By Paul Bassesy
This article was first published on April 6 2015. It was a call on Nigerians, sports loving Nigerians to go to the polls and vote in “ sports loving governors”.
I will take time off later to review the list of Governors in the present dispensation and see how many I can link to sports.
I was in Uyo, Akwa Ibom State for all the activities that culminated in the handing over of Government from His Excellency Governor Godswill Akpabio to His Excelleccy Governor Udom Emmanuel……..then came the glorious declaration, that The Akwa Ibom International Stadium has been renamed Godswill Akpabio International Stadium. That was Governor Udom’s first official decision, one that gladdens my heart, sports being my culture medium.
Before then, Thursday May 28, in a glorious night of elocution, oratories and tributes to bid farewell to the outgoing governor, I had been picked to speak on sports. I spoke on the scrabble revolution in Nigeria, I spoke on the attempt to keep the boxing world heavyweight title in Nigeria, the construction of a stadium that was one of the best in the world, and that just two days before, Governor Akpabio on hearing about the exploits of a promising youngster ( Aniekeme Alphonsus) fastest youth athlete in Nigeria, decided to sponsor her to a training stint in the United States of America. I spoke about the uncommon transformation of sports in Akwa Ibom State and said “….your excellency, we will miss you but we rest convinced that you have run a good race, gapped the opposition and handed over the relay baton successfully to a successor who will majestically sprint to the finishing line in glory……” last Friday, Governor Udom did just that and made my day.
Back to the article I wrote last April
“Because Sports is also part of Nigeria, there has arisen a call for “change” in the Nigerian sports circles.
Some have fallen short of calling the President Elect to “interfere” in the affairs of sports which they believe and strongly too, needs to be overhauled.
I thread carefully.
The first block I want to eliminate from my subconscious is the notion that football represents sports in Nigeria. We are very quick to judge sports in Nigeria by the barometer of football. If the Eagles (Nothing Super about them anymore) fail to qualify for the Nations Cup, then Nigeria sports has failed. Far from it.
Incidentally, there has been so little coming from the domain of other sports that we have allowed even the media to trample us with football idosyncracies.
Back to the topic of the day. There is no gainsaying the fact that sports is such a neglected industry here. The business part of it is submerged in ignorant ,welfare and social leanings , and that explains why government has dabbled into the business of owning football clubs to the detriment of the game here.
The current bad runs experienced by our clubs in continental competitions is enough testimony to the fact that government has no business in football business. What about the organizers, those who should endeavour not to allow our league dates clash with European matches. For now we cannot compete. Not yet…………there I go again, football, football and more football.
Aside the institution of our sports federations and the so called election of its principals who need democratization process to dislodge, what our sports needs from now on is the appointment of persons (Ministers, Commissioners) with sports back ground to lead our affairs.
Every time we are set for elections into the sports federations, there is so much frenzy and activity around the Federations, yet the moment people are appointed and selected ( elected?) they go to sleep allowing their federations to wallow in inactivity and abandonment.
Yes we must redress the issue of funding, yet any Federation worth its salt should aim at attracting partners and sponsors to help boost its programmes and activities.
I have forgotten the last time we had a sports technocrat run our sports at the centre. All we have been having are men who come in without any sports knowledge whatsoever, not even the passion and we are still busy trying to repair the damage caused by their uninformed decisions.
The future of our sports I dare say lie in our states, in the grass roots, especially in schools, from primary schools. Can we stop giving licences to people who establish schools on premises and sites that have no playgrounds? Why is it that only private schools are capable of holding annual inter house sports? And when they do, how do we monitor and scout for potential talents?
Recently, the Athletics Federation of Nigeria went to Ethiopia to top at the African Junior Athletics Championship yet the celebration was mooted, submerged by the dour and often repeated argument of whether Stephen Keshi will sign or not sign NFF Contract. That feat by the AFN needed to be celebrated and tracked.
The future of our sports is the establishment of Sports Councils all over the federation, the return of Directors of sports and organizing secretaries. In most states, the creation of Ministries and the attendant appointment of political commissioners has rubbished the development of sports.
How do we employ and train games masters and mistresses? Sports can only thrive in schools when we have knowledgeable personnel ready to drive its resurgence.
This is also the time for us to pray and fervently too for God to give us sports loving Governors, men who will not wait to bid for the hosting of sports events to provide their teeming youths with sports infrastructure.
That the National Sports Festival did not hold last year was mainly due to the non readiness of relevant infrastructure. I do not think it will be out of place to build a stadium and a sports hall in every Senatorial Zone of this country.
In summary, in an era where the stars are fading and disappearing, we should discover and groom potentials, develop human capacity either as coaches, organizers or arbitrators and strengthen infrastructural back up. That, for me will be change”
See you next week.