Since the days of Adam and Eve, Isaiah Kiplagat has been in Kenyan athletics.
The corridors of power at Athletics Kenya have been trampled by him ever since the year of our lord 1975 and the everlasting man has both created and weathered storms in these realms in different capacities.
He served as secretary general and chairman of the athletics body long before Jehovah Wanyonyi became God!
One would be forgiven to think that wisdom congeals with age but this is Africa and particularly Kenya where once a position is attained, it is never relinquished till death do us part. A headless nail once hit in the wood is hard to take out.
You may come with claw hammers and all paraphernalia of carpentry but to pull out the nail requires that you break the wood and that is the essential philosophy of office holders in our wonderful country, Kiplagat being one of them.
When a tremor hits their abode, they turn into blind Samson with growing hair who wills to crush down the building and perish with all. It is a fact of life in these climes.
Athletics Kenya is one of the richest and most vibrant sporting federations in the country and any success that comes from the athletes is owned by the executive of the confederacy, which means that even when Yego throws his javelin to glory without any help from the Kiplagats of this world, the praise comes to the octogenarian.
VOICES OF CONCERN
It is that painful. Many athletes have come out to try and better their lot but are always thwarted in their effort. A time came when faint hearted ones opted to take up citizenship in the Middle East, Europe and the USA, we hemorrhaged badly but the status quo was left intact.
Perhaps the only person who previously came out to challenge AK on many issues was the former Boston and Chicago marathon champion Moses Tanui. It came to no fruit but his efforts laid the foundation for further work. The next was Moses Kiptanui, the three-time world steeplechase champion. His efforts to wrestle power from Kiplagat failed too but the voices of concern never ceased.
The last two weeks has witnessed a scenario that one could only dream of in the country’s athletics circles. The smoke screen of tranquility that veils AK headquarters at Riadha House was unwrapped when regional affiliates came out in the open to challenge Kiplagat’s authority.
Top officials drawn from 14 out of the 16 regional joints met last week Thursday to demand a special general meeting within a fortnight. They want to discuss, among other issues, their new constitution that they claim has been doctored and the haphazard appointments at the AK headquarters that could render the federation poor.
In a statement read on behalf of the affiliates by Paul Mutwii, in the company of fellow vice president David Okeyo, and 10 branch chairmen, charged that the document passed as the new AK constitution was forwarded for printing by a single sourced lawyer without their consent. They demanded that the special general meeting be convened under the old and valid AK constitution.
The meeting came three days after the arrival of Kenya team from the world Championships in Moscow where the AK top leadership wrangles permeated into the team causing poor performance in some disciplines. In Moscow, there was no clear communication procedure as Kenyan journalists with the team found it difficult to source for team information. The team manager, Benjamin Njoga, and the media manager, Evans Bosire, were rendered voiceless. The coaches simply feared to give out basic information leaving journalists leaving the journalists no option but to coax it out from few athletes bold enough to talk.
OFFICIALS BOYCOTTED RACES
The friction was worsened with the information that Okeyo’s office had been occupied by the new CEO, Isaac Mwangi, and his documents and personal effects being moved elsewhere. Bosire, whose voice had been clipped from giving information to thre press in Moscow, also had his office cleared and his things taken to a store to pave way for the new marketing and communication director, Simon Wekesa.
Most of these officials boycotted the final day events, opting to remain cooped up in their hotel rooms 25 km from the Luzhniki Arena.
With all the above taken into consideration, we can justify the general feeling that Kiplagat was trying to entrench himself with the appointments in a calculated move that would lay the ground for his prefferd successor, who is the retired Lieutenant General Jackson Tuwei.
Most people within the eastablishment indicate that if there is someone who should succeed Kiplagat, it should be Okeyo, since he garnered the most votes among the four vice presidents. Mutwii, who read the statement on behalf of his colleagues, said the affiliates were against the formation of an executive board saying it would overshadow the executive committee at the national level.
“There were many insertions in the draft constitution before the printing of the final copy by Kiplagat’s lawyer,” Mutwii added. He also accused that the national executive was not consulted in the interview and employment Mwangi and Wekesa, who are not conversant with athletics.
The duties to be discharged by Mwangi and Wekesa we previously handled by Okeyo and Peter Angwenyi, without pay, yet the new employees are to get a minimum salary of Sh250,000.
The meeting also wants the position of chief accountant scrapped since an elected treasurer was equal to the task. Kiplagat, in a true Kenyan spirit, now wants a personal assistant to attend to his non-AK issues at the expense of the federation, a demand other officials have opposed.
His style of leadership - if it is leadership by all means - has led into collision with other stakeholders in the Ministry of Sport, the National Olympic Committee of Kenya (Nock) and the Kenya National Sports council. Sponsors like Nike and the National Bank of Kenya are also going cautious in their financial support due to abuse of office.
In a move to stretch his old tenure, Kiplagat convened an executive committee meeting Monday last which was poorly attended. He then wriggled to call for another executive meeting retreat on September 14 in Naivasha but the move was trashed by the branches that had met earlier.
On Thursday, our Methuselah called for a press conference and cancelled it off before the new communication and marketing manager dispatched another press release for a meeting of all AK regional chairmen and executive committee on September 4 at Riadha House. The September 4 meeting is aimed at addressing matters arising from a meeting held recently by its affiliates. The noose is tightening!
REAL AND IMAGINERY ENEMIES
Just when the ancient one thought he was deftly maneuvering and getting rid of enemies both real and imaginary, another shocker was on the way. 50 current and former international athletes from Nandi County, led by the 2008 Beijing Olympics Games 800m champion Wilfred Bungei, called for Kiplagat to step aside and pave way for a new beginning. The Old Testament must give way to the New Testament!
The storm has been brewing underneath and the AK national elections were postponed four times with grumbles from the regions that top officials were scheming to influence the outcome.
During the elections in May, the long serving treasurer, Joseph Kinyua, and the public relations officer, Peter Angwenyi, were defeated but it is alleged that Kinyua’s goose was already cooked long before the ballot.
At a declaration in Mlolongo, he had questioned some happenings at the headquarters which a tyrannosaurus did not like. Okeyo was forced to step down from defending his position as one of the vice chairmen at the Nock elections in favour of Kiplagat. Our hero wanted to challenge Kipchoge Keino for the top seat.
He was thoroughly defeated, leaving AK without a representative at Nock executive.