By Pual Bassey
Whenever a new minister is appointed to man sports, we the stakeholders ( That word again ) have developed the bad habit of criticising government for what is often considered an uninformed decision, a bad pick.

We normally wonder whether the PDP controlled government has no interest in sports or Mr. President has decided to care less given the many problems of the Nigerian sports terrain especially in football.

The latest appointment was no different. A lot of my colleagues have wondered while the former Transport minister was seconded to sports in a regime many of his colleagues retained their former portfolios.

Others are at loss as regards the perceived dearth of sports technocrats in the PDP hierarchy, men and women with knowledge, track record and passion for sports.

Whatever happened to the rumoured nomination of Chief Solomon Ogba and Mary Onyali Omagbemi? We were very sure that should they pass through the Senate screening, the sports brief was theirs for the taking.

Alas just as their names appeared, so did they disappear into the blues.

Yours truly stopped growing grey hairs since Sani Ndanusa  was appointed to the seat and he had no story to tell except retaining the tennis Presidency and battling to annex the Presidency of the Nigeria Olympic Committee.

The so called lesser sports celebrated till day break the day the tennis boss was appointed minister, only for him to literally go and come without anything to show for it.

Last week, a veteran tennis buff Deacon Ayo Ositelu even went to town with a story that tennis was at the mortuary door!
Back to the present minister. The moment he came on board, like his predecessors before him, Yusuf Suleiman went on tour of facilities  (stadiums) under his ministry and traditionally addressed the press on his plans for sports during his tenure. I was told he has a seven point agenda.

What was of interest to me was his decision to wade into the lingering football crises in the country believing that he could solve it because of his NEUTRALITY.

Read him : “I have heard many speculations but one thing about me is that I am totally independent and neutral. I am just coming into the sports fold and I don’t belong to any of the feuding factions, so I have an advantage to sit down with all the factions and talk to them independently”

I had to with hold myself from applauding. But wait a minute, for how long will the independence and neutrality last? Who are the ones filling in the minister on the lingering problems on the ground? Is he likely to operate outside those who are currently involved in the running of sports?

Already he has gone a step further by getting all those involved in the log jam to soft pedal while a  committee is to set up to look into the problems.

This, will be one committee too many. While the membership of the committee will further be an indicator of the sincerity of this minister and his avowed neutrality, a knowledgeable an experienced technocrat would not have wasted time settling the problem by consulting the various but simple football statutes and laws that many have failed or refused to interpret because of their selfish inclinations.

All the minister needs is the cooperation of the warring factions, and their pledge to accept patriotically both the truth and the political truth. Yes.

Welcome honourable minister. While you are at it, please can you summon all the chairmen of other sports and in a frank no holds barred session ask them to explain to you why they have not been able to function?

You only see them when trips are in the offing. Outside the All Africa Games, Commonwealth Games and the Olympics, most of them have no plan whatsoever for their various sports. No developmental competitions, seminars, clinics, catch them young programmes, nothing.

Good luck sir.
FOR ‘OLD BOBO’ AT 85
First of all let me say that I do not know the genesis of the nickname ‘Old Bobo’.
Secondly I am not qualified to refer to him that way. It is a privilege reserved for his peers like Chief J.B Ogufere, Biz Law, Sunny Badru, Herbert Omokhaye, Prince Oduah, Yusuf Ali, Chief Peter Osugo.. ……..veterans all.

I seize the opportunity of an emotional text sent to me by Chief John Ojidoh one of the greatest sports administrators this country has ever produced, to take some liberties.

He said. “I turned glorious 85 yesterday ( Tuesday July 19 )……I wish to thank you as one of those whose support made my life long, happy and monumental. May the lord abide with you and your family…….”

How I wish the Nigeria Football Federation or the National Sports Commission had surprised him with a congratulatory advert in one of the national dailies. No we do not have such records….we do not have. Happy Birth day “Old Bobo” (With due apologies ).May you live longer to see the Nigeria of your dream, to see the day sports will improve in this great nation of ours. AMEN.

FOR LADY PATRICIA MERCY UKOZOR
I was one of the thousands that thronged Amaifeke, Orlu LGA of Imo state to bid farewell to the mother of young and enterprising football agent, players and coaches manager and Academy owner Victor Ukozor Macdonald.

In the words of Abia State Sports Council said by its versatile and enterprising Director of Sports Ejikeme Ikwunze ( Mr Football ) “….. by all standards she was an epitome of a great mother and a flower of simplicity, who loved God and invested her life and resources to the benefit of mankind and a peaceful planet” For a woman I had known personally for over 20 years, I cannot agree less.

Adieu Lady Ukozor.
OFF TO CONGO DR
CAF stasticians will tell you that never in the history of the CAF Champions League and the Confederation Cup have we had such a tight start as was witnessed last week end,  out of eight matches played, only two clubs recorded victories.
This week end the hostilities will continue and I will be in Congo DR to coordinate the Confederation Cup Group B match between Daring Club Motema Pembe and MAS  of Morroco.

While DC Motema Pembe will want to get their first points after losing to Sunshine, MAS , one zero victors over JSK of Algeria will want to consolidate.
See you next week.

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