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Sports development: How Bio can benefit from Ekeji

By Patrick Omorodion
From 1999 when Olusegun Obasanjo came on board as civilian president after the military interregnum till date, the ruling party, the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP has shown that it has no interest in sports or regards it very little.

From Obasanjo to Yar’Adua and now Jonathan, about nine politicians, including the incumbent, Alhaji Ibrahim Bio, recently appointed, have been appointed to manage sports leaving out technocrats or better still, those who are versed in sports or management to run the sector.

Sports boasts of sound administrators and sticklers for excellence like Alhaji Ibrahim Galadima, Rev Moses Iloh, Dan Ngerem, Major General Ishola Williams (rtd.), to mention just a few, who could turn the country’s sports around but government always avoids such men because of the obvious fact that they would not compromise and do business as usual.

Former president Obasanjo started with Damishi Sango who did not betray his ignorance about sports when he referred to wrestlers as boxers on his first visit to the National Stadium in Lagos.

Sango was succeeded by another Plateau-born politician, Ishaya Mark Aku, another total stranger to sports but unlike Sango, he learnt fast and was beginning to make in-roads towards making an impact when death snatched him during the ill-fated air disaster in Kano in 2001.

Aku was different from Sango because he met on ground at the sports ministry a knowledgeable technocrat in Chief Patrick Ekeji who had plans on what he wanted sports to be in a couple of years. With Ekeji, Aku began to de-empahasise the over- reliant on football and encouraged other sports.

After the untimely death of Aku, Steven Akiga took over and showed initial signs that he was ready to carry on with the programme his predecessor initiated but along the line, he derailed after allegedly consulting the cabal who held sports hostage over the years.
Akiga did not last as he was replaced by Colonel Musa Mohammed who, from the word go, showed that he was out on a different agenda other than sports development. He listened more to outsiders than his lieutenants in the ministry.
Under Col. Mohammed, the brilliant idea of Team Nigeria initiated to make sports less reliant on government funds and give it financial freedom was killed after the initiator and then director of sports development, Chief Ekeji was removed.

After Col Mohammed left, a poultry farmer and politician, Seidu Sambawa from Kebbi State took over and like Musa Mohammed, his tenure was uneventful as the sports development department which was supposed to initiate programmes for sports development relapsed into sports promotion and competition alone.

Not much could be said of Bala KaÓje as he could be remembered more as a minister who was more at home with attendance of events around the world. At this time too, the sports development department remained ineffective still until the government of President Umaru Musa YarÁdua returned Chief Ekeji as director of sports development in 2007.
The structure the Imo-born administrator left on ground had been dismantled and he made fresh moves to rebuild them on his return but the new helmsman, Abdulrahaman Gimba did not understand him, grouping him with other top shots of the ministry he termed clogs in the wheel of sports progress.

As all these happened, sports took a dive for the worst and in his wisdom, President YarÁdua reshuffled the ministry, removing Dr Amos Adamu as Director-General and elevating Chief Ekeji to his position.

As someone who has participated in sports, taught it at the National Institute for Sports, coached teams, clubs and national team and now administering it, Chief Ekeji knew where he wants sports to be in the near future and so began to work towards it with the assistance of some other experts in the field.

He drew up a blueprint for sports development and the coming of Sani Ndanusa provided an avenue for its implementation. Some of the ideas are already being implemented at the grass-root level, which has been identified as the key to sports development because the raw talents abound there.

The Vision 20:2020 programme of the YarÁdua administration was timely in this regard and the Sports Thematic group headed by former NFA Chairman, Col. Abdulmumuni Aminu which had members like Alhaji Ibrahim Galadima, Professor Emmanuel Ojeme, Professor Ikulayo, Dr. Ken Anugweje, Mitchel Obi  among others, which drew up a detailed document to take sports to the next level in 2020 found Chief Ekeji’s blueprint useful in their work.

Therefore when Ibrahim Bio was recently appointed by Dr Jonathan to succeed Ndanusa, many called him a green horn like those before him. However, if he wants to succeed within the short time left for him, he should do what Aku did, draw Ekeji closer, study the blueprint he has drawn for sports and try to implement the little he could.

In the process, he should listen less to sycophants  and detractors who are always out to derail programmes because they are not involved.

If Aku had stayed longer than he did, may be Nigerian sports would have attained a level that would be the envy the rest of Africa and the world at large. Therefore, Bio, leave a mark on the sands of time so that you will forever be remembered for good.


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