By Patrick Omorodion
A new era was opened in the governance of Nigeria on Thursday May 6, 2010 when Dr. Goodluck Jonathan was sworn in as the fourth Executive President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria following the death of his boss, Alhaji Umaru Musa Yarâ€™Adua a day earlier.
Yarâ€™Adua himself succeeded Chief Olusegun Obasanjo in 2007 after the latter completed an eight year tenure during which sports, a sector that unites the country more than any other, suffered most.
Not many meaningful achievements, except two, were recorded under Chief Obasanjo who did not reckon that sports and its practitioners contributed anything to the countryâ€™s GDP. Two things Obasanjo can hold on to are one, the building of a new National Stadium in Abuja, a magnificent edifice which European firms that have built similar ones in other places said cost four times more than others like it.
The other one is the 2003 All Africa Games which the country hosted, the second time after the 1973 edition and emerged overall first, for the first time after seven previous editions. That Nigeria emerged first was however, not to the credit of Obasanjo, whose policy of â€˜Presidential Handshakeâ€™ was enough to demoralise the athletes but for the Team Nigeria policy introduced by the late sports minister, Ishaya Mark Aku working in tandem with Chief Patrick Ekeji as then director of sports development.
From May 29, 2007 to November 23, 2009 when Alhaji Yarâ€™Adua was effectively in-charge of governance, things changed for the better for sports and sports people, athletes and administrators alike. Even though it was not all smooth, tangible achievements were recorded and a framework for sustainable development was put in place towards achieving the set targets.
These include the blueprint drawn by the Presidential Advisory Committee headed by retired Major General Ishola Williams with such members as Alhaji Ibrahim Galadima and Dan Ngerem, a former president of the Athletics Federation of Nigeria.
Their report was submitted in late 2007 but its implementation was allegedly thwarted by one man, Dr. Amos Adamu, then Director General, who particularly felt his stranglehold on sports will be whittled if not completely dismantled if the recommendations of the committee were implemented.
How did he thwart it? President Yarâ€™Adua expected him as the man in-charge of sports to peruse the document and advise appropriately. Of course the document was not allowed to see the light of day. That was where Yarâ€™Adua got it wrong. He should have given the task to a different body asÂ his action amounted to giving a banana finger to a monkey to keep or a goat, a tuber of yam for safe custody.
If it is agreed that Yarâ€™Adua recorded some feats in sports, then President Jonathan must be part of that success because as vice president then, his duties included overseeing sports. No wonder he was put in-charge of the Presidential Task Force for the Super Eagles 2010 World Cup qualification, without which the Nigeria Football Association, NFA could have failed the country.
With Dr. Jonathan now the president, it is believed that he should take the bull by the horns and help restore sports to its glory and sanitise the sector by ensuring that the cogs in its wheel of progress are flushed out without further delay. He should begin with football which everybody has accepted as one thing that unifies Nigerians more than any other thing. Beginning with the World Cup in South Africa, to ensure accountability, the NFA should be given money from stage to stage.
Bulk money should not be released to it as experience has shown that the NFA never refunds money to the government if the Eagles fail to proceed beyond a level. Money should therefore be released piecemeal as they progress hopefully through the first round, second round, quarter final and semi final. Once they get to the semi final, then they will be entitled to the entire budget because even if they fail in the semi final, they will play the third place match.
If the NFA gets the entire budget and the Eagles par chance fail to go beyond the first round, the balance money will never be returned as experience has shown in the past. Also, the entire board of the NFA should by now be packing their bags to quit after the World Cup following the financial scandals that have rocked the house recently.
These are theÂ $236,000 which disappeared without trace from their secretariat and the South Africa Hampshire Hotel shame.
Shamelessly the top echelon of the NFA, instead of being worried about how to prepare the Super Eagles well for the World Cup, are junketing from one state to another to possibly bribe State FA chairmen and other delegates to return them for a second term when the election holds in August. Their tenure ended a couple of months back but they cunningly moved it to August to allow them superintend over the Eagles World Cup participation for pecuniary reasons.
Another area President Jonathan should look into is the early release of funds for athletes preparation for the 2010 Commonwealth Games in India that is already at the corner in October as well as the 2012 Olympics in London.
Also of importance is the budget for sports federations which is too meagre and is hardly enough for office stationaries, how much moreÂ prosecuting their various programmes aimed at developing and nurturing discovered talents. Lastly, President Jonathan should ensure that the document presented by the General Williams Presidential Advisory Committee to the late president is dusted from wherever it is lying now and its recommendations implemented if sports must move forward.
This report should be supported by the one prepared by the Sports Thematic Group for governmentâ€™s Vision 20:2020 last year. This is because the recommendations therein, if implemented religiously, will reposition Nigeriaâ€™s sports for the better in Africa and the world by the year 2020.
If President Jonathan can do this for sports, his name will remain indelible in the minds of not only sports men and women, but the entire citizens of this country.