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How not to embarrass Nigeria

By Onoche Anibeze
I DON’T know what to tell sports minister, Ibrahim Isa Bio. But I will prefer that he talks less especially on technical matters.

Immediately Acting President announced him as sports minister, I put a call to his home state and later some people  who worked with him in the transport ministry. I found out that the man knew little or nothing about sports. The headline to my story read, ANOTHER STRANGER FOR SPORTS.

Bio has not proved me wrong. A day after he took office,  he was swearing that his tenure would make Nigeria regain its position in long distance races. I asked if he was talking about Kenya or Ethiopia and wondered who briefed him. Why didn’t they tell him that Nigeria was known for the Sprints and Jumps? Why didn’t they tell him about boxing?

I was disappointed. Bio was not done. He visited Lagos and talked about Weightlifting as a sport that could fetch us medals in “Featherweight, Lightweight and other categories.”

I asked if the man thought he was talking about boxing. Now, my fear is that such a man could go outside these shores and embarrass the entire country. I will, therefore, plead with the Honourable Minister of the Federal Republic of Nigeria to talk less on technical matters while he tries to learn the ropes.

I have also heard him talk about fixing the rot that is now the National Stadium, Lagos. All his predecessors made similar remarks and ended up doing nothing. They all talked about not being football minister and ended up as one.

This minister has few months to stay in office before the next elections. This year’s budget has just been passed by the National Assembly and approved by the Acting President. Where will Bio get the money to carry out all the repairs he talked about?

How will Nigeria, in few months, transform sports and become a major world beater? Bio has been grandstanding and is on his way to end up like his predecessors and Nigeria will continue to retrogress in sports. Bio is still far away from grappling with the problems.

And he cannot do so in few months. It is, therefore, better that he concentrates in one or two areas and see the impact he can make before he leaves. I have taken a deep look into the circumstances and I don’t see any magic Bio can make in few months.

One of the major problems we have in sports is poor funding. Sports is so poorly funded here that when I compare with what happens in many other countries I don’t see any bright future in our sports.  And if it will be impossible for him to turn around things because of the decay of the past, he could avoid issues that could dent our image. He should check his words.

The other day, the report I received from South Africa about the delegation of the sports minister were not pleasant. The minister of Federal Republic of Nigeria had gone with a large delegation to inspect the hotel Eagles will stay in South Africa.

I sat in the newsroom wondering about how low we have descended. I just couldn’t put one and two together. Could Anthony Ikazoboh, Emeka Omeruah or my friends Col. Aminu and Yusuf Ali as NFA chairmen, what more sports minister, gone to inspect a hotel Eagles would stay in a competition? Fellow Nigerians, kindly join me in appreciating how deep we have plunged.

I’m talking about the minister of Federal Republic of Nigeria, leaving the country with a large contingent to inspect the hotel Eagles will stay in the World Cup. God! How times have changed. In the past, that was a job done by the coach.

A coach could even reject a place selected by the football association. Normally, he considers security, nutrition, the beddings, environment and other factors that could make his team enjoy absolute concentration. Now the job is being done by the federation, the sports ministry, the Task Force and other stakeholders.

And it is not once or twice that they would embark on trips to inspect Eagles’ hotel. All these men are now scampering for a job that, normally, is the coach’s .The coach is even now the least. How times have changed.

A South African called on Wednesday to talk about the large Nigerian contingent that came to inspect the hotel Eagles will stay in during the World Cup. I felt bad but laughed it off. What could I have done? Acting President Goodluck Jonathan has preferred to follow the footsteps Olusegun Obasanjo and Umar Yar’Adua in the appointment of sports ministers.

But Bio can make a world of difference. He can do something about the allocation sports ministry receives yearly. With about N5 billion a year the sports ministry receives less in allocation than many parastatals. Bio can face this problem with the National Assembly and get more for sports.

Sponsorship culture is lacking in Nigeria and boosting  will largely depend on how our sports thrives. Companies will have no cause to invest in what might not earn them mileage. While we strive to change the situation, I strongly feel that government has a lot to do to inspire change.

The groundwork is more in raising funds for sports and ensuring that the money is judiciously used. This is the only way Bio can differ from the bad past especially going by the fact that he has few months to stay in office and giving the fact that he is on a strange terrain. Going by some records, the sports ministry is poorly funded and there’s little that can be achieved under the circumstance.

We have had so many workshops, seminars and committees on sports development. The problem is not about the ideas. It is about funding and implementation of these ideas that are in many reports gathering dusts in the same sports ministry. Bio can launch a campaign for sports to get more. I’ll support him if I’m convinced that there will be transparency.


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