By Emmanuel Ojeme
In the last several months, there has been a flurry of policy pronouncements about sports in Nigeria by the principal agency, the National Sports Commission. It is heart warming because, the acceleration of policy roll_outs is an indication of the determination of sports leadership to brighten the fortunes of Sports in Nigeria.
It seems as it is with all areas of development, there is a new roadmap showing the way forward for Nigerian Sports. Some of the highlights of this new roadmap include:
(1)Grass-root sports development, (2)Concessioning and (3)Prioritization and categorization of elite sports.The purpose of this brief paper is to comment on the third listed item in the roadmap.
First, it is important to commend the National Sports Commission for the harmony and peace in the establishment. Engr. Ndanusa, the Hon Minister/Chairman of the NSC, is a man of peace and wants to confront the problems of Nigerian Sports Collaboratively unlike what was the case before his arrival. It is not surprising therefore, that the signs are already emerging that under a cool headed and focused leadership, sports is likely to soar to greater heights in Nigeria. This is exactly what will happen if the policy instruments being rolled out are properly implemented.
Prioritization and Categorization:
In all development models, this concept of prioritization and categorization of goals and goals efforts is of essence. It is therefore, gratifying to note that in elite sports development, the National Sports Commission has named some sports as key to our future. These Sports include: (1)Boxing, (2)Track and field, (3)Wrestling, (4)Weightlifting, (5)Table Tennis and (6)Special Sports.
There is a sense of history in this decision. Looking back, there are sports in which Nigeria has shown ability, strength and competitive advantage in the global stage. However, it cannot be said that we have been flying at high altitude in terms of performance in these sports, except, perhaps in the Special Sports category, in the past several years. Having chosen these sports as priority areas, it is expected that a compact and effective machinery will be put in place towards the actualization of the mission of this policy.
What went wrong in these Sports?
The foregoing sports listed for developmental attention at the elite level suffered from the same aliments (excepting special sports). They include: (a)Poor training programmes, (b) Decline in coaching, (c)Lack of financial support to meet local and international obligations,
(d)Inadequate support from the principal sports agency _ the National Sports Commission, (e)Low exposure of athletes in these sports to big time competitions abroad, (f)Inability of the NOC to render any meaningful help to the Federations, (g)Disenchantment of athletes, some of whom changed nationality, (h)Degradation of sports infrastructure and (i)Collapse of School Sports.
What should the NSC Do?
Having made the very good decision of selecting some sports in which we have competitive advantage, it is necessary that further efforts must now be made to provide needed back_up support to achieve the goal of this categorization. Absolutely, the NSC is very right to have developed this new policy. I believe that if properly implemented, we will be strengthened in our efforts to achieve our Vision 2020 Sports development objectives. I wish therefore, to appeal to the NSC and indeed all concerned stakeholders to:
(a)Assist the Sports Federations directly and indirectly with needed funds to lift up their level of activity to the desired level. These Federations must be able to organize competitions locally and participate in international programmes on a systematic basis. Cooperate Organizations who are sincerely interested in the nationâ€™s sports development must show_up and register support in the successful implementation of this policy. It is much easier to succeed in individual sports with multiple medals than team sports with one medal.
The variables of athletic performance success can be more effectively controlled and perfected than those of team sports. Please, I do not want to be misunderstood. All Sports are important. But if we want to be the best sporting nation in Africa, attain number 4th position in the common wealth and be among the best 20 in the World, you can understand that Nigeria must imperatively excel in Boxing, Track and Field, Wrestling, table tennis, weightlifting and specials sports, where we have competitive advantage.
(b)Supervision: The Sports Federations must be rigorously supervised to ensure that they are doing the appropriate things that would lead to goal attainment.
(c)Adequate Strategic Investment: In order to reap bounteous harvest of sublime performance, the requisite investment in these sports must be made. The investments must be in human and material resources needed to achieve results. For example, we need to invest in the reactivation and reinvigoration of school Sports, Secondly, the Federal Government, State Governments and Corporate Stakeholders must collaborate to retool our sports agencies and federations. However, there is a need to send our targeted athletes to countries that can assist to develop our athletes. For example:
(a)Boxers _ Selected boxers need to go to Cuba to school and develop their talents for competitions , (b)Track and Field _ AFN need to be assisted to accelerate its overseaâ€™s athletics training and scholarship programmes, (c)Weightlifters and wrestlers need to do same.
(d)Table Tennis players need to be sent to school and train in China etc. All these must go with appropriate incentives and performance targets.
(d) Reclassification: Any Federation in this group that is slumbering must be quickly reorganized and if there is no improvement, the status of the federation can be reviewed.
(e)Special Briefing: It is important for the NSC to drive home to these federations its intentions. The federations need to internalize the philosophy and goals of the NSC by this arrangement. This would enable the adrenalin of the federations to be working at the same level with the NSC. It is my belief that there is no level of success Nigeria cannot achieve in Sports if we do the right things.
By prioritizing Sports at the elite level, it is my considered opinion that we are on the path of progress. However, we must now follow_up with result_oriented actions to get to our desired destination. The National Sports commission must provide the leadership in this direction. This is what Vision 2020 Sports demands of all of us. It is not possible to say everything about this project in a brief paper. Perhaps what is intended here is to set the ball rolling.