By Ikeddy Isiguzo

THE temptation to give up on Nigeria is high. Often, there are more than enough reasons to think along this line. The media are replete with stories of embezzlement, official tardiness, and countless indications that ours is a country under going serious challenges.

Solutions appear to be out of sight. It was in this same setting that a group of 29 men and women gathered in the past few months to work on a vision for Nigerian sports by 2020. Many stepped into the assignment wondering if there was any need for any vision.

The pessimism was a good starting point in an assignment that exposed most of us to more dreadful things about the state of the country, and the need to make Nigeria work. There is no option to making it work.

In those months, we looked through heaps of documents that had stated what their authors considered best for sports. Why did these things not work? We had cause to wonder too. There was no co-ordination between the intentions in the documents and the plans of other sectors. It was unthinkable that sports was being organised without the schools, just as it was unfathomable that the schools did not see the place of sports in their curriculum.

Yet we have all be shouting ourselves hoarse about the importance of sports to Nigeria and Nigerians. Nobody saw the great savings on health bills that could come from a citizenry that adopts mass participation in sports for health purposes. The business and employment opportunities in manufacturing of sports kits were never issues.

One major achievement of this report is the identification of  the linkages (cross cutting issues) between sports and other sectors, in the same way that the other 28 thematic groups sought out their own linkages for a report that should propel Nigeria to a greater future, if faithfully implemented.

This report recognises sports as a creator of wealth, a great contributor to the nation’s economic and social well being and a sector that needs to be tended for it to keep playing that role well.

It was a pleasure to be in the company of these great Nigerians who worked silently day and night to produce this document. The camaraderie that grew in the course of the assignment was fostered by the liberal disposition of the group chairman, Col. Abdulmumini Aminu, former Chairman, Nigeria Football Association, and the West African Football Union, who allowed the debates to continue until they distilled into the best ideas.

These people gave hope, they breathed confidence in a future most Nigerians consider faded and they blazed hope as they bantered, countered each other, and jostled for space for their ideas which one day would be ideals.
Members were Chief Cyril Anyanwu, lawyer and budget expert; Prof. Emmanuel O. Ojeme (University of Benin); Dr. Ken Anugweje (University of Port Harcourt, President NUGA); Mrs. Mary Onyali-Omagbemi (five-time Olympian, two-time Olympic bronze medalist); Prof. Oby Okonkwor (Nnamdi Azikiwe University); Alhaji Abdulkadir Habibu, consultant; Prof. Farouk Haruna (Ahmadu Bello University); Prof. M.A. Chado (former Vice Chancellor, Ibrahim Babangida University); Mr. Daniel Shashere (Commissioner for Women Affairs, Niger State); Alhaji Ibrahim Galadima (former Kano State Commissioner for Sports, former Chairman Nigeria Football Association); Mrs. Hauwa-Kulu Akinyemi (Assistant Director, NSC); Mr. Fabio Lanipekun (former Sports Manager, NTA); Alhaji Umaru Kwairanga, consultant; Mr. Columba Opara, sports marketing and tax consultant; and Alhaji Shehu Ibrahim Kuchi, Adviser to the Niger State Governor.

Other members were Prof. Philomena B. Ikulayo (University of Lagos); Chief Segun Odegbami (two-time Olympian, former Green Eagles captain); Alhaji Sani Ahmed Toro (former Bauchi State Commissioner for Sports, former member House of Representatives, former Secretary General, Nigeria Football Association); Group Capt Patrick O. Akosubo (Chairman, Nigeria Air Force Football Club); Mr. Jackson Bidei, Director of Sports Bayelsa State, three-time Olympian); Mr. Mitchell Obi (Vice President, Association of International Sports Press, Sports-Media Consultant); Mr. Patrick Omorodion (Sports Editor, Weekend Vanguard); Dr. Emmanuel Igbinosa (Assistant Chief Sports Officer, NSC); Mr. Salisu Auwalu, business consultant; and Prince Ademola Adele (Commissioner for Sports, Lagos State).Mrs. Grace Ukpabi-Obi (Secretary), and Mr. A. A. Taiwo (Representative)  both from the National Planning Commission, provided the  secretarial and administrative back up for the assignment.

Whatever becomes of Nigeria’s sports by 2020 would have a great bearing on what we do today or fail to do. Whether we agree or not, 2020 is not 11 years away: it is already here.

Needless Debates
TEAMS finish our domestic competitions without knowing whether they have qualified for continental tickets or not. The fault belongs to the Nigeria Football Federation, NFF. It should have internalised laws of the international federations and made them known to the teams. This inaction has resulted in the different interpretations of the same rule, and the attendant bad blood a pity.

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