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Elegbeleye – New DG of the NSC – a ray of hope?

I have never been more depressed with the state of my country than I am at the present. These past couple of months I have…

I have never been more depressed with the state of my country than I am at the present. These past couple of months I have observed unprecedented developments in the Nigerian political landscape that continue to assume frightening dimensions.
As a youngster in the mid-1960s I experienced and witnessed the worst crisis in our history through the period of the pogrom and the civil war. I have since then believed and hoped that things would never deteriorate to that level again. A cursory look at unfolding developments all around now indicates that my thinking and hope were misplaced – the chances of a really long night beckon menacingly.
Politics affect everything in the country, and no sector is immune from their effect, as convoluted and complicated as they are. That’s why many of us believe that it is only when we get the politics of the country right that our sports will thrive to the extent of their potentials.
So, what have politics got to do with the price of fish?
Well, in the absence of the English Premiership and other European leagues that have ended, and with little else to occupy the mind, other national sports issues forcefully come to the fore. Some of them, without doubt, are the recent elections into various sports federations, the unstable state of the administration of football in the country, and the appointment of a new Director-General for the National Sports Commission, all political developments that are bound to impact of the immediate future of sports in the country. It is the last matter that interests me today.
But before then, let me rest the unfinished business of the two German clubs that will be settling their scores at Wembley this weekend. By the time you are reading this Bayern Munich FC that appear to be most people’s favourite to cart away European Club football’s most coveted trophy, may have done so. Or Borussia Dortmund FC, with hopes diminished by a spate of injuries to two of its best players, may have upturned the apple cart, defeated Bayern and created another page in football history by winning the trophy every time they get to the finals! The only time they got there in the past they won it!
Any way which way, it is German football, in the end, that is the ultimate winner!
So, back to my friend and new Director-General of the National Sports Commission, Honourable Gbenga Alegbeleye, former Vice-Chairman of the House of Representatives Committee on Sports.
Before his assignment in the National Assembly little was known about his credentials in sports. But in the 4 or so years that he served as de-facto head of the sports committee, so impactful was he that very few would now doubt his capacity to manage Nigerian Sports from any position including his present position. In all that time he has been very actively involved in the politics of Nigerian sports and knows the terrain as well as anyone else.
The office of the Director-General is the steering and clearing room of all sports in Nigeria including football! How effective the office eventually becomes would depend entirely on how he plays the political ‘game’and how well he uses the immense powers of his office to drive a clear, simple, practical and selfless agenda. As the chief accounting officer of the Commission, even his boss the Minister/Chairman, would lean on him for support in order to succeed.
Fortunately, or unfortunately, (depending on how one looks at it) the present state of Nigerian sport, is like the country itself – pitiable! Sport has never had it so bad (needless to get into any controversy by saying more). But this poor state provides a perfect opportunity to make a difference and to succeed with every progressive effort.
I have called him to congratulate him, and from his response I get the feeling that he appreciates the enormity of the challenge he faces, particularly the landmines that will clog his every decision and step. Coming after the daunting but seemingly fruitless effort of a well-grounded sports professional like Dr. Patrick Ekeji, Elegbeleye has his work cut out for him.
Nigerian sport is a microcosm of Nigeria. Every time you want to feel the pulse of the country look at the state of its sport. This is a country blessed bountifully by nature and the elements, yet wasting in the midst of all this plenty!
Let the truth be told, Nigeria has never been in a worse state than the present in every sphere of its life as a country. Just take a look around – the crumbling infrastructure, the insecurity, the level of poverty, the impoverishment of the youths, the decline of education, warped moral values, the hyper-charged uncertain political climate, the restiveness around the country, the disunity amongst the people, etc. Every Nigerian has now become a prisoner of some sort!
Sport, therefore, cannot be immune from the effect of the country’s state. So, without even looking at the details, sport has been suffering from the effect of the ailment that is ravaging the country.
That’s why, even as my friend ascends the seat vacated by another friend I can only wish him well in this new assignment. That he is coming from ‘outside’ the box, perhaps, still unaffected by the pervasive tendencies of the well-entrenched failed system, he will bring in fresh ideas, perspectives and a mind-set that will make some difference.
I like the aura around his person and his positive rhetoric since ascending the seat. It is an attitude that looks at every conceivable situation and chooses to see its potential for achievement rather than for failure. Such positivity views all things through the prism of ‘can-do’!It chooses to see past failure as a stepping stone to future success, previous losses as incentives for future victories, and disappointments as blessings in disguise!
I like that kind of kindred spirit. That’s why Elegbeleye’s appointment provides a window of hope even though we all know that genuine holistic change would require more than what he alone would bring to Nigerian sport.
Having said all that, this is a genuine prayer for him that the moments of his greatest challenges will become moments of his greatest triumph.

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