Worried like every other Nigerian, Mr John Momoh (OON), Chairman/CEO of Channels Television, has taken the bull by the horns to help put Nigeria back on the right track to sports greatness.

Last Wednesday in his Maryland, Lagos office, Mr Momoh, an unassuming ace broadcaster cum businessman told Nigerians the pains the country’s slide in sports could cause its citizens, both individual and corporate and his plans, through his baby, Channels Television, to help correct the malaise. He intends to rely on people like Dan Ngerem, a respected former President of the Athletics Federation of Nigeria, Chioma Ajunwa, Nigeria’s first Olympics gold medallists, Nduka Ugbade, the first U-17 captain in the world to lift the FIFA U-17 World Cup trophy and Henry Amike, African 400m hurdles record holder. Here are excerpts of his speech.

We’ve invited you today to express our concern on what we at Channels Television see as “A Clear Present Danger” facing sports in the country. Let me statecategorically, that we are not out to apportion blames, neither do we seek to point fingers at any individuals or government organizations. Instead we’d like to contribute our quota in redressing the ugly situation that Nigerian sports have been plunged and then do whatever we can to help launch the country on the path of reawakening.

For the past few competitions our nation has put up below par performances. The last Olympics was the worst we have witnessed with regard to the results we obtained. Our boxers, for the first time in recent memory, were all eliminated in the very first round. In the same vein, our athletes were remarkable in the failures they recorded.

Even more so, as we meet here today, some two matches away, we are not certain we will be at the next World Cup for football in South Africa next year.

Just last month our athletes went to Berlin for the World Athletics Championships. Rather than win medals, they came back with scandals. None of the athletes made the finals in the short races. Yet, only a decade or so ago, we were rubbing shoulders with the best in the world.

A few years back our nation was the pride of Africa, in boxing, football, athletics, table tennis and weight lifting. But sadly now, the situation is bad, indeed very bad.

Brain storming with some of my colleagues at Channels, we arrived at what we feel could be the reasons for these failures. And of concern to us is what the poor result we continuously churn out could do to the psyche of the nation. We know as well as you do how such failures could affect our economy. For instance, any failure by our country at important global events always invariable results in cancellation of huge television, radio and newspaper adverts. Tomorrow the U-20 Championship would start in Egypt and it is as if nothing is happening.

The tepid media reaction is traceable to the so-far poor performance of the Super Eagles,
At Channels we know what doing well in sports can do for the nation. We know it can strengthen the bond of Unity. It can promote national well being. And more importantly it can serve as a catalyst for improving the nation’s economy.

Our deduction from brain storming session I referred to earlier is that two things are largely responsible for the serious decline we face in sports. First is the failure of a strong administrative base, We are not aware of any national drive to improve sports. We do not know of any serious attempt to encourage the public sector to help sports.

We find it absurd that 90% of all monies spent on the hosting of the U-17 World Cup is coming from government! We are perplexed that the Team Nigeria concept was allowed to die. We are worried that almost all government established panels on sports have had their recommendation buried in the closet of government functionaries.

Our intention is not to condemn but to draw attention to what can be done. We intend to walk the talk by doing what we know needs to be done.

Our conclusion is that apart from administrative failures we have also collectively neglected paying attention to grassroot sports development. I recall with nostalgia my early years as a boy where I had to manage to juggle my time between going to school and finding time for neighbourhood sports.


Comments expressed here do not reflect the opinions of vanguard newspapers or any employee thereof.