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#BabaNowThatYouAreThere – CHANGE our sports

April 06
20:00 2015

I belong to a generation of Nigerians who voted on June 12 1993 in an election that was to have ushered in MKO Abiola as president. Our votes did not count. However, this election of General Muhammadu Buhari as Nigeria’s next president I have claimed also on behalf of my generation.

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As the Presidential elections drew close a hashtag was introduced for General Muhammadu Buhari #babawhenyougetthere where many tweeted what they would like General Buhari to do for Nigeria when he wins the elections. After the results were announced another hashtag was introduced #BabaNowThatYouAreThere again outlining what an individual would like the retired General to do in office for Nigerians.

This is my longer version of #BabaNowThatYouAreThere. For the last 20 years or so the Ministry of Sports seems to always be an afterthought and given – thrown even – to someone as a matter of political expediency in the service of a political debt.

Dear Sir, please appoint a Minister of Sports that has a proven track record of having been involved in the administration of sports successfully at good levels before now. None of the past sports ministers need apply please!

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The rot in our sports is just as bad as it has been in almost every sector of our society and we have had men and women treat every area of our sports with disdain and only as means of enriching themselves while improving their social standing. It is enough.

Let that Minister of Sports be given the political backing to change the laws of ALL the National Sports Associations/Federations so that membership will be far more open and inclusive for all those who can contribute only to the development of our various sports. At the moment, membership of these are politically driven with state governors deciding who becomes a member. In short, they are closed shops for political acolytes and so members seem to not think they owe anything to the Nigerian people.

Take football for example, the law only recognises the football governing body as the Nigeria Football Association but they have managed somehow to turn themselves into the Nigeria Football Federation. Membership into this is one of the most convoluted and most mysterious as one’s mind can imagine. There are those who continue to be there as long as their state governors nominate them. Vast sums of money belonging to the Nigerian People are spent by this particular body with very little control or regulation by the Sports Minister.

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Two things that are interlinked with the same Football Body need to be addressed sir. For many years the National Stadium in Suru-Lere, Lagos has been laid waste and desolate. I have been fortunate enough to travel around the world and I have also read a lot but I have not found another country where a national edifice like the National Stadium has been allowed to waste. Please let it be treated with urgency that the stadium be rehabilitated.

All over the world countries have a football ground where there national sides play their matches and the national stadium served this purpose for Nigeria since 1972. Getting the National Stadium ready again will plug another hole in which unaccounted money is spent as states “host” our national teams. It is brazen banditry that the Federation has a budget for hosting matches YET a state government supposedly foots the bill for hosting the same matches. Has to be stopped.

Let the Sports Minister be charged with starting, establishing and monitoring existing grassroots events that will produce future champions and Olympic medallists for Nigeria. How the Minister carries it out he/she will determine but must deliver within 18 months. There is absolutely no reason why Nigeria should not be competing favourably with the rest of the world in as many sporting disciplines with the weather and population available to us.

As a young man growing up we were amongst the best in the continent in Boxing, Weightlifting, Track and Field, Table Tennis, Volleyball and Handball. Now no one knows for sure what the Federations of these sports do. Nobody knows for sure what part of the Sports budget – if there is any such thing – goes to each of them.

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Before I pause sir, let me round up by saying that the corruption that you have vowed to fight with your administration is also entrenched in our sports. It is so deep it is sickening. There is hardly any association that is immune from it. It will help if the Minister of Sports holds nationwide consultation with a lot of people; especially with those who have not been actively involved in sports administration in the last decade. The people who are currently inside and those who have been within the last decade will not want any change to take place. They have benefitted more than the country.

Like you sir, I am a firm believer in the greatness of Nigeria especially in our ability to dominate or at least compete on equal footing with other countries of the world. However, unless the corruption is stemmed we will not achieve our fullest potential. Many of us trust you and your administration to bring the #CHANGE into our sports too.

Sai Baba.

Calvin Emeka Onwuka

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@CalvinEmeka

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