by Stanley Azuakola
The memories of Nigeria’s woeful performance at the 2012 Summer Olympics is still fresh in the minds of most Nigerians. Usually, what happens is that after the lamentations are over, everyone returns to the status quo.
However, Nigeria’s sports minister, Bolaji Abdullahi is trying to ensure that this time, things would be different. In line with that, the minister recently presented a strategy document before the Federal Executive Council (FEC) on the way forward for Nigeria Sports.
The minister listed tangible steps that must be taken immediately to ensure that Nigerian sports is repositioned in time for the four critical milestones between now and 2016, namely The African Cup of Nations in South Africa (2013), The Commonwealth Games in Glasgow (2014), The World Cup in Brazil (2014) and The Summer Olympics in Brazil (2016). He emphasised that all the events provided opportunities for measuring progress.
Read the full Strategy Document below (and tell us what you have to say).
After the Seoul Olympics in 1988 when we returned with no medal, public outrage also followed. The then Federal Government quickly set up a committee to review what happened. The report of that committee eventually informed the 1989 National Sports Policy.
In moving forward therefore, we must show a clear departure from the past by preferring actions to conversations. The key sporting milestones between now and 2016 are as follows:
- The African Cup of Nations: This comes up in South Africa in 2013. We have won it twice in 1980 and in 1994. We did not even qualify for the last edition in Gabon/Equatorial Guinea.
- The Commonwealth Games in Glasgow, 2014.
- The World Cup in Brazil, 2014.
- The Summer Olympics in Rio, Brazil 2016.
All these provide real opportunities for measuring the progress we are making.
Project Rio ’16 and Beyond
As we prepare for the national retreat on sports, we have come up with some preliminary ideas that should provide a strategic direction to the exercise and ensure that measurable activities are clearly defined.
- Appointment of a world class Olympics Performance Director
- Identifying 5 key sports based on the principle of competitive advantage. These 5 sports would receive the largest share of whatever funding is made available.
- Shopping for and recruiting world class coaches and elite athletes performance directors for each of the 5 identified sports
- Starting with the National Sports Festival in Lagos in November to kick-start a 5-point project cycle over a 4-year period. These include:
- Launching an aggressive diaspora talent discovery program
- Launching a dedicated funding ring-fenced over a 4-year period.
- Partnering with the English Institute of Sports to provide sports science services to Team Nigeria during the 4-year period.
- Launching a State-focused “Adopt-A-Sport” programme. A State like Bayelsa may be invited to adopt Wrestling and Canoeing; Edo state may adopt Boxing and Weightlifting; Lagos may adopt Throws, Jumps and Hurdles; Taraba and Adamawa may adopt Middle and Long Distance race; Delta may adopt Sprint and Shooting; Plateau may adopt Archery, while Rivers may adopt swimming and diving. The State will then develop facilities for these sports up to the schools level thereby creating a niche area in sports.
Governance and Institutional Issues
We intend to carry out immediately a review and restructuring of some institutions, which are vital to the objective of transforming the sports sector immediately and in the long run.
While we may not be able to directly determine who runs these Federations, we must immediately establish a framework of conditional grant aiding that is based strictly on compliance with the overall principles that would govern the transformation of the sports sector in the country as well as efficiency and performance.
National Institute for Sport (NIS)
The National Institute for Sport in Lagos was set up with the help of the German government in 1972 and established via Decree 31 of 1992. Its main objective at inception is the training of coaches and sports administrators in the country. No doubt, NIS may have served its purpose for that period. However, this is the time to reposition the institution to serve as a centre of excellence for the development of elite athletes in Nigeria. If we start today, NIS can spearhead Nigeria’s Olympic medal drive by 2020. However, for 2016, we must set out to procure the service of sports science wherever it has worked and wherever in the world we may find it.
Efforts have been made in recent time to resuscitate sport in schools. While this used to be a natural part of our education, the abrogation of boarding system in most secondary schools across the country has contributed largely to the collapse of school sport. We intend to strengthen collaboration with the Federal Ministry of Education to revive school sport as veritable platform for discovering talents. Specifically, we hope to jointly set up an annual calendar of sporting activities and a funding strategy to ensure that children in both primary and secondary schools across the country are actively engaged in sport.
The National Sports Commission (NSC)
The National Sports Commission is intended as a parastatal of the Federal Ministry of Sports with the Honourable Minister of Sports as the Chairman. However, up till now, there is no law providing for the establishment of the Commission in the country, even though the bill to this effect is before the National Assembly. If the NSC is properly established and streamlined by its enabling law, the Commission would not only be weaned from the current bureaucracy of the ministry, which has stifled the professionalization of sports in Nigeria.
Facilities and Equipment
Our desire to excel in sports performance now and in the future cannot be achieved if we do not pay attention to the development of facilities and equipment. As I speak, there is no single High Performance Centre in Nigeria. We have 6 national stadia across the country. Unfortunately, these stadia, especially Abuja and Lagos have themselves become veritable symbols of the state of our sport. Specific proposals on the two national stadia will be forwarded to Mr. President soon.
What do you think about the minister’s plan? You’ve got any suggestions? Let’s hear it in the comments box.