I am still in Independence Day mood. It is the first week into the start of the next chapter in the story of a country called Nigeria. Let us project and call it ‘Nigeria in 2080’, a peep into the future. What do I see?
I am looking again at my sector – the sports sector. An item confronts me. Permit me to wade gently towards it. Probably, at the end, I will make some sense of my niggling thought.
Experience is a great teacher. It cannot be bought in the market place. I realise I have plenty of it in Nigerian sports. It is only after gaining an experience that one can say with conviction that ‘I know’, and be taken seriously.
Last week, Nigerians from all walks of life, in all media, reviewed the performance of the country since she became Independent. It was meet and proper to take stock and to conduct an audit of how the country has fared in 60 years.
Unfortunately, the unofficial consensus is that the country has not done as well as she should and could have. Another consensus is that the country is presently drifting and listing in the turbulence of different internal crisis. What is clear is that there is poverty, hunger, insecurity, a weak economy, serious infrastructural underdevelopment and political hara-kiri across the land, and with no end in sight. No sector is immune from the gloomy atmosphere that pervades every nook and cranny. Considering the initial giant steps the country took at ‘birth’ to advance far ahead of some of its peers in virtually all fields, the scorecard after 60 years is not complimentary. Nigeria has failed!
The country’s biggest achievement may be that despite all the chaos and crisis that bedevils her, the country has not broken up. There are still the embers of the fire to keep it one and united.
I have been a witness to the 60 years of the country’s existence. Those years contain invaluable experiences that must shape the future. The first thing to do now is to depress the restart button of sports development immediately.
I shall go back to Nigeria’s foundation, back to the era when the country succeeded in sports development to take some useful background lessons, because the country cannot afford to walk old failed paths. It must hold a breath and take a cue from more successful models of development to chart a new course, determined never to go back to aspects of experiences that derailed the original vision.
There are isolated periods in Nigeria’s history that represented a time when we were on the right track to proper development. I shall drink lavishly from those periods. There are also several incidences and things that derailed the initial process of growth. I shall avoid those like a plague.
So, here I am, depressing the restart button.
There should be a new sports culture. Sports development should be re-anchored to schools. The schools have the population, well- trained sports teachers and very basic facilities to promote mass participation of all children in sports.
That means, a solid relationship must be built between sports and education. They must come under one roof for effectiveness, proper monitoring and management. Operating sports and education under two ministries did not work well in Nigeria. There was always a huge gap in the development process when the sports ministry’s programmes did not fit into the curriculum and agenda of the education ministry. Every effort to make them work harmoniously and seamlessly in producing athletes has not succeeded well.
What makes sense, therefore, is to borrow a leaf from the practice in Ghana that has been working well for the country – combine the ministries of Sports and Education and make them one ministry, a Ministry of Education and Sports.
This idea that this could be the answer to Nigeria’s grassroots development programme dawned on me when as Chairman of…