 7, 2018, with the title: ‘The Asaba Disgrace’, as “unfortunate and disgraceful.”

In a statement issued Tuesday by the committee’s Head of Media, Olukayode Thomas, made available to THISDAY, Ogba said though Abati, a respected journalist has a right to his opinion but for him to describe the organisation of the Championship as a disgrace showed that he, he was acting in manner that suggested he was being used.

According to the statement, Ogba stated that it was regrettable that Abati wrote authoritatively about a subject he has no firsthand information about, and wondered why Abati, who he alleged was not in Asaba, would write authoritatively about an event he did not witness.

The statement reads in part: “Abati’s description of the Championship organisation as a disgrace is unfortunate and disgraceful. “Dr. Abati, a respected journalist, has a right to his opinions but to describe the organisation of CAA Asaba 2018 as a disgrace shows he is acting in a manner that suggests that he is being used.

“It is regrettable that Abati wrote authoritatively about a subject he has no firsthand information on. He was not in Asaba, so why write authoritatively about an event you did not witness? I am sure if he had contacted his junior colleague, Olukayode Thomas, who is our Head of Media, he would have gotten some firsthand information and clearer

insight.

“He could have called to check his facts and would have saved himself all the embarrassment the falsehood he penned is causing. He wasn’t even ready to give the organiser the benefit of the doubt. It is lamentable that a writer of Abati’s status in the media is relying on unverifiable information available on online media to write a

sensitive article’’.

Ogba said the Championship had hitches that were dealt with swiftly and the few countries involved were grateful for the manner in which the issues were resolved.

He said: “Compared to previous African Championships, we witnessed the least complaints, especially in the areas of feeding, accommodation and transportation. Contrary to Abati’s story, no country slept at the airport for three days.

“Regular travellers like Abati know that our airports shut down by 11pm, so how can people sleep in an airport that is completely closed down by night? We had four hotels in Lagos. They include the two Ibis near the airport and Novotel where the athletes and officials that could not connect a flight to Asaba stayed and Abati is free to contact the management of the hotels.”

Ogba who is apparently furious over the publication, argued that Abati was in a hurry to do a hatchet job and therefore did not tarry to carry out his research properly before going to the press, noting that a simple Google search would have told Abati that Ibrahim Gusau is the President of the Athletics Federation of Nigeria (AFN) and not Solomon

Ogba.

He added: “The search machine would also have informed Abati that it was not the AFN that organised the championships. Google would have supplied Abati facts to show that Team Nigeria under AFN was just one of the participating countries and that Tanzania was one the few countries that did not even participate.”

Describing Abati as a neophyte in athletics, Ogba pointed that such explains why he swallowed the stories he read online about a bad track hook, line and sinker.

He further said: “Asaba 2018 had the highest number of world-class

athletes in Africa in recent times. If the track was bad, they will not run. Why would they risk their careers if the track was unfit for running? Caster Semenya ran a sub-50 to win the women 400m; Tobi Amusan ran a sub-13 to win the 100m hurdles; athletes who are running with caution don’t return such fantastic times, times good enough to win either the Olympic Games or IAAF World Championships.

“Asaba Championship is the first ever championships were athletes get prize money for performances and were countries get transport allowances. Abati ought to have been better informed by sources in the know of sports related affairs.”

However, he urged Abati to do a retraction of the publication within 48 hours or he would face a lawsuit.