June 12, 2009

$200,000 promise to Eagles, a panicky measure —Ngerem

By Patrick Omorodion
Former President of the Athletic Federation of Nigeria (AFN), Mr Dan Ngerem was  asked what he feels about the $200,000 dollars promised the Super Eagles by the Chairman of the Presidential Task Force on Nigeria’s qualification to the 2010 World Cup, Chief Rotimi Amaechi, Governor of Rivers State. In his usual blunt but frank way, he wrote this piece for Saturday Vanguard Sports which produce here for our esteemed readers.

•GOOD BOY: Super Eagles skipper, giving Ikechukwu Uche a ‘pat on the head’ in celebration of the first  goal the Getafe of Spain player scored the Harambee Stars of Kenya last Sunday at the  Abuja National Stadium.  Photo by Gbemiga Olamikan.

•GOOD BOY: Super Eagles skipper, giving Ikechukwu Uche a ‘pat on the head’ in celebration of the first goal the Getafe of Spain player scored the Harambee Stars of Kenya last Sunday at the Abuja National Stadium. Photo by Gbemiga Olamikan.

The Government’s reaction    is still a panic measure    reminiscent of  a country that has not got any strategic plan and has no sports policy framework in which to base its actions, reactions and counter strategies.

We knew four years ago, just like the rest of the world, that the FIFA World Cup will be holding in the African continent in 2010 for the very first time and it is a matter of historical, emotional and political significance in the jostle for leadership and positioning in Africa.

We have already caused turbulence in the running of our football by appointing a Presidential Task Force to  monitor the NFF which is the federating unit for football and already, discordant tunes and fight for supremacy are already surfacing;  with Nigeria Football Federation (NFF) saying one thing and members of the Presidential Task Force saying another. We have not gotten to the money issues yet  – so fasten your seat belts for more serious turbulence as we progress.

The intrusion in the affairs of the federating unit (NFF) for football has not died down and we are coming out once more by throwing money at ill conceived strategic framework as if money is the panacea for mediocrity and planlessness anchored on zero strategic plan.

However, what is more painful is that as somebody who has run a major federation, ‘The Athletics Federation of Nigeria’ (AFN) for four years practically on a shoe string budget- I am wondering why our sports administrators are obsessed with one sports (football) that can only bring one medal in any major international event like the Olympics, The All Africa Games, The Commonwealth Games, etc.

They are ignoring major international events for other sports like, The World Athletics Championships this year, The Junior Olympics in Singapore in 2010 and there is no discernible plan afoot and/or proactive support for athlete’s welfare  for these events where our future sporting success will be derived from.

I was a guest last week in Port Novo and Cotonou (invited by the Republic of Benin) at an International Athletics event for sixteen countries.

Nigeria was largely ill prepared for the competition and was able to attend courtesy of the largesse  by the new President of AFN (Chief Solomon Ogba), otherwise, Nigeria had already written to the organiser that they will not be able to attend the event – mind you this is next door in Porto Novo where we can easily attend by road.

More importantly, I was invited by the Republic of Benin to strategise and advise them on marketing and sponsorship on the Senior African Championship that they will be hosting in 2012, just before the London Olympics. That is the way to plan and position for an event many years in advance

Since the Presidency has realised the power and instrumentality of sports as a leverage for national unity, youth empowerment, sports tourism, international public relations, showcasing of our culture, etc. by the appointment of the Presidential Task Force on FIFA 2010, can they  please give us a sports policy in the next two years before the next elections so that we can stop the policy confusions and policy somersault that has bedevilled our sports since the new democratic dispensation where we have had nearly one sports minister every year and each Minister adopts his own policy thrust giving us a total lack of continuity?

The foregoing scenario has    given  rise to wanton manipulation by a few people in sports cabal who are adept at navigating government policy which has led to massive waste of resources running into several billions without openness and accountability.

If the Government can give us a sports policy framework, Nigeria will stop being the butt of jokes in international competitions as a country that  throws away money using sports events as cover up and anchors its sport policy on knee jerk reactions  with epileptic returns on the resources deployed.

On  another note and as if our embarrassment is not enough, our biggest competitor in the sub Saharan Africa (South Africa) is showcasing how to organise and host sporting events with class and style and overwhelming Private Sector Public Sector (PPP) co-operation and platforms.

In summary, if the story is true that we are paying $200,000.00 dollars as posited, somebody should please remind our sports administrators that throwing money at sports issues in a desperate, reactionary and panic measure cannot be a panacea for lack of policy framework and sustainable solution and can certainly not be a substitute for proper planning, strategy, Private Sector buy in under (PPP) framework.

Regrettably, the rest of the world do not operate by our standards.Tunisia (which arguably is our main obstacle to qualification for 2010) must have put proactive and strategic framework in place four years ago  to contain our usual  ill conceived and panic driven ‘shot gun’ approach to sports.

As a patriotic Nigerian who has benefitted immensely from sports while growing up -  I can only hope and pray.