Scrapping of the NSC – my frustration with Nigerian sports
I have just had a harrowing experience flying out of Abuja to Lagos. I had a seven-hour wait in the sweltering heat of the Diplomatic lounge at the Nnamdi Azikiwe International airport. The air-conditioners in the lounge were not functioning, yet it was filled to the brim with VIP’s – former and present governors, deputy governors, National and State assembly members, political leaders and jobbers, and a few ordinary folk like me parading old and overused national honours as ticket to ‘enjoy’ the luxury of sharing the same space, if only for a few minutes, with the high and powerful in our country, as we all tried to get out of Abuja on the last working day of the week before the Easter break.
It was sheer madness. It simply added to my feeling of Déjà vu. During my five days trip to the city, I had the time to think deeply about my relationship with Nigeria. I love my country from the depths and I have served her diligently and honestly most of my adult life in my sports sector. I am still committed to making further contributions in my own little way till the day I return to my creator.
I left Abuja with a foreboding spirit, of helplessness, hopelessness and frustration. No amount of positive thinking could lift my dampened spirit.
I had been to the National Stadium earlier that day and had seen the State of one of Nigeria’s authentic national edifices. It was like a beautiful flower wasting in the desert place, decaying, underutilised, slowly dilapidating, idle and unkempt.
I also saw what remains of the National Institute for Sports, NIS, buildings, another wasting asset that could have changed many lives and provided a platform of hope for millions of the country’s youths.
The stadium complex reminded me of the carcass at the National Stadium in Lagos, another eyesore that has, before our very eyes, become a national embarrassment and shame.
I recall reading that the National Sports Commission has been scrapped. Who scrapped it? Why? There have not been any protests, nor explanations to justify it, nothing but a deafening silence of acquiescence that proclaims that the deed is done and whoever thinks differently about it could go take a running jump into the river and perish!
I just felt so sorry for myself, for sport, and for all sport practitioners in Nigeria who look up it for all the opportunities that can make the people play an active role in using sport to shape their destiny and live a decent life in this competitive world.
The tragedy is that successive governments at State and national level do not see, appreciate and understand what sport can do and contribute in a nation of predominantly young persons.
So, ignorantly, they treat it with levity and make it the least and the last in their list of priorities needed to develop the people and their environment.
They do not see the bigger picture. That hurts badly. They do not see the link between sports and the massive decline in the standards of education, in the dwindling enrollment of children in schools, in the increasing number of out-of-school children, in the exploding number of unemployed youths, in the wild fire spread of prostitution, kidnappings, cultism and gangsterism, not to talk of the deeper and broader non-application of sports to drive health, urban planning, national infrastructural development, social inclusion, national orientation, entrepreneurship, tourism, and other purposes that are hidden from the pedestrian eye like diamonds in the crust of the land.
Millions of our young boys and girls are distracted by lack of direction in sport these days and they seek opportunities in other pursuits, some mundane, instead of wasting in limbo.
If sport were to be limited to the haul of medals and trophies, we might as well go to the big jewelry shops in Dubai and London and buy as much as we can to decorate the shelves of our leaders. There is more to it than those.
The last activity in sport is the competition itself, the contest between the participants. It is in the process, however, in the route to the contests, that we discover the bigger benefits and the real treasures.
Think of it… it is the process that takes up the time, the resources, the planning and grooming and training. It is also the process that rakes up most of the benefits as well. The beauty and satisfaction lie in the journey, how well the road is travelled, not in the final destination. But it takes one familiar with the terrain to understand this.
So, when we allow edifices like the National Stadium in Abuja, the National Stadium in Lagos, the sports facilities in all public schools in Nigeria decay, and watch governments downgrade sports through their misty programmes, we are indirectly squandering the opportunities that lie in sports for our teeming youths.
How can we just scrap the major technical and intellectual institution in our sport and return it to civil service bureaucracy, without any public interrogation of the matter? It is preposterous.
With the scrapping of the NSC the federal government has been misled. We were groping even with the NSC in place. Without it we are finished, period!
The NSC should have been reformed and put back on a proper foundation and set to deliver on its original mandate, which was lost in the unending turnover of its leadership.
My frustration is that it takes an informed and experienced leadership to steer a ship to safety in uncharted territory. And that those appointed to steer sports usually are not required to have or even present any sports credentials, or state their vision. With successive governments that cycle has not changed.
To achieve a different result, therefore, government needs to do things a little bit differently. Let me spell it clearly: sport can make useful contributions to health, to education, to urban planning, to rapid national infrastructural development, to youth empowerment, to school enrolment and retention, to fighting social ills in society and amongst the youth, to national orientation, to economic growth, to security, to international diplomacy, to job opportunities within the general entertainment industry of which hospitality and tourism are an integral part.
As things stand, I am frustrated with the prevailing situation. So, I am using this medium to volunteer to make free presentations and information to state governments, without whom sport cannot thrive, on how this simple instrument can be used to achieve monumental developments within the states.