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How Nigeria can overcome the declining fortunes of sports

By Emmanuel Ojeme
Yesterday we started this piece by Professor Emmanuel Ojeme of the University of Benin. Here is the concluding part. Enjoy it.
To worsen matters, some of the athletes who trickle to national sports federations are not usually prepared effectively by the federations to represent Nigeria due to budgetary constraints. Infact, many sports federations are unable to effectively represent Nigeria in international competitions. Boxing Federation had to reduce selected boxers to three for a Milan-based competition, recently.

Our story therefore, is lack of functional and effective linkage between the bottom layer of sports activities and the top and the incapacitation of federation

Sports Minister
Sports Minister

s to run their programmes and effectively participate in high profile competitions. Yet, we will be required to take national contingents to big time tournaments and championships.

Unlike other counties of the world where Sports has taken its rightful place, educational institutions in Nigeria are known to be lukewarm about Sports from primary to tertiary levels. These institutions which constitute the source of socio-cultural development of Youths have not been able to be an effective source of supply of skilled athletes for Nigeria. The chronic severance of Educational Institutions from the Sporting grid of Nigeria is a major setback for the actualization of our desired Sports performance standard at the World Stage.

There are many Usain Bolts in our educational system waiting to be discovered and nurtured. This is possible with the teaching of physical education and sports through a Sports designed curriculum and competitive sports programmes. It also means that basic sports facilities must be provided in Primary and Secondary Schools.

It further means that Universities and other higher institutions must shape up to develop athletes emerging from the lower levels of schooling. This is not happening to any meaningful extent at the moment. This illustration of the impotence of educational institutions is a poor link in the production chain of competent athletes in Nigeria.

It has often been argued that Governments do not have enough capacity in terms of resources to develop sports. A quick reference is made to funding. I believe that the Governments at all levels, first of all must demonstrate absolute will power to develop Sports. I am personally not so sure if this is happening in Nigeria. But if Nigeria is going to show to the World in future that it has become a member of the Club of twenty richest nations, sports remains a potent factor.

Korea and China have hosted the Olympic Games when they did, partly to show the World their new status in the comity of nations, using sports as instrument. Conversely the continuing poor performance of our athletes, in Global Sports events, believe it or not, tells our story beyond the sports field. A prosperous nation is also s sporting nation. Don’t you think so? If our athletes prove their mettle on the global stage, it says something about Nigeria, beyond the shining medals with which they are decorated. It says something about our competitiveness, good governance and productivity of our nation. The benefits of superior athleticism to a nation are inestimable.

The private sector institutions must rise up and make their impact felt. I have heard of the worn-out argument about lack of trust. They often say, they are not sure of proper utilization of inputs if and when given. Government has now provided tax incentives for companies who support sports. This can be helpful. Most big companies only want to do football. This is not right. Companies can adopt athletes, boxers etc and develop them. They can build sports infrastructure in schools and Local Council areas in the same way that they build philanthropic social amenities. A company like Glo, MTN or Shell or even a Bank can volunteer to help Nigeria win an Olympic gold medal in a particular sport and partner with respective federations to achieve this goal.

It is the duty of the media to continue to set the agenda and help Nigerian sports find its bearing through its informative, educative and watchdog roles. I believe that Nigeria can do it and get it right in sports. Yes we can.


Disclaimer

Comments expressed here do not reflect the opinions of vanguard newspapers or any employee thereof.