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SPORTS DEVELOPMENT: Buhari sends signals

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*He will be our Mandela, Pinnick says

By Onochie Anibeze

Amaju Pinnick admits that Nigeria is passing through difficult times but he is very hopeful that the country will be a better place for all with time.
His meeting with President Mohammadu Buhari has triggered some tremendous hope in the project Nigeria.

“Nothing good comes easy. Repairing Nigeria will not be easy for Buhari but I see him ending up like a Mandela,” Pinnick said after he accompanied Alhassan Yakmut to Aso Villa, last Monday.

Buhari and Pinnick in Aso Rock during the week

The National Sports Commission was at the Villa to brief the President on next month’s All Africa Games in Congo and other sports matters and Pinnick, who is the President of Nigeria Football Federation (NFF) was in the team led by Yakmut, the Director-General.
Pinnick left the Villa with a huge impression of the President, who has made more news fighting corruption than any other aspect of governance.

“Based on what I have seen of the President,” Amaju continues, “he is passionate about righting the wrongs in Nigeria and I don’t see him relenting. It therefore falls on Nigerians to strongly back his vision and work with his government to take Nigeria to the level we will all be proud of.”

Pinnick was at the Villa for sports but he spoke more on the personality, vision of Buhari and his burning desire to repair Nigeria including sports. Was he talking politics then? Let’s see.

When President Buhari spoke about sports, Pinnick’s respect for him grew more.
Yakmut had made a presentation that Pinnick described as brilliant. The President was said to have asked some questions thereafter and when football was mentioned, he retorted, “football will fetch only one medal but a sport like swimming will fetch many.”

The sports delegation was impressed. The President had sent a message to them. With that remark he had sent signals that he would like other sports developed too.

Buhari recognises that football is Nigeria’s number one sport but he probably recognises too that sports is a great employer of labour and given that creating jobs is one of his major objectives (the other two being tackling corruption and security problems) he would like to explore the opportunities sports could avail the economy especially in terms of employment of labour. Just some few words and the sports delegation had a picture of President Buhari’s mind.

Alhassan appreciates the direction better and has vowed to pursue the President’s dream of developing other sports. But he needs government’s funding and Corporate Nigeria to achieve Buhari’s dream. It means that the ball will still roll back to the President. The state of Nigerian sports requires a lot of government funding to develop facilities and athletes. This is simply so because we lack the stars that usually attract the corporate world. It is usually difficult for the corporate world to invest where they may not enjoy immediate gains. Stars attract visibility. And when there are no stars the companies rarely invest in sports. Only a few will do. That is what Nigerian sports is going through now.

However, it is a global phenomenon. But with the right government policies and dynamic sports administrators, great mileage can accrue to sports even in the aforesaid circumstance. But government should always lead the way and the corporate world will follow. And since our sports is below par the President is needed to show the light in many ways especially in funding. And he may establish the structure to monitor government’s investment in sports otherwise the hawks that have diminished our sports all these years will continue to prowl and our story will remain the same. Yakut has been around in sports and understands the terrain. He knows the difference great leadership will make. Pinnick says

Buhari has such great leadership qualities that he sees light at the end of the tunnel for Nigeria.

“I studied political science and I know what leadership can do for a nation,” Pinnick says, adding “Hanx Mongethau in his book  Politics Among Nations  said that the most important factor that makes a nation great is leadership because leadership is the only animic factor that coordinates all other factors for social development. That leadership is what Buhari is providing now. He is firm and passionate about rebuilding Nigeria.”

Pinnick went on to describe the person of the President this way: “He is simple, decorous, calm and his knowledge of many issues including sports is amazing. I first met him when he was campaigning and he was delightful when I was introduced as NFF President.”

The NFF boss was not done on the President. He has easily become one of Buhari’s fans and even wore a native attire common in the North and which the President is known for. “The President also cracks jokes and really made us feel good,” he said.

He was recently appointed into the Fifa Under 20 World Cup Organising Committee for which he celebrated this way: “It’s not about me but recognition for Nigeria. I was humbled by that appointment. It means that Fifa believes in us. And coming now that Fifa is carrying out reforms shows great recognition. It’s good for Nigeria.”

Pinnick achieved a lot marketing football in Delta State although the performance of Warri Wolves, the state football team could not match his efforts outside the pitch. He appears to be pulling the strings again as President of Nigeria’s Football Federation and hoping that results in the field will justify his marketing drives. And no matter his efforts outside the pitch if results on the pitch are not encouraging Nigerians will not fail to throw stones. He hopes that  Sunday  Oliseh and his crew will bring smiles to the people.

“We were at the Stock Exchange to worm our way into corporate Nigeria, knowing that they are the alternate funding we need to grow the game of football,” Pinnick says and quickly adds “we cannot get it wrong if we court them well and they support us.”

It is important he knows everything will be wrong if the performance of the Eagles and other national teams sends wrong signals. He started the interview with Buhari and ended it with the President.

“Personally, I feel touched by the in-depth knowledge of Mr President in sports. He cracks jokes and he is intelligent. He is in-tune with the realities of sports and beyond. Nothing good comes easy but he has shown great character to succeed and I know that he will end up as the Mandela of our country”.

Late Dr Nelson Mandela was a global icon. He fought apartheid, went to prison, became first black President of South Africa during which they won Africa’s Nations Cup, World Rugby Cup and he left legacy that saw South Africa host the Fifa World Cup in 2010, the only African country to have done so. Some tall order for Buhari, one may say. In his first coming as military Head of State, President Buhari savoured the honour of leading Nigeria when the country made huge reckoning for the first time in global football, winning the maiden Fifa Under 16 World Cup that is now Under 17 World Cup. Can he taste as many victories as Mandela did? Such dreams are uncalled for. Pinnick surely meant that Buhari could command the integrity that followed Mandela here and to the great beyond. Buhari will only be marking 100 days in office next week, precisely September 6 and still has a long way to go. But he, surely, has started well and time will tell.

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