By Philips Adefioye
Former President of the Athletics Federation of Nigeria, AFN, Dan Ngerem has urged President Umaru Musa Yarâ€™Adua to declare a state of emergency on sports in the country.
Ngerem, in an exclusive interview with Sunday Vanguard sports said that the state of sports in the country was pitiable because sports was the tool that solidifies the nationâ€™s unity and which the country can use to empower it youths.
According to him,â€sports is another area we can use to launder our image positively, it is an area that multi billion dollars business frame work is.
â€œLet me give you a quintessential example. TheÂ U_17 FIFA World Cup to be hosted by Nigeria in a few days, the NTA is talking about N8.2 billion for the refurbishing of the equipment while AIT has the right to beam the competition. Secondly the LOC is spending close to N15 billion and all together we are spending up to 27 billion to host a cadet championship.â€
Ngerem lamented that Nigeria is a nation without a sports policy, a nation that does not empower its youths through sports, a nation that sent its athletes to the World Athletics Championship in Berlin, Germany with zero funding.
â€œThe same athletes were in Abuja where they camped, they changed there hotel four times within a space of two weeks. This same contingent to the World Championship had
two Olympics medalists, I am talking of the Beijing Olympics of last year. Within that one year the NSC didnâ€™t fund them, they did not pay for there scholarship and they donâ€™t support them in any form or manner and you want them to win gold at the Berlin world championship?â€
It is very painful because the resources that we are spending on sports, is not being accounted for.â€
Ngerem stressed that when the top echelon of the National Sports Commission, NSC, were the people behind raising $2.3 billion for Nigeria to qualifier for the 2010 World Cup in South Africa, he wondered where the money was going to.
â€œThe NSC being headed by Sani Ndanusa has close to 30 other sports federations, athletics was not given any thing when they went to the World Athletics Championship in Berlin two months ago. The sport that constitutes 75 percent for all sports in the All Africa Games, Commonwealth Games, and the Olympics and you donâ€™t fund them. But football that gives only one medal in any major international event, is what the NSC is spending billions of Naira on. In essence, Ndanusa has also turned a Minister of football because even tennis which he happens to head, nothing has been done there.
â€œSomething is wrong somewhere. We should re-direct ourselves and indeed raise money for other sports otherwise, letâ€™s cancel the other sports and concentrate on footballâ€.
The former AFN president said that â€œthe countryâ€™s sports is in serious intensive careâ€, saying the sports minister should lay emphasis on how to restructure Nigeriaâ€™s sports.
â€œSchool sports is dead, there is no way to recruit athletes to replace the aging ones that are on their way out, if not through school sports.Â Let me tell you, where is our sports policy frame work, zero, where is our youth pro gramme in sports, zero, where is private sector interface with Team Nigeria sports, zero. They have killed the system.Â Chief Molade Okoya_Thomas, a chieftain in private sector has resigned, Director General of NLC,Â Ndi Okereke has also resigned, what is it really going on? We are ending up in a situation where the government is singularly funding sportsâ€
Coming down to the Nigeria Olympic Committee, NOC, election, Ngerem opined that any one holding the post of sports minister should look after the other 30 sports of the federation. He said it is not possible for someone to combine that with the work of the NOC, which is also a 24 hours work.
According to him, â€œIt is simply an impossible task for a person to run these two posts at the same time. I hope it is a rumour that he is contesting for the president of the NOC because nobody in Nigeria can handle this two positions because they are both 24 hours job. I appeal to him that he should not dare to contest for the NOC presidency.
â€œI donâ€™t know why we like to ridicule ourselves, if you know that you want to qualify for 2010 World Cup, you should have set this bench markÂ five years ago. Why are you now raising such huge amount of money at the dying minutes of the qualifier against Tunisia. Why canâ€™t you get theÂ presidency involved before then, why are you dragging the President into it now? I know something is negatively wrong somewhere. I donâ€™t know what is really happeningâ€.
The businessman pleaded that the government should re-introduce school sports not only for certain schools but for all the schools in the federation where they can isolate talents, streamline the sports activities from zeroÂ frame work and also apply the sports policy that will be sustainable.
Ngerem therefore urged the National Sports Commission to have a dynamic and a functional website where all the information about sports in Nigeria will be seen by any Tom, dick and Harry to assess, to criticize the NSC or the athletes, even the administrators who are not measuring up.
â€œWhy the website needs to be created is for the transparency, accountability and with that factor, you can now attract the private sector to be fully involved in our sports. By so doing, high network rich Nigerians will be ready to sponsor Nigerian sports without any question. My appeal to Mr President is to see sports as a vehicle for the development of the country, as a vehicle that will bring peace and unity to our great nation, Nigeria,â€concluded Ngerem