Lagos – As Nigerians prepare to mark one year in office of President Muhammadu Buhari, sports buffs say that sports development has not suffered but that more should be done to improve the sector.
The enthusiasts made the assertion in an interview on Friday in Lagos on the anniversary celebration on May 29.
Although some were doubtful if the government should be given a pass mark, they agreed that it was only through deliberate programmes that sports could be used for national cohesion.
They expressed the belief that the government could use it as a tool to check restiveness among youths if sports are developed at the grassroots and adequate rewards given.
“The government is trying but honestly, I believe it can do better; there are so many things that should be addressed for the smooth running of the sports industry.
“The unavailability of funds due to the alleged empty treasury has made it difficult for sports federations particularly to come up with development programmes.
“We need to ensure that our youths are kept busy; sports can help us to achieve that as a nation,’’ Adamu Erena, the President, Nigeria Squash Federation told NAN.
Tijani Umar, President, Nigeria Basketball Federation (NBBF) said that the body had continued to enjoy the support it had in the past under the present administration.
Umar said that in spite of that much still needed to be done to run a viable sports industry.
The NBBF boss acknowledged the recognition accorded by Buhari’s administration to the 2015 Africa Championship conquerors, D’Tigers and the 2015 U-17 Africa Junior Female Championship winners, D’Tigresses.
“In one year of the present dispensation, we have noticed some recognitions but the development has yet to meet with our demands.
“Basketball and other sports generally will grow if the government’s support is firm and its backing a driving force to realise objectives,’’ Umar added.
Francis Orbih, Vice-President of Badminton Federation of Nigeria (BFN), said that there were obvious signs that the current leadership loves sport.
“The sports federations are yearning for development, I think we can give a fair mark to the government because it is trying to give every sport the recognition it deserves.
“If it can continue this way, we shall see a great deal of development in the long run,’’ Orbih said.
Ex-international Bright Omokaro gave the administration a pass mark, and advised the government to re-strategise to re-position the sector.
“As far as I am concerned, I give the government kudos; it should continue in this pace. It has been a long time things have been eluding us.
“When it comes to football, I think it is trying its best, especially our domestic league which has improved tremendously.
“We now have teams that can go away and win their matches; this is good for this great nation, indeed it is the result of the discipline the government is preaching in its change mantra,’’ he said.
For Mutiu Adepoju, also an ex-international, said the government has fared averagely in the administration of football, noting that there had been ups and downs.
“In the administration of football we have fared averagely, so, we need to improve on what we have on ground. Simply put, there is room for improvement.
“I know that in the past one year, we have won some cups, we win some and lose some, we just have to continue improving and learn more.
“One of the things we failed to achieve was our inability to qualify for the 2017 Africa Cup of Nations (AFCON), but we have others where we have done well too.
“We won the U-17 Nations Cup and the U-17 World Cup which is a good thing; we still have to work very hard to qualify for the World Cup to appease for our inability to grace AFCON,’’ Adepoju said.
However, George Ashiru, President of the Nigeria Taekwondo Federation (NTF), described the sector under the present dispensation as “sweet and sour’’.
Ashiru said that the delay in the passage of 2016 appropriation bill affected activities in the sector.
“The present administration actually meant well and has good agenda in place for the various sports, but I think the economic situation is biting harder on the sports sector because it’s an Olympic year.
“Some sports are meant to go for Olympic qualifiers abroad which is very important but it is disheartening that unavailability of funds hindered some federations,’’ he said.
Ashiru suggested that prompt attention should be given to sports programmes that would promote the sector.
A sports analyst, Godwin Dudu-Orumen, faulted those in the helm of affairs of sports administration, saying some of them had not shown that they know their onions.
“Sports in the country are what unite us and so far, nothing has been done.
“All we hear is the Nigeria Football Federation (NFF) throwing tantrums as if that is the only sport we have in the country,’’ he said.
Dudu-Orumen also advised sports administrators to endeavour to look into other sports rather than football alone.
Also, a renowned sport analyst, Tayo Balogun, said that the sector did not perform up to expectation owing to fundamental issue at stake in sports.
Balogun said that the scrapping of the National Sports Commission (NSC) had downgraded sports in terms of government attention and
“I don’t know if I will be able to give sports a pass mark under this administration.
“The NSC shouldn’t have been jettisoned commission the way it was done,’’ he said.
He advised that NSC should be reinstated and that a law should be made in the National Assembly to strengthen the commission.