The President of the Chess Players Association of Nigeria Ayokunmi Ajayi in this interview with EBENEZER BAJELA, talks about the crisis in the chess community, the players dismay at the actions of the NCF and more
The NCF president recently accused chess players of disregard for the federation by attending international events without their permission. Do you agree?
I’m not sure in what regards he meant by that. So, I don’t know how to respond to that. There are various kinds of tournaments. There are open tournaments, which to the best of my knowledge, anybody can attend. There are also tournaments like the Olympiad, which is like the chess Olympics; you can only play by selection from your country. For instance, I can’t just show up at the Olympiad to play, I have to qualify just as you do for the FIFA World Cup. You must have been ratified by the Nigerian government. Though, there are some tournaments where you can be nominated either by your federation or by the African confederacy, they are individual tournaments.
A player Bisi Rabiu was banned for representing the country without the consent of the federation, as well as failing to also appear before the NCF disciplinary committee. Under which category is the tournament she competed in?
I don’t know if the federation consented to her representing them or not because I’m not aware. But I’m aware that even if the country says, ‘don’t fly our flag’, you have the opportunity to play under the African confederacy. That line of option is open to her. If for any reason the Nigeria federation denied her playing under their flag, then she has the option to play under the African confederacy.
So, what are the major reasons why CPAN wants Adeyemi out?
We just want chess to grow; we want transparency from the governing body. These are the main highlights of our grouse. For us, it’s not a personal attack on the president. If he isn’t there today, somebody else will. So, it’s not about him, it’s about how the system is run. We believe that if there is transparency, then there will be input from members to drive the growth of the game. We feel there should be some form of engagement because there is no sport without the players. In addition, the tournaments we organised and paid for have not been rated and that’s important to us. We have written a petition to FIDE to ask them if it is okay for a federation to charge us for identification, when other bodies are not charging for the same identification. We are open to sitting down and having a peace talk, but none of our complaints have been responded to. So, we felt the need to take up the matter. If the federation feels that they are not accountable to us, maybe we should ask the body that they are accountable to, to step in and intervene in the situation.
The NCF president says it’s mandatory for every new player to get registered, and you already did as a chess player. Then, why the fight against the N5,000 fee for registration?
We are a body of players and when something is affecting a certain section of players, should the rest of us stay away because it doesn’t affect us? What that would mean, if we ignored them, is divide and rule. It’s our business because they are chess players. Our cause is not about individuals but chess.I have a FIDE ID for about four years now, it reflects my strength. If a very good player doesn’t have it, you can’t know what his strength is. Such a player will continue to play chess but we will never discover his true strength because they cannot be measured in a tournament. If we can’t present the strongest players at international events simply because the person doesn’t have rating, are we not doing ourselves a disservice as a chess playing community? If we go for an international tournament and somebody brings home a title, it’s also for Nigeria because we can boast and say we have a grandmaster. Same goes for those that spend their money to attend tournaments outside the country. I can’t understand for whatever reason why the federation will say,‘don’t go and represent Nigeria’, especially when it is not as if we are spending Nigeria’s money. You are spending your personal funds. You go above and beyond to seek nomination by the African confederacy, which the Nigeria federation is supposed to be under, you are now attempting to sanction that person for using their hard-earned money trying to bring glory to the country.