The name Bash Ali (OON) may mean different things to different people. Some may see him as a boxing icon, who deserves the respect of every Nigerian and must be supported in his ambition to become the oldest boxer to win a world title, while others may see him as an imposter in the pugilist trade who must not be taken serious at his quest to rule the world.
As a kicker, I have been opportuned in the past to place a call to one of such people in the second category, who does not want to hear about the name ‘Bash Ali’. My call was in relation to Bash’s plight in Libya, when he got himself trapped in that country while soliciting Moammar Gaddafi’s support to sponsor his Guinness World Book of Records (GWR) fight. And the shocking response I got from this stakeholder, whose name I want to keep anonymous, was like: ‘Is Bash a boxer?’
He continued: “Why do we need to waste time discussing a man who means nothing to the boxing fraternity; he is a fake and, if he likes, let him die in Libya.” From the aforementioned encounter, it was clear that Bash had enemies in the boxing circles and will need God’s intervention towards actualising his dream of becoming the oldest puncher to win a world title.
As a seasoned journalist, I had to dig deep in my quest to unravel the true personality of Bash Ali, and my findings necessitated this piece. Firstly, Bash remains one of the few Nigerians whose passion and love for the pugilist trade is unquantifiable. He is totally committed to raising professional boxing from its present obscure state to the level of seeing more Nigerian boxers become world champions.
Aside being the current World Boxing Federation (WBF) Cruiserweight champion, Bash has traversed the length and breadth of the world, making the country proud with his chosen career and it will be wrong to continue to paint him black with bad press.
It may also be worthy to state that Bash’s passion for boxing may have led him to embark on that mission of trying to leave an indelible mark in the boxing fraternity as the oldest fighter to win a world title, but he cannot do it alone. The sum of $30 million is needed to see this dream come to fruition, but those corporate bodies and individuals who have the money to support him are just shying away by watching from the side!
No wonder, it seems Bash may have taken his luck too far with NEXIM Bank, as he is currently cooling his heels at Kuje Prison, Abuja. He has remained there since February 18 and all other persons who were arrested with him have been released. HT gathered that Bash’s problem began on February 18, when he visited NEXIM Bank under the invitation of the Executive Director, Customer Services, Bashir Wali. “The Executive Director, Customer Services, Bashir Wali, invited me to Nexim Bank on Wednesday, Feb. 18 but, to my shock, he was not there. So, he told me to wait.
“While waiting, the Managing Director of the Bank, Robert Orya, came and ordered the security to beat us. The head of one of the LOC members of Bash Ali Guinness Book of World Records fight, was broken. It was from there we were taken to SARS and detained and now I’m in Kuje Prison,” the champ told HT with a tinge of regret. Bash further revealed to HT that his arrest was an attempt to silence him from exposing the bank management’s demand for bribe over the said money needed to stage the fight.
Another version of Bash’s ordeal revealed that the boxer was taken away on Feb. 18, after NEXIM Bank officials accused him of threatening to bomb its premises in Abuja before calling in the police. Bash denied the allegation, saying: “I never said I would bomb their office. If any institution owned by government disobeys the order of Mr. President because of corruption, that institution should be closed down. That was what I said.”
As things turned out in the negative perspective, the ageless boxer and three members of his team were quickly arrested and charged for causing nuisance the following day, after spending a night at the notorious SARS unit. The court subsequently remanded them at Kuje prison custody. Unfortunately the boxing champion is still incarcerated in the prison, while the others with him have been granted bail.
From the events, it would seem that Bash has passed through the valley of the shadow of death and must not be allowed to suffer any mishap. HT believes that whatsoever had transpired between both parties, prior to the court case, could be settled amicably, to avoid further degeneration of the matter.
Nigerian boxing fans worldwide cannot take kindly to the further dehumanization of Bash Ali at Kuje Prisons, and those fuelling the feud are the real enemies of Nigerian boxing. These events should serve as a big lesson to all corporate bodies, who pretend to support sports development with peanuts from what comes out of their business gains. $30 million is too small a money, compared to Bash Ali’s life.
In South Africa and other developed nations, corporate bodies and even individuals are always ready to support sports development, but it is the reverse case here in Nigeria. And it is clear that companies who do business in the country make huge gains, but finds it hard to honour their Corporate Social Responsible.
What will be NEXIM Bank’s gain if Bash Ali dies in prison? Nigerians are watching!