Even at a glance, it was there for also to see that much was achieved in sports under the stewardship of President Muhammadu Buhari and under two ministers – Solomon Dalung (2015-2019) and Sunday Dare (2019-2023). U.S-based Nigerian Professor Sadiq Abdullahi has pointed out that a total of 15 Ministers of Youth and Sport Development have held sway since the start of the Fourth Republic in 1999.
The long list includes: Damishi Sango (1999-2001), Ishaya Mark Aku (2001-2002), Stephen Ibn Akiga (2002-2003), Musa Mohammed (2003-2005), Samaila Sambawa (2005-2006) Bala Bawa Ka’oje (2006-2007), Abdulrahman Gimba (2007-2008),Sani Ndanusa (2008-2010), Ibrahim Isa Biu (2010), Taoheed Adedoja (2010-2011),Yusuf Suleiman (2011),Bolaji Abdullahi (2011-2014), and Tamuno Danagogo – (2014-2015).
While the first 13 served during the long tenure of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Dalung and Dare served under the All Progressives Party‘s (APC) that has now produced Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu as the next civilian president.
While appraising sports under Buhari, Abdullahi, a former Nigeria international tennis player noted: “Dalung and Dare have contributed significantly to sports development and improvement.
No president and sports ministers before them has done so well to improve sports infrastructure, grassroots sports, athletes’ welfare, and sports as business.
“In fact, Dare brought increased funding, new sponsors, new initiatives, new programmers and a robust national sports industry policy to the sports sector; thus inspiring a new generation of young athletes, coaches and sports administrators.”
Since governance is expectedly a continuous process, it is safe to conclude that the incoming Tinubu government has the best chance to consolidate on the gains of the last eight years as well as addressing the inherent problems that have befuddled the sporting sector for so long.
Many would agree that gone were the days when Nigeria was truly the ‘giant of Africa’ as far as sport is concerned. The country has lagged behind for so long on the global scene and even more so on the continent, such that great effort would be needed to restore the its erstwhile dominance.
From football to athletics; tennis to table tennis; wrestling to weightlifting and even from volleyball to handball; more than double efforts would be needed to restore the country’s supremacy on all frontiers.
To start with, the choice of the new man to oversee the ministry of youth and sport development should at best, be better than the last occupier of the seat for obvious reasons.
With the approval of National Sports Industry Policy (NSIP) otherwise known as sports as business under Buhari, sports in Nigeria should no longer be business as usual rather, it must become a serious undertaking.
Federal Capital City Football Association (FCTFA) chairman, Adam Mouktar Mohammed, argues that sports must enjoy the ‘renewed hope’ mantra as espoused by Tinubu during his electioneering.
“My hope and dream is to see Asiwaju hit the ground running and indicate he has a proper plan for sports as an important sector,” noted Mohammed. “A major indication would be the appointment of a person who will man the ministry of youth and sports development to push the agenda.
“We want to see a young, dynamic competent person with fresh ideas, vigour and passion to deliver on a road map plan as per infrastructure, logistics and manpower in order to deliver bottom to top foundation as well as building a strong structure, and new culture in the entire sports’ ecosystem.
“We also need massive investment, focus, and governmental support at all levels for sports to thrive,” he added.
Incidentally with the reclassification of sports as a business via the National Sports Industry Policy (NSIP) 2022 and subsequent approval of ₦88billion for the years between 2021-2025 in the national development plan, the issue of governmental funding has partly been addressed by the Federal Government.
But the incoming government, according to former Director General of Lagos State Sports Commission, Dr. Kweku Tandoh, must ensure that monies budgeted are released on time and not misappropriated in order to drive growth and development from bottom to the top.
“Under this (Buhari) administration, funding for sports was a major issue like in previous governments,” he said. “Even when such funds came, it was usually (released) at the wrong time as such government funding for sports is still competition- driven rather than being developmental-driven consequently funds for major competitions leave no room for its application for training and development because it usually comes late.”
He equally urged that incoming government to address the general poor state of infrastructure across the country, adding that the country needs new sporting edifices even as he charged that the current ones should be well maintained or, at best, be leased out on concession with interested private enterprises.
Overtime, the issue of governance including the purpose of sports federations as well as the structures of federations in the Nigeria sports ecosystem, has been a major issue that has limited the success of the country.
As set out by the International Olympic Committee (IOC) in the Fundamental Principles of Olympism, ‘autonomy is a key concept which drives governance in sports, both for Olympic and non-Olympic sports.’
Consequently, the new government must look at the possibility of returning sports to the old model of the National Sports Commission (NSC) under which sports in Nigeria thrived largely for most part of the 1980s under the late administrator, Isaac Akioye.
Commodore Omatseye Nesiama (retd), a board member of the Athletics Federation of Nigeria (AFN), has suggested ways out of the current quagmire, saying the incoming government of Tinubu must do things differently in order to breathe fresh air into the sporting sector.
“I will suggest two levels for consideration and these are the strategic and operational levels,” Nesiama, a World Athletics License Athletes representative, said. “At the strategic level, consideration must be given to the proper establishment and constitution of the National Sports Commission (NSC) and this should be the body to direct and begin the processes of implementing the recently approved National Sports Industry Policy.
“At the operational level, there are two-pronged approaches: the development pathway and the performance pathway; both have defined processes and procedures to achieve desired objectives,” he noted.
It would be noted that for all the achievements recorded over the last eight years under Buhari, there are naked failures across board be in football , basketball and even boxing which were once considered strong points of Nigerian athletes.
For instance, the country failed to win a medal in the boxing event at the Rio 2016 Olympics and for the first time since the boycotted 1976 Montreal Olympics Games due to apartheid in South Africa, Nigeria failed to present a single boxer at the last delayed Tokyo 2020 Olympics.
This sort of malaise in boxing equally afflicts other sporting federations due to three hydra-headed problems mentioned above including poor leadership, poor funding as well as misappropriation and corruption; and lack of good governance structures across board.
As wisely noted by the promoters of the novel The Nigeria Football Fund (TNFF) GTI Asset Management and Trust Limited who are desirous of revamping the local domestic football, ‘giant of Africa (as far as Nigeria is concerned) should not just be a cliché, our exploits in sports must prove it.’
It remains to be seen whether the Tinubu-led government can walk the talk of ‘renewed hope’ walked as far as sports is concerned.
Source: The Nation
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