Minister of Sports, Engr. Sani Ndanusa’s vision for sports development focuses on giving priority to grassroots development, the elite program, and schools sports. The purpose of this essay is to continue the conversation for the transformation of sports in Nigeria as part of the movement in the Diaspora to contribute to national growth and development.
In December 2008, the director-general of the National Sports Commission (NSC), Patrick Ekeji, an organ of the federal government, issued his own 13-Points Agenda for sports development. Shortly after Minister Ndanusa took office, he released a vision statement for sport development. He argues that the NSC is the sole body responsible for the final decision making in all matters relating to sports activities and development.
Let’s take closer examination of Ekeji’s macro-plans for sports development, which are aimed at achieving international prominence. First, Ekeji would like Nigeria to be:
• The best nation in sports in Africa by the year 2012,
• the Super Eagles, the flag bearer of the nation, to reach the semi-finals of the 2010 World Cup,
• the top African nation at the 2010 Commonwealth Games,
• the winner of the All Africa Games in 2011 in Zambia,
• win four gold medals at London Olympics in 2012, and
• winner of eight medals at the London Para-Olympics Games.
These performance objectives have serious implications for how athletes are trained and selected for international competitions. Moreover, Ekeji would also like to:
• develop 774 sports community centers nationwide by the year 2011,
• establish National Coaches Council by the third quarter of 2009,
• establish Talent Development Centers in the six geographical zones by the year 2011, (4) ensure appropriate level of accreditation of the National Institute of Sports (NIS), the research center, by the end of 2010, and
• equip the Sports Science Center by 2010. These objectives also have implications for budgetary allocations because funds must appropriated by the National Assembly.
Still, Ekeji would like to:
• renovate all federal government sports facilities and make them functional by 2010, and
• reposition the 33 national sports federations and make them effective, efficient, and functional by 2009.
Judge Adokiye Amiesimaka and Segun Odegbami, both national football stars quickly responded and have written to Minister Ndanusa to examine the ambitious plan and its implications for his vision for sports development. They have urged the Minister Ndanusa to:
• enact an Act of the National Assembly establishing the National Sports Commission
• change the name of the National Sports Commission (NSC) to “National Sports and Fitness Commission (NSFC)”,
• deliberately restructured the NSC to minimize bureaucracy and facilitate early release of funds,
• amend the National Institute for Sports Act to “National Institute for Sports Act” to expand the scope of function of the institute, and to include sports research, management and use of training centers in various parts of the country for the training of elite athletes,
• avoid bureaucratic bottlenecks and to be consistent with the structure at the Federal level, commissioners of sports at state level should also serve as chairman of sports commissions there,
• present zonal sports structure to strengthen the power and authority of commissioners of sports, education, and directors of sports in the zones,
• establish a well-equipped National Sports Medicine Centre, and sports research and psychology units to achieve the objectives of providing quality sports medicine care as well as establish National Anti-Doping Agency to coordinate all anti-doping strategies in cooperation with universities,
• maintain accurate database and information flow by setting up websites and other modern information technology facilities,
• have national federations, including the football governing body (NFA) be transparent and accountable to all including corporate and private bodies,
• allow federal government to encourage and facilitate membership of the executive committees of international sports bodies,
• take full advantage of existing sports bilateral agreements and vigorously pursue new ones,
• allow sports bodies to engage the services of professional marketing and consultancy outfits in pursuit of their sponsorship programs,
• provide performance benchmarks for staff of sports bodies with inbuilt constant review mechanism as well as incentives for the attainment of set targets,
• establish a befitting Sports Hall of Fame/Sports Museum in cooperation with the private sector and sports bodies to encourage patriotism and sports tourism,
• provide the NSC, sports federations and other bodies to develop flexible and consistent guidelines for incentives and awards to deserving athletes and officials,
• allow the sports commissions, Nigeria Olympic Committee/national sports federations, and other sports bodies to develop a comprehensive insurance cover to athletes and officials during officially sanctioned training and competitions,
• allow federal government to accord priority to the sports manufacturing industry under the SME/SMEADAN programs, using the sports tax rebate incentives, tariff concessions, and provision of infrastructure,
• encourage or mandate the NSC to regularly draw the attention of the private sector to sports tax rebate incentives to stimulate their interest in funding sports,
• encourage the hosting of and bidding for major international sports events by the private sector, public sector partnership (PPP),
• develop a code of ethic and professionalism, (22) should upgrade sports facilities and amenities in schools, while local governments should ensure provision of playgrounds and recreation centers for members of the community,
• ensure the use and proper maintenance of existing sports facilities under private and public sector partnership (PPP) and provide more of such facilities in areas where they are needed,
• utilize funds for compulsory sports programs in all primary and secondary school (and not a select few), and tertiary institutions. Funding (including sports levies) should be run as a separate account,
• establish an All-Nigeria Games for Nigerians irrespective of domicile to serve as a platform for credible selection of elite athletes to represent Nigeria, and
• publish the National Sports Policy that has already been articulated to educate the public on Nigeria’s direction in sports.
Most of the goals, objectives, activities, and outcomes would require both executive and legislative approval at the federal, state and local levels as well as support from the private sector support. The above macro-level sports discussion, as outlined by Ekeji and the suggestions and blueprints by Amiesimaka and Odegbami, which have been heightened by the current global financial crisis and which has monetary policy implications, are intended to draw some comparisons to discussion currently going in variously quarters in Nigeria.
Odegbami (2009) insists that the environment in Nigeria is a peculiar one. The ideal would be to have an almost total non-interference of government n sports matters except in the areas of grassroots development that is a statutory responsibility of Government.
Even then there are different levels of sports. There is the grassroots. This requires government legislation for enforcement of compulsory mass participation in schools, provision of infrastructure and facilities (community parks, playgrounds, public
fields and courts. to be provided by local and State governments).
There is collegiate sports where the institutions, private and government, should be individually responsible. When elite athletes are discovered and assisted to enroll in such colleges and institutions, State or the Federal Government (thru the NSC) and interested corporate organizations shall support them through grants, scholarships and academic concessions. Where such athletes are enrolled into universities abroad for the purpose of academics and sports training they shall be supported with government and corporate scholarships.
The culture of corporate sponsorship in this environment is still at an embryonic stage. It is not very well entrenched. Only one or two worthwhile sponsorship deals exist in the entirety of Nigerian sports at the moment and, unfortunately, both are in football! The sports marketing field is still immature and virgin. There is no proper enlightenment environment on the sports industry in the country.
At levels beyond the schools and universities, ideally these should function purely on corporate steam and funding. This is the level of the sports federations that should be constituted and run by stakeholders. Their programmes and projects must be such that attract corporate attention, interest and funding. They must provide advertising and marketing platforms for corporate organizations to leverage their services and products on in exchange for proper funding. Government should totally hands off this aspect of sports. There are different kinds of competitions of course each requiring a different treatment. Those run by the federations for their affiliated clubs should entirely be run and funded privately. This will ensure their independence and government’s non interference. This will stamp the autonomy in sports at that level. But there are competitions such as the Commonwealth Games, The All-Africa Games, the Olympics, and so on, where athletes represent their countries. These should receive adequate funding support from government in the area of training, camping, and competition. Unfortunately, this immediately interprets into Government intervention at one point or the other as government officials will tell you that he who pays the piper dictates the tune.
Finally, Minister Ndanusa and the federal government are now urgently needed in the sports reform movement, considering the present macroeconomic situation, but ideally their roles should be restricted to grassroots only with limited scope of activity, and until the economic climate improves and awareness about the sports industry as a whole is well created to run on its own tapping resources from a buoyant private sector, Odegbami lamented.