The President of the Athletics Federation of Nigeria, Tonobok Okowa, has been elected as the President of the Confederation of African Athletics (CAA) Region II. This is a position that carries great responsibility and prestige within the athletics community on the continent. It also means that Okowa becomes one of the Vice Presidents of the Confederation of African Athletics (CAA), a significant occasion for any athletics administrator within the framework of administration in World Athletics. Okowa’s slate of added responsibilities comes with benefits for Nigeria and extra work for the seasoned athletics administrator.
The newly elected executives of the region emerged victorious at the elective congress held at the Lam Palm Royal Beach Hotel in Accra, Ghana on January 14. Okowa, already burdened with the role of the Chairman of Delta State Sports Commission, had to contend with strong competition from his rivals, Vierin DeGon of Benin Republic, Togo’s Tchanile Salifuo Falilatou and Oually Sara of Senegal in the first round. After this first round, Okowa was tied on seven votes with the Benin administrator DeGon. Okowa’s challenger emerged as a second-term Athletics Chief at the end of the elective congress of the Beninese Federation of Athletics held on December 27, 2020 in Abomey, for the next four years. He defeated the country’s former technical director, Alfred Gnanguènon by 25 votes against 7. Following DeGon’s victory, he was authorized by the majority of the delegates present to pursue his policy of developing Beninese athletics.
At the January 14 event in Accra, however, Okowa emerged victorious in the second round against DeGon, with nine votes to six. Oually Sara from Senegal and Togo’s Tchanile Salifuo Falilatou withdrew from the Presidential contest after the first round of elections. His election was greeted with congratulatory messages from the sports community with the Honourable Minister of Youth and Sports Development, Sunday Dare, leading the plaudits. His statement read, in part: “I’m glad at this victory and I’m also not surprised that Okowa has ascended to the level of international leadership in athletics. He has paid his dues from the grassroots, in Delta State and now he is performing creditably at the national level.” Most of the other messages of congratulations followed a similar trend. What was obvious from the messages was that Okowa had the capacity to deliver on his mandate as President of CAA, Region II.
Indeed, the election of the 63-year-old is a testament to his hard work and dedication to athletics in Nigeria and West Africa. He has had a successful tenure as the President of the Athletics Federation of Nigeria (AFN) and his leadership has brought about positive changes and improvements in Nigerian athletics. Most important has been the stability he has brought to the Federation that had previously been enmeshed in a leadership crisis prior to Okowa’s emergence. The squabble at the helm of the AFN culminated in the disgraceful and scandalous disqualification of the 10 of the country’s athletes at the Olympic Games in Tokyo Japan, with the Board of the Federation unable to explain why it neither appointed a qualified anti-doping officer nor established an anti-doping committee to oversee Nigeria’s compliance with required standards.
Although not completely rid of its own share of negligence, such as when Nigerian athletes had kitting issues recently, but into Okowa’s leadership, Nigeria had seen an uptick in her participation in international competitions. His tenure witnessed the graceful outing of Nigerian athletes at the World Athletics Championships in Oregon, and the exceptional performance at the Commonwealth Games and the African Youth Athletics Championship. The women athletes have shown the world Nigerian excellence and the men have not been far behind. Particularly impressive has been the revelation of the massively talented 100-metre hurdler Oluwatobiloba Ayomide Amusan, who became the first ever Nigerian to hold a ratified World Record. Okowa’s role in these successes was major.
He will now become one of the Vice Presidents to Cameroon’s Hamad Malboum, who heads the Confederation of African Athletics (CAA). This is a great opportunity for Okowa to bring his expertise and experience to the wider African athletics community and to work with other leaders in the region to promote and develop athletics in West Africa.
Okowa replaces Engineer Ibrahim Shehu Gusau who held that position prior to Okowa’s emergence. Gusau declared his non-candidature for the position during the elective congress before the contestants DeGon, Falilatou, Sara and Okowa signalled their interests in vying for the vacancy. The other elected members include Doudou Joof as Vice President, Alio Oumarou as Financial Director, Ousmane Camara as Auditor, and Sawadogo Missirit as Technical Director. Aminata Keita and Ouoally Sara were elected as council members. Region II, which Okowa will preside over as President, comprises of all countries in West Africa, including Niger, Benin, Burkina Faso, Cape Verde, Côte d’Ivoire, Gambia, Ghana, Guinea, Guinea-Bissau, Liberia, Mali, Mauritania, Niger, Nigeria, Senegal, Sierra Leone, and Togo.
Okowa was born on June 2, 1960 into the family of the Late Chief Arthur Okorie Okowa and the Late Mrs. Victoria Okowa of Owa-Alero in Ika North East Local Government Area of Delta State. He had his primary education at the then Christian Missionary Society (CMS) Primary School, Owa-Alero, and obtained his Primary School Leaving Certificate in 1974. He proceeded to Ika Grammar School, Boji-Boji Owa for his Secondary Education and obtained the West African School Certificate (WASC) in 1979.
Okowa has a background in sports management and administration, and has held various positions within the sports community. He worked with the Bendel State Arts Council, Benin City as an Arts and Culture Personnel briefly before attending an Advanced National Business and Technical Education Course where he obtained a Financial Management Business Certificate. In 2007, he proceeded to the National Institute for Sports and successfully completed his Basic Certificate Football Coaching Course and General Sports Administration. He is also a holder of a Diploma in Sports Management and Administration from the Delta State College of Physical Education, Mosogar.
Being so dedicated to hard work coupled with his love and passion for sports, he was the founder and Chairman of Appeteez Football Club in 2002. In 2004 he became the first Vice Chairman of the Delta State Football Association, and in 2006, he became the Chairman of Delta Force Football Club. In 2007 he became the Patron of Delta State (Football) Referee Council, a position he holds to date. He is also the owner of the Nigeria National League (NNL) side, Apex-Krane Football Club. Okowa’s experience and dedication to sports management and administration make him well-suited for the role of President of CAA Region II. He has a proven track record of success and has shown that he has the ability to lead and inspire change in the athletics community. His election as President of CAA Region II is a great opportunity for him to continue his work in promoting and developing athletics in Nigeria and West Africa on a larger scale.
This election is significant for athletics in Nigeria and West Africa as Okowa’s leadership and experience in sports management and administration will undoubtedly bring about positive changes and improvements in the region. With Okowa at the helm, the future of athletics in West Africa looks bright and promising. The athletics community in West Africa can expect to see a renewed focus on promoting and developing the sport, as well as increased support for athletes and coaches. His election is a significant achievement for Nigerian and West African athletics especially for his leadership, experience, and dedication to the sport.
The athletics community in West Africa can look forward to a bright future under his leadership although it will be tasking for Okowa given all the hats he currently wears as athletics boss. Yet, as they say, the reward for good work is more work.