By Pual Bassy
I have problems. I have problems that are systemic, borne  out of the crazy environment I have found myself.

Nowadays, I take time to talk, or write in public. Two examples: I was discussing with friends the other day, sharing the trauma of having to pay more as my landlord has decided to increase my rent.

Before I finished my submission, a friend jumped  in “Sports Bassey, abeg. I am paying N2.8m and you are complaining over N1m?”

I thought he would have waited for me to land, given me the opportunity to find out whether my complaint had merit, whether we were talking about the same type of house, location and available facilities!

Example two: I am one of those hit by the stock market recession, so when some friends in Abuja raised the issue, I thought I could join them in bemoaning my fate.

Before I knew it, I was eliminated from the discussion. “How could I  start complaining about my “paltry sum” when they had lost over N700 million, the three of them combined? How come I have become so “poor?”

By the way, where was I when friends I grew up with could get loan facilities and invest as much as N250m each in the stock market?
Since then I have decided to be a bit more careful, not reacting immediately when the issue of millions of naira crop up.

So disposed (or indisposed) I came across the news that N8.2b was to be spent refurbishing NTA cameras and OB vans.

My first reaction was, if I react, someone somewhere will scream “shut up you poor man, how much do you think N8 billion is?”

I have found myself in this situation before, where I had to argue that ten thousand dollars was a lot of money and that whether our players like it or not, paying them that much money to play for “their country” was more than adequate.

The ink had hardly dried on my paper when I was lampooned. “How much was ten thousand dollars?” that made me insult our professionals?

For crying out loud, I said ten thousand dollars was one million naira. With a million naira in Nigeria, you can do much.  Back to the present. N8.2b to refurbish cameras and OB vans.

Let me quickly say that as FIFA Media Officer to two World Cups (France, Korea/Japan) one junior World Cup (Malaysia)  and a CAF media officer to eleven consecutive Nations Cups, I pride myself as an authority on these matters.

Today, I will not pick up the argument of whether N8.2b is a lot of money or not, given the magnitude of technology involved. What  really fascinates me is that certain people have been lined up to SPEND N8.2b in just TWO MONTHS! What a mighty spend that will be.

Then comes the confusion (perhaps in my mind). When FIFA first came calling, there was so much to see and hear about the state-of-the-art equipment that Daar Communication had acquired. FIFA went visiting and came out impressed.

I even read of communication between FIFA and Daar Communications on requirement and modalities et cetera, so much that it was only AIT that reminded us daily, thanks to a credible count down service, that the FIFA U-17 World Cup was only DAYS away.

The first hint of a “dispute” was when FIFA came back and I thought I saw NTA OB vans stationed at the venues, as FIFA went round. What, was happening?

In one of such visits, Jack Warner was heard asking an NTA man whether they had the capacity to transmit and he answered “haba yes”

A recent encounter with colleagues revealed the confusion and why  those who know, will pretend not to know.

This again, is not the place for me to insist that there are certain ministries that MUST or SHOULD be manned by professionals.

I believe, and strongly too, that if a professional (journalist, communications expert, information technologist…..).  was in charge of the information ministry; he or she would not have been hoodwinked into hurriedly consenting to a project that is anything but tidy.

The answers to all the arguments lie in the ability to differentiate between Television Rights (that could be granted to domestic concerns) and Host Broadcast Rights (A long term contract that is not decided per competition).

I will, any day, anytime, vote for the updating of NTA equipment.  I will any day, anytime fight for NTA to step up from its Standard Definition facilities to High definition, but please let it not be done in a hurry because for the U-17 World Cup in October, there is no cause for worry, none.

To try to execute this contract in the usual Nigerian fashion will further raise questions bordering on suspicion and allegations of fraud.

Already, I have read that the South Africans acquired “brand new facilities” for far less. Can we please investigate this claim? If true then there is no need for us to pursue the refurbishment agenda. As far back as 1999 when I was National Media Officer of the FIFA junior World Cup, “something” was done to upgrade the NTA facilities.

Came the All Africa Games, another upgrade. And now? Please, let us be a bit more circumspect because whether my friends like it or not, N8.2b is  a LOT of money.

That MTN match

Because of my recent romance with athletics, I was in Abuja when communications company MTN pulled off a stunner, bringing the glorious Eagles of 1994 to face their counterparts from other parts of the continent.

I thought this was brilliant, very brilliant, until I started reading reports that filtered out especially as regards the lack of respect meted out to members of the press fraternity.

Please, the sooner we realize that sports without the media is like kissing a woman in the dark, the better.

Football organization has gone beyond just throwing  twenty two players into the field with a referee in the centre. Friendly football organizations like the MTN should as a matter of urgency contract sports media consultants.

A sport consultant would have let the MTN know that accreditations are necessary, that a mixed  zone or media centre had to be established and that players had to meet the media before, during and after the match.

Before now, there was the issue of crowd invasion during the Federations Cup that nearly ruined the believed good organization of the match.

Let Nigeria wake up to modern organization techniques of matches.  Let Nigeria know that match commissioners are now just “sidon look” personnel.

“Big ogas” that sit near governors and presidents, ceremonial heads who have only forms to fill at the end of matches. Let Nigeria know that those who do the dirty jobs are referees inspectors, security officers, media officers and general co-ordinators.

These foot soldiers, led by the General Co-ordinators (who arrive the stadium as early as three hours before kickoff) are charged with the responsibility of ensuring that nothing goes amiss.

If the MTN had appointed a media officer, he would have handled the journalists with respect and ensured needed mileage, post match.

If they had appointed a security officer, if they had commissioned a General Coordinator… Tomorrow,  another day.
See you next week

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