Ndanusa’s Vision For Sports In Nigeria: Can He Stop Corrupt, Mismanagement, And Broken Promises?
Engr. Sani Mohammed Ndanusa was recently named the new Minister of Youths, Sports and Social Development. As minister of sports, he will chair the National Sports Commission (NSC), the body that regulates the activities of the 33 sports federations in the country. Minister Ndanusa has pledged to reengineer the sports industry, a sector plagued with corruption, mismanagement, and gross neglect. This paper discusses Ndanusa’s vision for sports development within the context of the privatization of sports and national development.
The general perception is that sports in Nigeria are in a crisis, and therefore it must be rescued. Many sports journalists have called for a change at the top. They called for quick intervention. The intervention came in the form of a “messiah” or a “prophet”, who is a practicing engineer from Minna in Niger State. President Yar’dua has heeded the advice of sports journalists and sports loving Nigerians. The argument is that intervention is urgently needed if the nation wants to move forward.
For too long now, sports in Nigeria has been confronted with the need to adequately prepare young athletes to meet the rigor of training and the rigor of international competition. The complex and demanding sets of continental and international standards in sports demand that nations improve how they prepare young athletes to compete at a high level. Athletes of today are therefore expected to perform at highest level meeting high standards. For several years also Nigerian athletes have underperformed in continental and international competitions such as the African Games, African Nations Cup, World Cup, Davis Cup and the Olympics. Those who have excelled have done so individually with little or no government intervention or support. For these reasons, there is a new thinking in sports about how sports should be managed and governed. The people involved wanted to reform sports from the bottom up. They wanted to do something different. They argued that Nigerian model for developing young athletes has failed. The movement towards privatization is gaining momentum. Will privatization support or hinder sports development in Nigeria?
Sports development is a long and complex undertaking. Sports improvement is a continuous process. In Nigeria, the business of sports for a long time has been handled by federal and state governments. Sports, many continue to say, are human capital development. Because Nigeria is a pluralistic, multi-ethnic, multi-cultural, and religious nation, the benefit of sports are often overlooked. Politics of sports development then becomes highly complex, complicated, and politicized. Now that the nation has decided to embark on journey towards privatization, many people are not sure the nation will benefit in the long run. They argue that privatization has many top spins and back strokes. All spins and strokes must be regulated by government if we want to grow and develop sports in Nigeria. Privatization will have implications for sports and social development in Nigeria.
The recent pronouncements by Dr. Patrick Ekeji, the Director-General of the National Sports Commission (NSC) that the NSC is ready to auction out the 33 federations came as a surprise to many sports loving Nigeria. Many remain uncertain as to how the 33 federations, once privatized, will respond to the 13 Points Agenda for Sports Development (see my article on this issue on www.nigeriansinamerica.com) .
Minister Ndanusa’s vision for sports holds the balance. The minister plans to develop sports from the bottom up, from the grassroots level shifting the conversation from competition to “when” and “how” young Nigerians are prepared. This is a paradigm shift. His determination to “reengineer” sports becomes welcomed news. As many people have argued, sports whether it is recreational or professional has the potential to not only impact the youths and their social and psychological orientation, it impacts national and economic development. This argument is a strong one. But sports, like education, continue to be an addendum in the discourse about national unity and national development. It is often an afterthought. Does Ndanusa have the courage and the political will to mobilize the private and public sectors to work together in unity for sports development? Will Ndanusa command the respect as he changes direction?
The Ndanusa Factor
On December 22, 2008, Dr. Alhassan Bako Zako handed Minister Ndanusa a document that outlined roles and responsibility, expectations and concerns. The document offer several suggestions. Ndanusa knows too well that the first step in restructuring and redesigning of sports is to meet with all the sports stakeholders to determine the level of concerns and needs. He has 28 months to implement his strategic plan for sports development.
Minister Ndanusa plans to issue a roadmap. As an engineer, one is expected that the roadmap will chart a path that will take us from point A to point Z. He has pledged to “embrace all sports.” His 12 years at the helm of the Nigerian Tennis Federation offers some aasurance. This is the tennis federation that individuals such as Alhaji Raheed Adejumo, Dr. Bunmi Rotimi, Chuka Mmoh, and others have attempted to sustain. As commissioner of infrastructure and a trusted friend of Governor Babangida Aliyu of Nigeria, one should expect that Ndanusa’s character, commitment, and vision for sports will guide him through. Minister Ndanusa must dedicate himself to promoting transparency, fairness, and good judgment. The yearly federal allocation to sports must be used judiciously. Research and development must account for about 15% of the budget. Investment should be long term, say about 10 years or more. There must be intervention and prevention mechanism in place to check the abuses of individuals and corporations. There must attractive incentive package in place to reward administrators, coaches, and athletes.
Private Public Partnership
The Public Private Partnership (PPP) framework is an initiative of the federal government. Minister Ndanusa has also pledged to vigorously pursue the PPP framework. He wants to ensure that the sport sector does not rely completely on the government for financial support. The PPP will require that individuals and corporation share resources and collaborate with government in designing and planning projects that will have mutual benefits. The links between public and private must be established. This connection must result in high quality, high tech development grassroots programs. Resources to accomplish goals and objectives must be mutually shared. Partnership with all the 36 sports councils and with public and private educational institutions including the military institutions must be reestablished. Ndanusa has promised to reinvigorate school sports, involve the military and paramilitary, and to bring all stakeholders onboard. Ndanusa knows that past sports ministers have failed in their promises to athletes who have won laurels and medals at continental and international competitions.
Nigerian Tennis Foundation, USA
The Nigerian Tennis Foundation, a not-for-profit tennis organization in the United States supports the Ndanusa’s vision and the PPP framework. The young organization is dedicated to promoting and developing of the game of tennis in the United States communities. The organization wants to replicate its successes in Nigeria. The goals and objectives include the following: (1)To promote, develop, and grow the game of tennis in Nigeria and in the Diaspora, (2) To encourage mutual interaction and understanding between Nigerian Tennis Foundation and other tennis and educational agencies and associations in Nigerian and in the Diaspora, (3) To contribute to the socio-cultural, economic, educational, technological and scientific development of Nigeria through community service, grassroots empowerment programs and projects, (4) To gather and disseminate pertinent and beneficial information to members in order to support the promotion the game of tennis at the grassroots level. The organization is registered with the United States Tennis association (USTA). It will seek consultative status with the tennis federation and the sports ministry.
The transformation of tennis in Nigeria will require a collective efforts and a comprehensive strategic plan. Nigerian tennis players residing in America are willing to do their part. They have come to the realization that tennis has offered many of us the opportunity to grow and mature, and the opportunity explore different dimensions of living, while maintaining high moral standard of living. We have made a commitment to build tennis back up as a fraternity of sisters and brothers bonded in love. We believe our collective vision will sustain our mission to grow and develop tennis in all the 36 states through various grassroots educational programs.
Models of Tennis Development
There are several models of tennis developments. All the models have been successful at one time or another. There are: (1) American model, (2) European Model, (3) Latin and Central American Model, (4) Asian Model, (5) the Australian Model, and (6) the African Model. We believe that the African model has also failed Nigerian youths and a new framework and a new system must be established.
We offer the following recommendations to Minister Ndanusa:
1. Seek the wisdom and expertise of former and current players, coaches, and sports journalists, and sports administrators.
2. Seek input from the commissioners and director of sports in all the 36 states of the federation including chairpersons of the state and local sports associations.
3. Seek input from the business community
4. Seek common understanding, core-expectations, and commitment to quality service
5. Reestablish the need for research and development through the Institute for Sports.
6. Reexamine current policy on sports.
7. Establish high standards for all stakeholders.
8. Improve existing training facilities.
9. Develop an assessment and evaluative tool.
10. Seek commitment to continuous improvement through Sports Development Review Team (SDRT), an independent advisory body.