* Lists two ways to effect change
By Onochie Anibeze
Seigha Porbeni, one of the respected technocrats in Nigerian sports, has a message for President Goodluck Jonathan.
“Your government plans to build up to six more universities in Nigeria. I urge you to consider one of them as a sports university. We have it in Germany, Canada, Australia and some other countries. They are sports institutes and their degrees are at par with university degrees.
Graduates from such institutions end up doing nothing other than teaching sports, coaching it or administering it. They coach sports and teach coaches. All they do is sports. They help in building the sports industry.
“Your government must do something drastic to change sports in Nigeria. Sports is about youth development. In Nigeria we have more than 40 million youths. That’s a huge figure that should be respected and accommodated in national planning. If you handle sports well and make it the industry that it should be, that will help develop human capital and will at the end boost the economy.
“There are two major things to do. To come up with a policy that will change sports administration and another that will create the enabling environment. The latter will take care of institutions like the university that I mentioned. We have a sports institute that can be upgraded to university of sports.
It will include sports centres in all the zones. The first will do something about sports administration. We have had people who didn’t know the difference between volleyball and basketball being appointed sports ministers and asked to go and manage sports. I trust that you will not appoint such people to run sports. It is so at the state level. Nothing happens at Local Government level.
The states are worse. We need a policy that will make change sports administration and development in Nigeria. I will appreciate drastic changes in sports. Let the change begin with sports ministry. In the ministry now, only Patrick Ekeji and Yakmut Allhassan are professionals.
It is retarding that we have only two people in the whole sports ministry as professionals. Others don’t know the dynamics, the rules and management of sports. Sports is a technical area and should be handled by people with knowledge of sports. We have had many excuses. We have had so many ideas and papers on sports.
Implementation has always been the problem. I think that it has been so because the past governments have never taken sports seriously. You will be doing a great job and will win the heart of millions of Nigerians not to take the path of your predecessors as far as sports is concerned.
There are Nigerians who can turn things around. There are issues and policies to pursue and we can get things right. The damage to sports is deep. We don’t have quality and world class athletes but we have the potentials. So, it means there’s disconnect in transformation. Something goes wrong between the time a potential is discovered and the times he develops. The athlete does not develop to his full potential because of bad administration and poor training during the transformation.
That is why the potentials discovered early and taken abroad develop to world stars. Those in Nigeria remain stagnant. The unfortunate thing is that our athletes are no longer gaining scholarships the way it happened in the 60s, 70s and early 80s. This is partly why there’s dearth of stars.
There are less or no more scholarships. We have to develop our athletes ourselves. We can do that if the President agrees to change the face of sports in the country. But he has no option otherwise it would be the same old story. I sincerely hope he will. They assured us during the campaigns that he will do something for sports.
We are all waiting for the change they promised. We can get many youths into many different sports and, in turn, they will earn money and help their families. Those who will become professionals will earn foreign exchange and help our economy. Sports is dynamic and our President can make the desired change. Let’s begin now.”
Porbeni is a masters degree holder in Physical Education. He was a great athlete and had the privilege of studying in the United States on sports scholarship. He returned to Nigeria and had hand in coaching many of Nigeria’s top stars of the late 80s and 90s when Nigeria was a name in global sports.
He was once the director of sports in Delta state. He is now a sports consultant who says he can still return to coaching if there’s revolution in sports.