Immediately the one-week Biennial 12th Police Games began in Awka, Anambra State, on Saturday, February 29, the state chapter of the Nigerian Institute of Public Relations endorsed the games as a vital component of the strategy for reputation management in the state. The chapter is led by Stella Chinyere Okunna, Nigeria’s first female mass communication professor, who was at different times Commissioner for Information and Commissioner for Economic Planning and later Chief of Staff under ex-Governor Peter Obi. Other members include Father Boniface Obiefuna, professor of Religion and Human Relations at Nnamdi Azikiwe University, and Dr. Denns Ekezie of the National Orientation Agency.
Both the state government and indigenes of the state recognized the immense marketing, public relations, political and social and even diplomatic value of sports in today’s world, so they supported the games robustly. The owners of Chisco Transport, GUO Transport and Ifeanyi Chukwu Motors gave a large number of vehicles, including luxury buses, practically free of charge to the games for over one week. At the closing ceremony last Saturday, Coscharis Farms and Coscharis Rice Mill donated 3,000 bags of rice to the sportsmen and women as well as officials. Stanel Rice Mill in Amichi, Nnewi South Local Government Area, donated over 2,000 bags. Governor Willie Obiano, widely reputed for infectious enthusiasm to market the state at every opportunity, gave each of the participants and officials a bag of products made in Anambra State. There were other donations.
Before Governor Obiano reeled out the gifts, Inspector-General of Police Mohammed Adamu declared the 2020 games the most successful, colourful and memorable thus far. In other words, the Anambra edition of the biennial games was rated better than those held in Abuja, Lagos, Port Harcourt and elsewhere. IGP Adamu received a thunderous applause for the declaration, especially from the thousands of policemen and women at Alex Ekwueme Square, Awka. The police officers, many of whom were visiting the state for the first time, openly stated how they wished that the games could be extended because of the hospitality of the government and people of Anambra State and the general beauty of the state.
As already adumbrated above, sports are now considered an important business, economic, social and diplomatic strategy. Nigerians, for instance, didn’t know much about South Korea until the Olympic Games of 1988 held in Seoul, the South Korean capital. With Seoul ’88 came into Nigeria a deluge of such Korean products as Racer Daewoo, Samsung Electronics, LG (then known as Gold Star) and Kia Motors. President Jimmy Carter of the United States used sports to fight the old Soviet Union during the Cold War. For instance, he sent Mohammad Ali, the legendary African-American boxer, to Africa to persuade African countries to boycott the 1980 Moscow Olympics on the grounds of the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan. Ali never forgot the strong reactions he received in every African country, which didn’t want to be considered n American stooge or a pawn on the international chess board.
Samuel P. Huntington, the late eminent political scientist and international relations scholar at Harvard, in his most famous book, The Clash of Civilisations and the Remaking of World Order, showed how the International Federation of Football Associations is heavily influenced by international politics. The English Premier League, together with United Kingdom’s education, is considered about the most important export from Britain in the era of what Joseph Nye, another preeminent political science and international relations professor at Harvard, calls soft power. Nye, a former Assistant Secretary for Defence under President Bill Clinton, argues that what has endeared the United States to the world –which Ali Mazrui called Pax America or America’s triumphalism in global affairs – is not America’s military prowess and other “hard things” but such “soft things” as America’s education, America’s democracy, America’s music, America’s humanitarian assistance and America’s sports.
In other words, America has conquered the minds of people around the globe by making people throughout the world love everything American. See how the whole world mourned Michael Jackson and Kobe Bryant. No wonder, China has made soft power the cornerstone of its current foreign policy. Countries and institutions around the world now go on a charm offensive, appealing to the minds and hearts of people.
In Nigeria, no one doubts sport’s effectiveness as a unifying factor. Anytime any of the Nigerian national football teams is playing, no one cares about the ethnicity or religion of the players. All that matters to every Nigerian is that the country’s reputation or prestige is at stake and every citizen sees salvaging it as a primary duty. Even when individual Nigerian players are playing in the English premier, many of their countrymen and women automatically support their clubs. There are millions of Nigerians who are today diehard Arsenal fans simply because Nwankwo Kanu, the beloved former Super Eagles captain, was its star player years ago.
The 12th Biennial Police Games held at the NYSC Camp in Mbaukwu/Umuawulu, at Rojenny Stadium and Holiday Resort in Oba, at Alex Ekwueme Square in Awka, Otuocha Stadium in Anambra East Local Government Area, and at Tansi College, Awkuzu, Oyi Local Government Area, have now caused the state to have some key facilities. They include an Olympic-size swimming pool as well as netball and basketball courts of international standard. These new facilities will remain in the state. They are reminiscent of how the hosting of the month-long 2nd African Festival of Arts and Culture in Nigeria in 1977 led the Nigerian government to build Durbar Hotel in Kaduna and Festac Hotel in Lagos and, more importantly, Festac Town in Lagos. These facilities have been of tremendous benefit to the Nigerian people long after Festac was held.
As expected, all major hotels in the state enjoyed 100 per cent occupancy during the 12th Biennial Police Games in Anambra State. Economists estimate that some N1.5 billion was injected into the economy during the event, considering that well over 5,000 people with considerable purchasing power were in the state for one week. Anambra State deserves commendation for appreciating the intrinsic role of sports in the modern world. The state government seized by both hands the opportunity provided by the 12th Biennial Police Games to market the state.
The closing ceremony saw electrifying performances by such maestros from the state as Slow Dog, Mr. Real, Harrysong and, of course, Flavour. Food vendors, children, sports enthusiasts, policemen and women, Governor Obiano and his elegant wife, among others, danced out their hearts. The fireworks were the biggest the police games have ever witnessed anywhere. There are unconfirmed reports that police chiefs have already begun to lobby for the 13th Biennial Police Games to be held in the state.
Truly, Anambra State has, once again, lived up to its status as the Light of the Nation.
•Adinuba is Commissioner for Information & Public Enlightenment, Anambra State