By PAUL BASSEY
If you are expecting to read about the Sunami that rocked our football last week, then you are in for a shock because I will not touch, not with a ten foot pole.
I was In Abuja for a meeting at the NPL when the story broke and my colleagues called to sample my views. I said I had none.
Before the calls came there was the joke we were cracking with Tunji Babalola acting Executive secretary of the NPL who had voted during the elections. We said to him that he also stood accused and was likely to be picked up.
Someone said for daring to be present in the hall, I was also an accessory to the flouting of court orders. A word is enough for the wise.
Both issues are in court, therefore I will want to be excused. However, let me quickly note that when I got to read of the EFCC charges and saw that a current member of the new board was implicated, I was temporarily taken aback.
For now let my children look back at me with some respect, let them cherish, respect and uphold the family name. Let me value the meaning of the word FREEDOM.
I have therefore decided to use this week to let you into a conversation that ensued last week between the sports minister and tennis aficionado, Godwin Kienka.
My source has it that the Honourable minister was in his house watching the just ended U.S.Open tennis quarter final match between Rafael Nadal and compatriot Fernando Verdasco. He heard how Nadal was only twenty four, had won over eight grand slams and was on the verge of adding another, when he wondered whether any Nigerian had taken part in an earlier round of the championship. Suddenly, there was loud laughter around him and he felt embarrassed.
His visitors told him that there was a certain Nduka Odizor ‘The Duke’ who ventured into Wimbledon in the late eighties and that since then, no Nigerian has ventured into tennis.
Why? The minister asked. He got no reply.
Then another person told him to call up ‘…… a certain Godwin Kienka. If there is any Nigerian who has stayed faithful to the game, it is Godwin. Honourable , he will definitely have answers for you. When you get to the office on Monday, check him out.’
The minister said he was not going to wait till Monday that he wanted to talk to Godwin immediately and find out why Nigerian youths were not playing tennis to celebration point.
His aides then went looking for Godwin’s telephone numbers and brought them back to the minister and the following conversation ensued.
GODWIN: please who is this?
MINISTER: my name is Bio.
Godwin: Bio? The Sports Minister?
Minister: Yes sir. Chairman of the NSC.
Godwin: Wow. Surprise surprise. To what do I owe this call?
Minister: Mr Kieka I am interested in the fortunes of our tennis playing youths
and a friend says you will definitely have an answer as to why we are not doing well.
Godwin: sir, let me thank you for calling me. I must confess that it is very rare in this country for a minister to pick up his phone and call common people. It is based on that honour sir that I am still here talking to you.
My friends are aware that I have resigned from getting involved in the headache called Nigerian sports. Sir I have adopted a siddon look posture.
Waiting for the time God will decide to change our sports fortunes in this country.
Sir even as I am talking to you now, I feel worked up, that is why I rather wait for the time God will pick the right people to redeem us from this disaster.
Minister: Mr Kienka you are not helping me. I saw for instance the Pakistani who played to the final of the mixed and men doubles. I saw the Indian who played the men’s doubles final. Are they more endowed than we are?
Godwin: Honourable in 1990 I wrote a book SPORTS ADMINISTRATION IN NIGERIA. You will be shocked that the issues I raised in that book are still relevant today.
In 2007, I followed it up with YOUTH ENGAGEMENT AND EMPOWERMENT THROUGH SPORTS ( YEETS). Sir with due respect and humility, these books combined have the answers to all the problems of Nigeria’s sports.
Minister: How can I get the books?
Godwin: Sir that is another calamity, that the sports commission and the associations do not have credible libraries where books and literature related to their sports are preserved. I will send you some copies sir.
Minister: while you are doing that, what is the way forward?
Godwin: Sir I will plead that you read the books first. For instance in the 1990 book, I wrote, “In recognition of the important role of sports in nation building, the Federal Government established the NSC with the responsibility for encouraging developing and organizing sports in the country…
In carrying out these functions, the NSC must necessarily interact with State Sports Councils, sports associations and individual sports enthusiasts. It is not surprising therefore to note the growing conflict in the role and responsibilities of all the various sports bodies and it has become much obvious that much confusion has arisen to who does what, when and where.
“This confusion should really not have arisen if these bodies adhered to the terms of the instruments establishing them. Recent and continuing events tend to suggest that most of the sport associations and organizations are either not aware of the existence of Decree No. 34 of 1971 as amended in 1979 and the instruments contained therein or they choose to ignore its provisions. ……the preoccupation with competitions have virtually reduced the NSC, the state sports councils and the ministries into mere clearing houses for processing papers for national and international competitions. This boils down to servicing sports not developing it.”
Sir this was in 1990. How far have we progressed from this point 20 years after?
Minister: Mr Kienka, I will arrange a meeting this week.
Godwin : Pleasure sharing with you sir.
( If you believed that this conversation actually took place, I apologise. I was just thinking aloud )
Off to Algeria for CAF
As you are reading this, I am on my way to Algeria, the suburb of Setif where CAF has delegated me to coordinate the Champions league match between Entente Sportive De Setif Algeria and T.P. Mazembe of Congo DR.
I hold very fond memories of Algeria. As consultant to Kwara United in the CAF Confederation Cup we saw ourselves with five days to our next flight, so started a camaraderie, bonding, cooking our own food and struggling to kill time. Those were the days of Zakari Mohammed as sports commissioner and chairman of the club.
I returned to Algeria as general coordinator of the CAF U-17 championship, a competition which incidentally Nigeria did not participate in.
Here I go again, this time to supervise a do or die confrontation, one that will determine the clubs that will go on to the semi final of the competition.
Back home, I know that Heartland will host JSK in their final group match as well.
Since I did not have the benefit of the result of last week’s encounters, I am not in a position to gauge the chances of the Nigerian champions, hence this blanket wish of GOOD LUCK
For Grace and Mr Briggs
There is a new Mr. Biggs eatery at the local wing of the Abuja Airport. Two weeks ago, I stopped over for a bite and paid the lady on the counter.
You can imagine my shock when she came back to say that I had over paid her by over a thousand naira. I was shocked, looked at her again and thanked her.
When I got back to Abuja I felt inclined to go back and appreciate her honesty. Did not meet her but her colleagues said she was Grace (Ekpo?)
Grace, this is for you in a country where honesty is fast becoming a crime.
See you next week