By Paul Bessey
I do not know for how long Hon Ibrahim Bio was minister of Transport. What I do know is that for the few days that he has been Chairman of the National Sports Commission and Minister of Sports, he has known no peace.

Otherwise put, I do not remember reading much about Hon Bio in the transport ministry, yet today, hardly a day passes without me reading or hearing the minister’s name.

Whereas transport is not well defined in our media set up, all radio stations, all television stations have at least one sport programme , while some newspapers devote as many as five pages daily to sports ( More on week ends )

So, the minister finds himself in the eye of the storm, on a minute by minute basis. He has now realized that he dares not cough without looking behind his shoulders, even as he contemplates engaging the services of a Special Assistant on sports!

My opinion has been made known. That given the maladroitness of the last minister who was considered “one of our own” I will forgive any faux pas by the current minister.

The latest in the series of minister bashing, if I am allowed to call it that, has to do with his trip to South Africa to confirm Nigeria’s camp base for the 2010 world cup. Ridiculous as it may sound, I remember signing off last week with the opinion that if the NFF refuses to budge as regards that hotel then we may have to save them against themselves.

I want to believe that it was on the strength of this that the minister boarded a plane for Durban even as we were very eager to conclude that in the midst of NFF officials, he was most likely to be coerced into doing their bidding.

Surprise number one came when the minister took a look at the hotel and declared it unfit. Yes, that was a shock because despite all the trips by the NFF leadership to inspect that facility, we have always been fed with the claim that the hotel was impeccable, but for the fence.

That fence was key, security wise and this is what we harped on. Did it have to take the visit and the intervention of the sports minister for the right thing to be done?

I am even amused that the NFF we know has not reported the minister to FIFA for “interference” in purely football matters. This minister must be lucky to go against the NFF and still live to see the next day. Others have different tales to tell.

I digress.

Ordinarily, even the leadership of the football federation is not expected to be too meddlesome in the choice of a base camp for the team.

That responsibility dwells solely with the coach (and the technical people) who may decide to take the team captain along in case some of the players decide to be funny. Take this typical player’s remark “ Na who choose this hotel sef ?

Why the air conditioner cold like this? Meanwhile the channel for the TV too plenty, I no know which one to watch”
Meanwhile, reports reaching us has it that when coach Lagerback first saw the hotel, he approved it.

How come he has now found a voice, now developed muscles to challenge the choice of the honourable minister? How come he has now committed us to a facility that is not only far from Durban, but lacks a training venue attached to it?

When is he expecting the South African Authorities to put a standard training field together for use by the team?
Contrary to popular opinion, I do also submit and agree with the NFF General Secretary Dr. Bolaji Ojo Oba that the best option for a team in a world cup circumstance is a small hotel, Hampshire like, secluded as it were, befitting, all encompassing. Hampshire hotel Ballito does not fit that bill.

I am not here today to celebrate the final change of hotel nor to assume an ‘I told you so’ posture. No, rather I will want to lament a situation where we are still running after a camp base less than a month to the world cup.

Another fear I want to entertain as mentioned earlier has to do with a training camp. According to my colleague in South Africa, the Local Organising Committee had gone ahead to prepare training fields near Hampshire hotel and the Zimbali lodge, but are now constrained as winter approaches.

The field near the now preferred Waterfront Hotel in Richard’s Bay has no floodlight and has not been resurfaced to meet FIFA standards.

As you are reading this, Nigeria may be the only country that has no team on ground. The timing of the hiring of the new coach was expected to work against proper preparations, yet as some of us will want to point out, the success of Westerhof in 1994, was partly due to the establishment of a base camp in Europe, where players could literarily run to in between their club schedules.

Must I point out the South African example? How the team has moved camp from Brazil to Germany and is still training? Must I tell us that whereas we are yet to play friendly matches, South Africa has played more than eight including one against the North Korean team that we could not face?

The most interesting part of this friendly match stuff is that barely twenty four hours after China disappointed, the South African authorities were able to call up Jamaica at short notice.

Whatever happens during the world cup, the South Africans will not accuse their team of not trying.
President Lulu and his NFF need our prayers and cooperation at this time to succeed. Failure for Lulu will be failure for Nigeria and we can quickly say God forbid.

I will end by dedicating this week’s column to the chairman of the Media Committee of the NFF Aisha Falode for her doggedness, her perseverance and commitment to excellence.

I was in the Sports Veteran’s train led by Chief Jonathan Ogufere as we paid our last respects to Chief Dr Nathaniel Olabiyi Idowu (OFR)

From Lagos to Ibadan, it was honour most deserved for a man who lived his life for sports.

The mammoth crowd at the St James Anglican Church Eniosa_Onibepe in Lagelu was a testimony to his popularity and contribution to humanity. Sadly though before now, I was of the opinion that sports was Chief Idowu’s culture medium and first love.

In death, the National Sports Commission, the NFF, did not play any appreciable role, not to my knowledge. I do however appreciate the presence of Demola Ali alias Fireman, Alhaji Sunny Badru, Prince Oduah, Princess Bola Jegede, Austin Akosa, Barrister Ezeogba, Martins Osaile, Samson Siaisia, Tayo Ewemere among others who in Lagos and Ibadan remembered him and did him honour.

Mrs Nkoyo Eyo Nsa, “mama” to most of us will be laid to rest on May 15 after losing the battle of life. I remember today, a woman who over 35 years ago, adopted me as a young school leaver in the city of Calabar looking for a means of livelihood.

I mourn a mother who did not differentiate between me and her biological children, who despite hard times allowed me live in her house without paying rent. When her husband died and left her to fend for her kids alone, she persevered, yet death decided to stop her from reaping from the fruits of her labour.
Fare well mama, we love you most dearly, but Jesus loves you more. ADIEU

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