By Onochie Anibeze
REPS, YOUR PROBES DON’T SCARE US was the title of Steve Nwosu’s column in the Daily Sun Wednesday. I quote from it: “Of course, I’m not, in the least deceiving myself that anything will be done to those exposed. We have been through this path before with the power probe, BPE, NNPC, Aviation, Maritime, BPP, fuel cabal etc.

From time to time, the lawmakers drag heads of agencies and parastatals who refused to play ball during ‘oversight function’ to one committee room or the other, thoroughly embarrassed them and tried to cast a big doubt over their suitability for their appointments.

“At the end, figures are thrown up, we all scream and scream, somebody settles somebody, and it is all over.”

Steve Nwosu was writing about the House of Representatives’ probe on Capital Market and the N44m bribery scandal.

I would have preferred Steve to refer generally to the National Assembly rather than singling out the House of Reps because it is the same with the Senate. But we all got his well articulated message.

The Senate once described the Nigeria Football Federation as the centre of corruption in the country. It even came from Senate President, David Mark. I was awed. NFF receives about N2b annually from Federal Government. How can such a body be described as centre of corruption when only one individual at the Pension board loots billions. Didn’t Mark know about ministries and parastatals where billions have been misappropriated or looted?  My friend, Mumuni Alao, had to remind Mark in his column in Complete Sports that the National Assembly was corrupt too.  I followed up by asking the Senate President to do something about the National Assembly as charity begins at home. Mumuni  concluded that Mark was merely playing to the gallery.  Amanze Uchegbulam, one time NFF Vice chairman keyed in and challenged Mark to initiate a thorough probe into the National Sports Commission and NFF to fish out fraud if there’s any. Uchegbulam wants the public to know what is always in the budget for the sports commission and how much is actually released to them. Corollary, he wants Mark and the Senate to find out what is the allocation to NFF and how much is actually released to them. Daily, we here of budget figures being sexed up at the National Assembly so that something goes around. “Let’s go the full hug and probe all sports and know how much is the allocation to the Sports Commission and NFF and how much they actually receive, that’s what I want the Senate to do,” Amanze challenged.

Today, I want the Senate to accept that challenge even if, at the end of the day, nothing happens as Steve Nwosu has said. I don’t expect anything to happen but when the Senate President of Nigeria describes a body as the centre of corruption, he should be taken seriously and something should be done about it otherwise he should stop making comments that can affect marketing the game especially as many say that football is  viable enough to help itself.

“A leader in the position of the Senate President doesn’t make such an allegation and doesn’t follow it up with a proper probe,” Uchegbulam says. I strongly support this and challenge Mark to accept the Uchegbulam challenge otherwise he should focus on where the real corruption is and not play to the gallery with the NFF. But this is no defence for NFF.

And this brings me to their Public Hearing on Sports next week. Shortly after the Nations Cup in Ghana in 2008, the Senate held a similar hearing. What has happened to the report? The current Director-General of National Sports commission, Patrick Ekeji, has organized at least two seminars on sports development since he assumed office. What has happened to the reports? And before then, we had the Vision 2020 Report on Sports.

The Ogbemudia Report and even most recently the Dominic Oneya Report on reforms are all available. Mitchell Obi, the ace sports commentator, once said that reports on Nigerian sports will fill a room.  In these reports, you will find the problems and solutions that the Senate may hear again next week. We have written about them so many times and proffered solutions.

The problem has always been implementation. But I also want to remind the Senate that the problem in sports is a reflection of the systemic failure in our polity.

20 years ago our education standard was better than it is today. 20 years ago, health services were more affordable than they are today. 20 years ago our roads were better than they are today. We did Lagos to Benin in two and a half hours. Today, people stay overnight on the same road when rain falls at Ore. 20 years ago, my mother Cordelia Ogbonne Anibeze had pipe born water in her compound in Trans Ekulu, Enugu.

Today, she has dug well and  she now buys water for drinking. 20 years ago, politicians and the military stole money in millions. Today, they do so in billions. 20 years ago, the Nigerian local league was better than it is today. Fans went to stadiums and the element of surprise was there because teams won matches away. Today, the same corruption that has destroyed every facet of our life has crept into our league and referees now produce magic with their whistle.

More than 20 years ago, schools had sports programmes and secondary and tertiary institutions produced stars for the country. Adokiye Amasiememka played for Nigeria from University of Lagos and Pat Ekeji from UNN. Stephen Keshi, Henry Nwosu, Sylvanus Okpala, Nnamdi Egbukichi were all big names in Nigerian football. But they were still in secondary schools at the time they became stars. Same with Innocent Egbunike, Celestine Okwilagwe, Henry Amike, Yusuf Ali, Charlton Ehizuelen, Maria Osifo, Moses Egbusien etc.

I went to Government College Umuahia and there we had four soccer pitches, one cricket oval, two hockey pitches, four tennis courts, one basketball court and a standard track and field ground. Fellow Nigerians, that was just one school. Today, we have many schools charging exorbitant fees and they don’t even have a playground. Standards have fallen from our schools (Grassroots) to the top level of our sports just as they have fallen in other sectors. And for us to revive sports we must go back to the school system to fish out talents, set up good academies to transform them and show professionalism at top level.

Ministry of Education must liaise with Sports Ministry for this to work. There are details on what to do to facilities, coaching, sponsorship and sports administration.

We have written on these many times and what the Senate Hearing will gather may not be different from these and reports from many committees or workshops and seminars. Implementation has always been the problem. Another problem is grandstanding of the Senate and actually the entire government otherwise let them accept the challenge of Uchegbulam.

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