By Onochie Anibeze
On coming out of prison, Bode George declared that the next job was to capture Lagos State for the Peoples Democratic Party.
He is not alone in the battle to take over Lagos. All top PDP men have vowed to grab Lagos. The attraction, I understand, is the strategic nature of Lagos State. On our shores politicians vow to capture rather than win elections.
The normal thing is for politicians to tell the electorate, in their campaigns, why they should vote for them. It is left for the electorate to make choices. But here, they even swear to capture seats.
If the votes counted in our elections politicians would not be swearing to capture results.
But I can also understand that where the incumbent (in this case Babatunde Raji Fashola) has performed very well, capturing could be one way to unseat him. But will the masses agree?
We, the masses, who are living witnesses to what he is doing in Lagos, will cast our lot with him. Aliu Babangida, the Niger State Governor who speaks more like a unionist, last week publicly said that the fight for Lagos would be futile because of Fashola’s performance.
I wish his fellow party chieftains and even those of other political parties would dissipate the same energy they exert in capturing votes to good governance. If they did, the effects will be felt in all sectors including sports that has been wickedly neglected.
The campaigns are on. Ikeddy Isiguzo, chairman of our Editorial Board, has drawn our attention to their none commitment to sports. None of the Presidential candidates has spoken about sports and the youth. But we may not worry much for the sports minister and chairman of the National Sports Commission Professor Taoheed Adedoja has been speaking on behalf of the PDP government.
Some weeks ago, the man was eloquent on what he would do for sports in three months. Adedoja was appointed about three months ago when Ibrahim Issa Bio resigned to contest party primaries for governorship election in Kwara. Bio did not make it.
Adedoja was variously quoted as saying that he would transfer the National Institute for Sports, NIS from Lagos to Abuja and locate it in a magnificent building. He said that he would convert the current NIS building into a four-star hotel and build another hotel at Liberty Stadium in Ibadan. He said that the Brai Ayanote Boxing gym, the Indoor Sports Hall, the Table Tennis Knock-Up Hall, the swimming pool at the National Stadium in Lagos would be among the facilities that would be renovated. He spoke in January.
When the report landed on my table I was taken aback and promptly asked if the April general elections have been postponed.
“There’s no way we can develop sports without developing the facilities,” Adedoja reportedly said and the people around applauded. All the sports ministers from President Olusegun Obasanjo time till date have made similar pronouncements but never lived up to their words.
I frowned at the reporter for not putting the report in proper context by recalling the failures of the past ministers. I didn’t know how Adedoja would achieve what he said in three months unless he were a magician.
But we are in a country where government officials hardly give account of their stewardship and politicians are not taken to task over their unfulfilled promises. Knowing that the sports ministry lacks the fund and general capacity to achieve the dreams of Adedoja, it would have gladdened me if the man, knowing that he had few months to stay as sports minister, had made efforts to make the Federal Government realise that they have been paying lip-service to sports.
He can do so with reports of what some countries that are not even as rich as Nigeria spend to develop sports. If he campaigned for better budgetary allocation for sports and formed a policy for judicious spending of the ministry’s allocations he would have laid a good foundation for sports development. I’m still looking forward to a change that would allocate about 80 per cent of the ministry’s budget to sports development.
Transparency can be promoted by a policy that will check misappropriation. Now, overhead takes the chunk of the ministry’s budget and we still assign them the functions of sports development. That’s why we have been failing and will continue to fail.
That’s why sports administration in Nigeria is all about participating in competitions and not making sports development a priority in terms of funding and implementation of result-oriented policies.
What programme can a sports association that receives less than a million Naira for a year as their subvention do in terms of development especially when the amount also covers overhead costs?
Some who have ideas vie to get into associations but they find themselves in hopeless situations on getting there because of lack of fund to implement their ideas. Sponsorship? I have said before that we lack the culture.
And for sponsors to really invest in sports they need something in return? It simply means that you have to develop your stars who can guarantee visibility of their products. Coca cola, for example, spends millions of dollars in sports sponsorship but they do that in countries where such sponsorship can boost their returns.
The few companies like Globacom which invests in our sports are not even encouraged by corruption in the sports bodies.
Our sports has fallen badly since 1999 when PDP took control of the Federal Government. They have failed Nigeria in sports. And from the campaigns and those they appoint to manage our sports a change may not be possible.
Babatunde Raji Fashola has shown the light in Lagos. He is laying foundation for a better tomorrow in sports and other sectors. Let other parties try to win votes in Lagos and not capture them. Bode George and his fellow chieftains should respect democracy.