Aikhoje seeks to claim ’98 gold medal

Nigeria

IM Odion Aikhoje is embroiled in a row with the Nigerian Chess Federation over the rights to his gold medal he won in the 1998 Chess Olympiad in Elista, Russia. The issue has dragged on for nearly a decade, but the situation has recently become acute after Kunle Elegbede has ramped up the pressure by deferring to government officials. The details of this saga are recounted in a very detailed essay at the Nigerian Chess blog run by Elegbede. What it boils down to is an official holding the medal from the Sports Ministry as a leverage for reimbursement money he was owed. The Ministry was to formally present the medal to Aikhoje, but it was intercepted by the one, Theophilus Caifus. The question remains as to why Aikhoje is being pushed in the middle of a battle between Caifus and the Sports Ministry.

IM Odion Aikhoje
IM Odion Aikhoje

Here is Aikhoje’s appeal:


21 January 2008
The Honorable Minister/Chairman
National Sports Commission
Abuja.

Dear Sir,

My name is Odion Aikhoje and I am a representative of the Nigerian National Chess Team. I have been playing Chess for the country at various international events since 1997 and I am currently employed as a coach at the Delta State Sports Council, Asaba, Delta State.

Sir, I would like to ask for your assistance in the resolution of a matter that has dragged on for the past 10 years between the Nigeria Chess Federation and my humble self.

The accompanying document which contains a write up by Mr. Kunle Elegbede who is the Nigerian International Coordinator for Chess explains the whole situation.

I hope and pray that you will be able to right the wrong that I feel has been done to me and all the Chess players in Nigeria who desire nothing but to serve their proud nation and acquit themselves honorably in the international sporting arena. I hope that my Olympic Gold Medal winning performance will be properly recorded in the sporting history book of the Nation.

Thank you for your kind assistance.

Odion Aikhoje
FIDE International Master of Chess
Nigerian National Chess Champion

odirov@yahoo.co.uk


ODIONS GOLD MEDAL SAGA

Nine years after winning a gold medal for Nigeria, at the 1998 World Chess Olympiad, Odion Aikhoje has not officially received his gold medal even though the World Chess Federation (FIDE) handed it over to the Nigerian Chess officials. Here is the unbelievable story below:

At the 1998 Chess Olympiad which held in Elista Russia, we all know Odion won a gold medal, on board 2, for Nigeria. Mr. Emmanuel Omuku, the former Executive Director of the World Chess Federation (FIDE), a Nigerian, received the gold medal on behalf of Odion, who could not wait in Elista to receive his medal due to conflict with his travel arrangements. Mr. Omuku then sent the medal with a letter to the then Honorable Minster of Sports in Nigeria. This was done with the hope that it would be properly presented to Odion who had done the country proud and also to use the medal to promote the game of chess in Nigeria. With the medal on its way to the Sports Minister’s office, Mr. Theophilus Caifas, the Chairman of the Nigerian Chess Federation (NCF) at the time, intercepted this medal and the letter with a promise to deliver it personally to the Honorable Minster of Sports.

Since then, it has been an unbelievable nightmare for Odion and the Nigerian Chess players, that we wish was just a dream. We were told that when Mr. Caifas got to the Sports Ministry, there was a dispute between Mr. Caifas and the Nigerian Sports Ministry officials over the sponsorship money for the Nigerian delegation to the Olympiad. Mr. Caifas then refused to hand over the medal to the Sports Ministry, or to Odion for that matter. As far as we know, he has had the medal in his possession since 1998.

At this point, almost five Olympiads later – 2000, 2002, 2004 and 2006 with the 2008 Chess Olympiad around the corner, the gold medal that an individual won at the 1998 Olympiad is still being kept as a surety by a former official of NCF, in lieu of money allegedly owed him by the National Sports Commission (NSC) for sponsoring the team to the chess Olympiad.

Based on our own investigation, it is true that Mr. Caifas used some of his own money to sponsor some chess players to the Olympiad with a promise to get reimbursed by the Sports Ministry upon his return from the Olympiad. However, Odion Aikhoje is not one of those Chess players. Our investigation further reveals that in 1998, the Oyo State Government of Nigeria sponsored three Nigerian Chess players including Odion to the same Olympiad with 400,000 Naira (a sum between $4,000.00-$5,000.00 at the time). The money from the Oyo State Sports Council was personally handed over to Mr. Caifas by two individuals: Mr Lekan Adeyemi, an affiliate of the Oyo State Sports Council and the current Vice Chairman of the Nigerian Chess Federation along with Mr. Odion Aikhoje. Odion was therefore not sponsored to the 1998 Chess Olympiad by Mr. Caifas but by the Oyo State Government of Nigeria.

While we sympathize with Mr. Caifas in his dispute with the NSC, we strongly feel that if he feels wronged, he should seek redress through the proper channels, which may include the law courts or Sports arbitration bodies. By holding a medal that was duly won by an individual as a guarantee for his payment makes him open to all sorts of liabilities. The medal was on its way to the Honorable Minister of Sports and that is where it should have been sent. To hold on to any property that does not belong to him, for any reason whatsoever, can be considered theft.

Shortly before the 2006 Chess Olympiad which was held in Italy, I received a letter from Odion who had once again been called upon to be a member of the Nigeria team to the 2006 Olympiad. He asked me to help him to recover his medal and that was when I first knew of this problem. Yes, we all knew Odion won a gold medal in 1998 but I did not know that he had not received his medal; it was a shock to me. I sent a letter to Mr. Caifas asking him to return the medal to the rightful owner. In the letter, I suggested 3 noble ways by which he could do this and still come out looking good despite the obvious injustice which surrounds this issue, but I did not receive any response from Mr. Caifas before we went to the Olympiad.

At the 2006 Olympiad, the issue of Odion’s gold medal came up again. This time it took a new life of its own as political opponents in the World Chess Federation presidency election were considering points to use again each other. The Odion gold medal issue was briefly considered among key points of the failure of the present FIDE administration. Mr. Omuku, Jackie Ngubeni of South Africa, the Chairman of the Nigerian Chess Federation, Sanni Mohammed, Mr. Kunle Elegbede and Mr. Odion Aikhoje had a meeting on this issue. The Chairman of the Nigerian Chess Federation promised to take up this issue as soon as he gets back to Nigeria from Italy and this write-up is part of that long overdue effort.

I also came to understand that efforts have been ongoing since 1998 to resolve this case, without any positive moves on the part of Mr. Caifas. At both the 2002 and the 2004 National Sports Festivals which were held in Edo State and Abuja respectively, the full council of the Nigeria Chess Federation (which comprises all the chairmen of all the State Chess Associations, their Secretaries and the board members of the Nigerian Chess Federation) ordered Mr. Caifas to give the gold medal to Odion. On both occasions, Mr. Caifas refused to obey this well respected body and still kept the medal in his possession

As far as we know, as of January 2008, the gold medal has not been given to Odion and he is still very upset by this. It is therefore our opinion that this matter which has gone on now for more than 9 years, should now be handed over to the appropriate authorities in Nigeria for their consideration and action. This is an international embarrassment of the highest order and, as far as we know, the first in the history of sports where an individual representative of a country is being punished over a monetary dispute that has nothing to do with him personally.

At this time, we also call on the Nigerian Sports Ministry to come out to clarify the status of Odion’s gold medal and to confirm whether the 1998 trip to Elista Olympiad where Odion won this Gold medal was authorized or not. Any dispute between the former Nigerian Chess official (notably Theophilus Caifas who has the medal in his possession) and the Sports ministry over this matter should be put to rest once and for all. This is an issue, which has no doubt brought the image of Nigeria into disrepute, and as such it should not be taken lightly any longer.

As a first step, before any further discussion on this matter is entertained, we are recommending the following:

1. Mr. Theopilus Caifas should hand over Odion’s gold medal to the Minister of Sports or to the Inspector General of Police, Mr. Mike Mbama Okiro who will be expecting it, immediately (and not to Odion Aikhoje). Failure to do so promptly can result in severe consequences.

2. Secondly, the matter should be thoroughly investigated and a solution needs to be reached quickly. We cannot and should not attend the 2008 Olympiad in German, in November, while one important member of the Nigeria delegation remains disenfranchised after several years.

3. Thirdly, the Minster of Sports should then present the gold medal to Odion in a public ceremony with a handsome compensation, as this is now the only acceptable and honorable way to undo the wrong that has been done to one of our own. Any other solution will not be satisfactory.

Odion is a worthy sports representative of our country with high character. Since 1998, Nigeria has asked Odion to represent the country at chess events, and he has done so dutifully, despite the shoddy treatment that he has received at the hands of those entrusted with the country’s chess affairs. He is clearly upset by all this and has made numerous appeals to several people to help him obtain his medal but he has faithfully represented his country regardless. He is the unsung hero in all this. Any other person would have long ago brought a law suit against person(s) denying him what is rightfully his. This is the reason we all have to do something about this madness now.

Adekunle Elegbede
International Coordinator, Nigeria Chess Federation.

Source: https://nigerianchessplayers.blogspot.com/

Daaim Shabazz

Dr. Daaim Shabazz is the creator and webmaster of The Chess Drum. He serves as a tenured faculty member of Global Business & Marketing at Florida A&M University in Tallahassee, Florida, USA. He holds an MBA in Marketing and a doctorate in International Affairs & Development. He has served the journalist community for more than 30 years and still competes in tournaments occasionally.

25 Comments

  1. One would have hoped that common sense prevailed, and Odion had received his medal back in 1998 (or even in 1999, 2000, 2001, 2002 …). This is just conjecture, but had things gone “normally”, there was a good chance that Odion was on his way to the GM title. One can only imagine the effect this psychological blow had on his morale, entrenching in his mind the arbitrary, bullying style of management we had come to expect from the NCF through the 1990’s.

    I have to salute Mr Elegbede for helping to show us how, with commitment and proper planning, we do not have to resign ourselves to “na so tins be, e no dey change for Naija”.

  2. Odion is a well respected Nigerian Chess Player,who has done a lot for the game of chess,and the country too.As young and upcoming,he was my inspiration!and i still have alot of respect for him.
    In this case,i think he has been treated very unfairly,and he definately deserve better.
    He won a gold medal for his country,he should be honoured and treated right.
    To be fair,i think Mr.Theophilus Caifas,should give Odion back his gold medal,he’s been through alot.
    CHIKWERE GODWIN ONYEKWERE(NIGERIAN NATIONAL CHAMPION)

  3. I believe it is time for FIDE to step in and help to resolve the matter. It’s been 10 years. If it is not resolved within Nigeria, the FIDE Executive Board should hear this case. This is also the problem when people do not give the award to the actual winner. Whenever you hand it to someone who then hands it to someone, things get lost.

  4. my name is sunny eyenghe, i a chess player from southside of nigeria. i think odion as been a model of nigeria chess players like my humble self and in africa, odion deserve is gold medal and i see no reason why somebody will hold another prsons property bc no reasons

  5. It was the noted Historian, Professor Tekena Tamuno, then Vice Chancellor of the University of Ibadan who in a convocation lecture affirmed, “all things bright and beautiful, all creatures great and small, Nigerians killed them all!” That is exactly what they have tried to do with Odion. They had tried to kill his spirit, but undaunted, he decided to move on to represent Nigeria. Ideally, having won the medal he should have been given promotion at his place of work, if indeed he worked for a sports council as a coach. In addition, a national honour would have been appropriate. To have performed such a spectacular feat would have required nothing other than being accorded a Commander of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, at least.

    Veteran Sports broadcaster Fabio Lanipekun had said the average sports journalist is a soccer fanatic. One major problem with Nigerian sports is that the average Nigerian Sports Minister is in reality a SOCCER MINISTER. When we talk about sports, what generally comes to the mind of the minister is soccer. Chess is certainly not on their agenda. Soccer would fetch just one gold medal at the Olympics. Others fetch handfuls that gives a nation pride on the Medals Table at any competition.

    We are not surprised that for ten years Odion could not retrieve his gold medal. His letter of protest would have been referred to a junior officer in the ministry of sports rather than being attended to by the Honourable Minister. Whoever is in possession of Odion’s Gold medal should be made to understand that it is stolen property he has in his possession

    When University of Ilorin Chess Club was to host the Inter-Universities Chess Competition in 1981 and the help of some embassies were sought, it was not possible to get any assistance from the Federal Ministry of Soccer through whom the application could be made. If not for the erudite Chair of the Sports (not soccer) Committee of the University, Prof Owolabi, whose Committee came to our rescue, the Russian International Chess Master that trained the Unilorin team for two weeks would have been a mere dream.

    Chess is a recreational and competitive game played between two players, Nay, between two intellectually stimulated minds.

    In an article: Chess strategy by Wikipdia, Chess strategy is concerned with evaluation of chess positions and with setting up goals and long-term plans for the future play. During the evaluation, players must take into account the value of pieces on board, pawn structure, king safety, space, and control of key squares and groups of squares.

    Chess strategy consists of setting and achieving long-term goals during the game — for example, where to place different pieces — while tactics concentrate on immediate maneuver. These two parts of chess thinking cannot be completely separated, because strategic goals are mostly achieved by the means of tactics, while the tactical opportunities are based on the previous strategy of play.

    Chess has a wholesome number of seemingly uncountable different strategic and tactical patterns. A game of chess is usually divided into three distinct phases: Opening, usually the first 10 to 25 moves, when players develop their armies and set up the stage for the coming battle; Middle Game, the developed phase of the game; and End Game, when most of the pieces are gone and kings start to take an active part in the struggle.

    This is a game that tasks the whole being and deserves better recognition that is presently being accorded to it. Let this recognition start by giving Odion his Medal that is being tactically and technically held by the Sports Minister!

    Readers are urged to visit these two sites to get the vivid picture of the Odion’s Medal Saga

    1. https://www.thechessdrum.net/blog/?p=191

    2. https://nigerianchessplayers.blogspot.com/

    Augustine Togonu-Bickesteth* & Fela Bright** both write from UK. *Avid Internet Commentator. **Former President and Captain of Unilorin Chess Club

  6. It is sad to see our African brothers behaving in such a childish manner. I believe that common sense should preveail and the guy gets his medal. It would be very embarrasing for the issue to be dragged to courts or resolved by FIDE. Mr. Theopilus Caifas, should you lose the medal, then what????

  7. Issues like this will stymie the growth of chess in Nigeria. I think concerned parties should rise and act fast bcause we ought to be thinking of how chess will be encouraged and promoted in Nigeria, and not to give it a bad face.

    Thank you.

  8. i will have to implore Mr caiafas to , in his own interest, see to the return of the Prestigious medal to the rightful owner, IM Odion Aikhoje. this will go a long wway to encourage upcoming players like me especially in our nation where nobody really has nothing to do with hostin a tourney save for university games and compulsory national festivals. Thank you.

  9. I got a message from FIDE VP Lewis Ncube and therein he stated:

    This issue is really out of the hands of FIDE or any stakeholders outside Nigeria. I will get in touch with the current President of the Nigeria Chess Federation, Mohammed Sani to get a briefing and offer possible mediation (if that is required).

  10. BREAKING NEWS!!

    Kunle Elegbede has sent a report that Professor Wole Soyinka has come to an agreement with Theophilus Caifus. Many know Soyinka as a Nobel Laureate playwright/activist, but most do not know about his interest in chess. He has been called in by Elegbede to mediate the controversy surrounding IM Odion Aikhoje’s gold medal. Soyinka understands the pride embued from such an accomplishment and will serve as the intermediary to receive the medal from Caifus. Odion will finally receive his medal with great fanfare. Following are some comments about Soyinka:


    In his younger days, Wole Soyinka used to player chess very well. He was also a chess enthisuaist who followed keenly the Fischer-Spassky match of 1972. Incidentally, in September of 2007, at an International festival in Mantua, Soyinka was in Italy with Boris Spassky and others. Spasky who was playing chess with a number or people then wanted Soyinka to sit to have a game of chess with him but Soyinka declined. Soyinka joked that he did not want to be one of ‘Spassky’s sacrificial lamb.’ “I didn’t think I would last even one microsecond against him after a deliberate lay-off of nearly 35 years! Soyinka and Spassky have a good relationship and more story will come on this later.

    As soon as Prof Soyinka receives the gold medal, arrangements will be made to formally present the medal to Odion. We shall keep you posted on this developments.

    To those intrested, here are more info on Wole Soyinka below:

    https://globetrotter.berkeley.edu/Elberg/Soyinka/soyinka-con0.html

    https://prelectur.stanford.edu/lecturers/soyinka/

    https://portal.unesco.org/en/ev.php-URL_ID=8329&URL_DO=DO_TOPIC&URL_SECTION=201.html

    https://www.time.com/time/magazine/article/0,9171,901060626-1205325,00.html

  11. Oh…. my…. God!! We Nigerians are sooooo sweet! A guys sits and plays several rounds of painful chess at the World Chess Olympiad, wins a gold medal for his efforts, and still hasn’t received it ten years later? For no reason but that a local chess official feels aggrieved?

    Odion, PLEASE borrow a gun, visit Theophilus Caifas and “make him an offer he cannot refuse”. 😀

  12. Perhaps we will be able to have a celebration at the Dresden Olympiad if Odion qualifies for the team in London. It will mark his 10-year anniversary of winning the medal in Elista, Russia.

  13. Well, it’s a pity that things like this happen in Nigeria. I’ve always known Odion as a highly gifted player. To win a gold medal at such a gargantuan event is not an easy task. Justice delayed is justice denied.

    I believe that the medal will finally be handed over to Odion now that Wole Soyinka has stepped in. I can’t wait to receive the good news.

  14. nigerian chess federation should meet Mr Theo caifas and formally present the gold medal to Mr Aikhoje.This matter should be resolved soonest . There is no reason whatsoever why the medal should be seized.
    NCF chairman should deserves to inform us on the steps taken so far to recover the medal , so that we chess veterans can
    further assist resolution of the matter
    dr owen maduka
    veteran chessmaster

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