NAIROBI, Kenya, September 4- Revered Nigerian literal icon, Chinua Achebe, would have no trouble finding his inspiration to pen his blockbuster novel Things Fall Apart the set book staple for many schools across Africa, if he paid a visit to the nerve centre of Athletics Kenya (AK), Riadha House, located at Nairobi’s Aerodrome Road, today.
In what echoes of his legendary portrayal of a once vibrant African society in the fictional village of Umuofia that went bust due to effects of colonialism through the eyes of wrestling champion and leader, Okwonkwo, Operations at AK are grinding to a complete halt following the protracted feuding among its leadership pitting long-serving chairman, Isaiah Kiplagat (shall we say Okwonkwo) and fellow elected officials pushing for his downfall.
Staff at one of the richest sports governing body in the country, among them the new CEO, Isaac Mwangi as well as the Marketing and Communications Manager, Simon Wekesa, are not sure where their August payment will come from since the three signatories to the federation coffers are pulling in different directions.
Small logistics like printing of papers at the federations’ Riadha House headquarters cannot be provided with athletes who are seeking clearance to compete abroad likely to be affected in due course if the impasse is not resolved soon.
Besides Kiplagat, first vice-president, David Okeyo, who is in charge of competitions and administration as well as the Treasurer, David Miano, are the signatories to the federation accounts with the latter two in a camp opposed to the president’s administration.
Matters reached a head on Wednesday when a Council meeting convened by Kiplagat that was supposed to bring together all National Executive Committee (NEC) and other officials from the affiliates to address the stand-off that has been simmering for three weeks was boycotted by the group against the President who convened a parallel gathering in Nakuru.
The besieged Kiplagat and his supporters addressed the press in the afternoon where the meeting changed cognisance into a ‘consultative meeting.’
“Let me make it very clear, we are not objecting to any Special General Meeting (SGM). We want to follow the process. If anybody wants the SGM, if they follow what the constitution says, we shall convene it tomorrow.
“We are giving them seven days for them to give us what they want. If we set a precedent and allow the law of the jungle to take place, the following day, another group will say we want to remove those who will be there, so it will be a chain reaction.
“We do not want to bring this institution to ridicule. We have built it from zero and personally, I can pride myself that during my time, we have done what we have done. Those who are making noise out there let them come and say what they have done and I will tell them what I have done,” the tough-talking AK boss said, betraying little of the strain the sustained siege on his 21 year tenure has had on him.
In a statement signed by 21 NEC and branch officials who convened in Nakuru, his detractors called Kiplagat’s bluff stressing they were within their rights to press ahead with their quest to amend the new AK constitution they say arrogates sweeping powers to the chair at the expense of fellow elected members.
“The AK affiliates will go ahead and hold a SGM with our without the AK national office convening it. The regional/institutional chairmen will not be attending the so called consultative meeting called by the AK president as they still demand for a SGM.
“The AK affiliates will meet at the expiry of the demand notice on September 13 (next Friday) to fix the date for the SGM, if the AK president refuses to heed the demands of the affiliates who elected him to office.
“The agenda of the SGM remains the same as given in the demand notice which was issued on August 23, to discuss the AK constitution. The affiliates will inform the government of the ongoing in the AK leadership,” the brief that was signed by among others, Okeyo and Miano, two of the signatories of the federation monies read.
“We don’t fight, we are asking them to come and reason together. We do not want to retaliate or take any disciplinary action on anyone. People call us the richest; people call us vibrant because we have taken care of our resources.
“My concern is, if we scare the sponsors and they all go because there is fighting in the federation, they will stay away. We have been so smooth, we have done the best we could and we shall continue doing that,” Kiplagat added while dismissing the fall-out as an all out battle for supremacy.
“Everybody is resisting chance. Resistance to change is what is the problem and if you resist change, you can bring the institution down,” the boss stated as the source of the latest bickering after he went ahead to hire technocrats to conduct duties that were a reserve of elected officials in the past.
“Why is he resisting the SGM if he is claiming to uphold the constitution? It’s because he knows that something he has done is not right and this is what we want to address,” the Nyanza South AK chairman and former AK relations officer, Peter Angwenyi, a signatory of the Nakuru declaration said.
In echoing his remarks, Eastern Branch boss, Joseph Kinyua, the immediate former national Treasurer whose ouster is cited by Kiplagat as one of the catalysts for the rebellion added the federation will crumble if the ongoing impasse is not resolved.
“I’m not interested in any role at the federation but it is clear it is split. The chairman should take responsibility and listen to those who are raising issues otherwise, all what we have worked for in the past two decades will fall,” he added.
Kiplagat went to great lengths to show the media offices reserved for elected officials in an attempt to prove that they had not been asked to vacate their offices as claimed while also presenting a raft of documents including minutes to tendering and constitutional committees where some of his opponents sat to show they were all in agreement on the proposed amendments of the governing structure.
The appointments of Mwangi and Wekesa as well as the proposed hiring of a finance officer are among the contentious issues elected officials who ran their functions are against saying the manner they were carried out did not follow an all inclusive process in light of their huge pay perks said to be in the region of Sh250,000 per month and thereabouts.
However, the breakdown of the printer at his secretary’s office with no money to buy the required toner to operate it was a poignant pointer of how far the decline at one of the shining examples of local sports management has sunk in recent times.
With ghosts of changing the existing order echoing the ill-effects of colonialism in Umuofia, things are surely falling apart.