Rotimi Obajimi, a former chairman of the technical sub-committee of the Athletics Federation of Nigeria, AFN, says Sydney Olympics 4x400m gold medalist, Enefiok Udo-Obong’s third party account of events at the 1994 Milo Marathon held in Lagos in his book, In The Long Run, The Great Race Fiasco, was not only inaccurate but a total disregard for rules governing the organisation of a road running event.
Obajimi also says the book not only maligned his character and questioned his integrity but also members of the board of the AFN at the time and all athletics stakeholders.
Udo-Obong claimed in the book that Nigeria’s Gideon Hagack won the race ahead of Kenya’s Benson Mariuki and accused the AFN of dishonesty.
Obajimi, who was the race director/referee designated with the authority to make decisions about the outcome of the race said Udo-Obong acknowledged but
disregarded the report of accredited officials for the race, especially the (route) course marshalls and one of the athletes who ran in the race, Nigeria’s marathon record holder, Abbas Mohammed and believed the account of those not directly connected with the event of Sunday 9th October, 1994.
‘I am still trying to understand (Udo-Obong) Enefiok’s motive for writing the book and his lack of faith in World Athletics competition rules which guided
the organisation of the event,’ began Obajimi, a former athletes’ agent, consultant to ExxonMobil on the Mobil Track and Field Championships and an IAAF (now
World Athletics) lecturer and course director.
‘I have gone through the book and couldn’t find the authority Enefiok relied on other than hearsays to believe Hagack was robbed of victory.
‘The panel set up by the Sports Ministry did not say Hagack won the race albeit their decision would not have mattered because it is only the AFN that
organised the race that could have changed whatever result if there was either a protest or sees the integrity of the race is at stake.’
Obajimi says Hagack was not among the leaders in the race coming to the National stadium in Surulere, Lagos and report of the course marshalls confirmed it.
Enefiok made reference to the report where it was written ‘Hagack did not progressively gained on the leading athletes. Mohammed who finished second in the
race also attested to it, saying Hagack was nowhere near the lead runners with less than 1000m to go.’
‘Respected journalist, Ahmed Adio, a member of the AFN media sub-committee who reported the race for the Nigeria Television Authority, NTA, also corroborated
the course marshalls and Mohammed’s accounts.
‘These were accredited officials for the race but Enefiok disregarded that for the account of bystanders.’
‘Like I said, I was the race director and was in the lead vehicle during the race. The lead vehicle guides runners by driving around the course about 50-100
metres ahead of the lead runner(s).
‘ I didn’t see Hagack anywhere near the Kenyan who was the lone lead runner while Mohammed was in the group of the second lead runners and he testified at
the panel that Hagack was not in their group.
‘Like in all races, the lead vehicle will not run across the finish line because of the digital clock mounted at the gantry. I told the driver to drive
straight to the ceremonial gate where I went to alert the officials at the finish line of the impending arrival of the lone lead runner.
‘You can imagine how bewildered I was when Hagack came inside the mainbowl of the National stadium ahead of the Kenyan who had a lead of over 500m coming
into the stadium complex. I have never heard of any athlete not in the second group of the lead runners overhaul what will be a lead of over 500m at the
finish. It was more like a chapter from a book of fiction.’
Obajimi believes with the status Udo-bong has attained in track and field, he should have known that organisers have the right to disqualify athletes who
tried to circumvent the rules and that is what we did.
World Athletics rules on race conduct, 55.10 states thus: ‘If the race referee is satisfied with the report of a judge or umpire or otherwise that an athlete
has left the marked course thereby shortening the distance to be covered, the athlete shall be disqualified.
‘That is the rule we relied on and curiously, Enefiok did not quote or referenced any World Athletics rule we violated in the organisation of the event.
Perhaps he feels third party narratives is superior to World Athletics Competition Rules,’ added Obajimi.
‘We utilised sufficient certified officials as stated in World Athletics Road Running Manual to ensure the integrity of the competition. We had enough course
marshalls whose duties, among others, is to ensure fair play, ensure the integrity of the event.
These are certified officials empowered to ensure no athlete or group of athletes do not circumvent the rules of the competition as laid down by World
By ignoring their account of what happened, it is clear Enefiok does not value their roles as enshrined in World Athletics Competition Rules.
Obajimi is particularly piqued by Udobong’s description of AFN officials as dishonest and curiously wondered why he should describe Abbas Mohammed, the
Nigerian record holder in the event as fraudulent.
‘Enefiok was around 12 years old at the time of the race and was not at the event. How he relied on third party narratives to say the AFN officials at the
time were fraudulent is unbelievable.’
Obajimi, who is a graduate of Sports Science from the University of London can also not believe an athlete that ran 2 hours, 26 minutes in Accra, Ghana just
two weeks earlier could be as competitive in the event in Lagos and was believed to have ran 2 hours, 28 by Udobong.
‘That is impossible. The body takes more than six, seven weeks to recover and that’s why athletes don’t run more than four marathons in a year but Enefiok
has made Hagack a superman,’ he said and revealed a fundamental flaw in the book.
‘If and when an athlete feels aggrieved like he claimed Hagack was, the only option open to the athlete is to lodge a protest. Mind you, protests are time
‘Enefiok never mentioned Hagack lodged any protest and we know he didn’t and that killed whatever chances he had for a redress. I expect Enefiok to know
this. It is a simple rule in track and field.’
Obajimi says he is not ruling out going to seek damages in court for the way Udo-bong portrayed him and other officials of the race.
‘I owe it to myself and those who worked to make the race a success. Some of them are dead now but their souls will be at peace if they get justice for the
way they have been misrepresented by Enefiok.’