BY JOE APU
ON Tuesday the newly inaugurated Ministerial Sports On Tuesday the newly inaugurated Ministerial Sports Reform Committee by the Minister of Youth and Sports, Solomon Dalung began work with a three-day retreat in Lagos determined to talk to as many stakeholders and interest groups as possible.
The committee stated that sessions would be rotated between Abuja and Lagos to enable well-known ‘commentators’ in the academia and the public and private sectors who are outside these cities to make presentations.
Members of the committee which has Godwin Kienka as chairman are: Babatunde Fatai-Williams, vice president of the NOC and chairman of the Aquatic Federation, Segun Odegbami, Col. Sam Ahmedu (Rtd), FIBA Africa zone 3 President, Mary Onyali- Omagbemi, Prof. Florence Adeyanju, Bola Orodele and Olukayode Thomas. Others are Dr. Ademola Are, Waziri Laminu, Yusuf Datti, Despan Kwardem and Ayo Olubato. The committee has 90 days to submit.
No doubt, the members of the committee are men of repute in their different fields of endeavour. But the big question on the lips of stakeholders is what will become of their report and recommendations at the end of this assignment.
The poser here is not that the members are not capable of turning out an outstanding document that would forever change the face of Nigerian sports rather, the worry is that the documents and recommendations would be kept under the carpet like was the case with the Ogbemudia report and many others like it over the years.
While members of the committee had volunteered to do the job independent of government funding, stakeholders only now pray that the recommendations of this committee be made public.
In the words of Oliver Babatunde Johnson, an American veteran basketball coach with the Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria, the works of the ministerial committee on sports reforms in Nigeria maybe one in futility if government remains lackadaisical about its recommendations.
Coach Johnson expressed reservations given the fate of other such bodies in the past.
“I am convinced that the constitution of the members of the committee is made up of people of integrity and sound minds that can work for the development of sports in Nigeria.
“My only worry is that there have been several bodies set up in the past, but nothing has come out of the papers they submitted to government because most times, it is not favourable to government officials.
“This time around, it would be necessary for the committee to be given the powers to make public their recommendations so that it is not swept under the carpet like others. If its recommendations are in the public domain, then it would serve as a reminder to government that there’s job to be done.”
The American who is a staff of the Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria insisted that government should create the enabling environment for sports to thrive by sticking to her words.
“There have been talks about how much government wants the private sector to be a key stakeholder in Nigerian sports, but its only lip service they paid to it. I have noticed over the last 45 years that nothing comes out of these committees despite the time and energy the members put to work. After the 2012 Olympic, there was a sports retreat that was held by President Goodluck Jonathan, but till date our sports is still in limbo,” he noted.
A seasoned football administrator and lawyer, Richard Obienu was of the view that the sports minister was playing to the gallery with the set up of the committee.
Obviously angered by the trend that had befell such committees in years past, Obienu noted that if the government today is that of change, then, nothing should stop it from helping pass the recommendations to the National Assembly for passage. “Sports, all over the world are strictly business oriented. The moment government gets involved, the story changes. The English Premier League that Nigerians fall over themselves for is run like a business entity without the involvement of government.
“I recall that Dan Ngerem as president of the Athletics Federation of Nigeria tried it and we all saw how successful it was. Back in 1982, I got Golden Guinea brewery to give Udoji United N250, 000 for shirt endorsement. The club was run without government funds and it was one of the revered sides.
“Sports like I have always argued is a gold mine still waiting to be tapped. The hues and cries about unemployment can be taken care of by sports if it is run properly. Let those who know football business run football, those who know basketball business or swimming as the case may be should be given the go ahead to do so. Its hightime government handed off sports. There are many conglomerates in Nigeria that can help our sports grow independent of government. Our sporting federations should be given autonomy for us to move forward.”
He said that Nigeria as a country is blessed, but that poor leadership had ruined the system. “An example here is that Enyimba International is the only club that has won the CAF Champions League twice, but they are still going to government cap in hand for funds because of the system. There’s no reason for government to be sponsoring football teams in Nigeria.”
Former Secretary General of the Nigeria Football Association, Sanni Ahmed Toro in reacting to the ministerial committee of sports reforms recommended that the committee take a close look at the reports of the Vision 2010 and the presidential committees on sports to do a summary.
“I remember that there were two key committees that had been set up before now. The Vision 2020 and the Presidential committees were made up of experts, academicians, technocrats and ex-sports men and women. I suggest that aside what they will get from the public, they should also get the reports of those two committees in writing their final report. For there to be any meaningful use of their report and recommendations, it has to get the approval of the federal executive council and then sent to the National Assembly for ratification for it to become law. Anything short of this will just see their work lying waste like others before now,” the former commissioner in Bauchi State.