A former Chairman of the House of Representatives Committee on Sports, Hon. Godfrey Ali Gaiya, has advised the new Minister of Sports, Senator John Owan Enoh, to be cautious, courageous and confident to succeed in his assignment. In this interview with Trust Sports, the former lawmaker from Kaduna State spoke on his expectations from Enoh, the challenges before him and the need for the NPFL board to kick-start the 2024 season without further delay.
We have a new Minister of Sports. What are your expectations?
The new Minister of Sports, Senator John Owan Enoh, happens to be a colleague. We served together in the House of Representatives before he was elected as a Senator. So, he is someone I know very well. He is a man full of energy. He has capacity and is very competent. He is always eager and very passionate about any assignment that is given to him. Therefore, I have no doubt that even with this new assignment given to him as the Minister of Sports Development, he will take it as he often does to every assignment. He will deploy the seriousness and commitment that his portfolio requires.
You certainly want him to succeed. What is your advice to him?
The Ministry of Sports is a very expansive one and very delicate so he needs to tread with some level of caution, courage, confidence and a level of understanding of the sector. If he listens to good advice from genuine stakeholders, I believe he will be able to stablise the sector to make sure that Nigerian sports grow and develop. I am sure he will improve on existing facilities and also build new ones for sports development. He is a very honest and transparent person so he will meet the expectations of stakeholders in the sector.
In concrete terms, what are the issues you want the Minister to address immediately?
First and foremost, he should remould and reorganise the sector. He must have a policy thrust that will spell out clearly what he wants to achieve. It is not just about competitions but how we can mould sports into a system that can galavise Nigerians to use it as a vital part of economic engineering that will turn Nigeria around. He must quickly see this as a policy thrust for the way forward. He should make sports in Nigeria an industry that can generate so much money for the country. World over sports is a money spinner.
As usual, the Minister’s appointment was greeted with skepticism because he is an ‘outsider’. How is he going to win such critics over?
This time we have got a very passionate man who takes his assignment with every sense of responsibility. I am sure he is going to apply the same love, passion and dedication to ensure that sports turns around. I am talking about someone that I know. In fact, I like the way he started with interactive sessions. The good thing is that when you are appointed as a minister, you have technocrats working with you. You also have access to every information that you need to excel. And if you look at the Ministers, it is not all that have been assigned based on their professional backgrounds. Ministerial appointments are political. The President knows why he has assigned them to such positions. The onus is now on those who have been appointed to prove that their appointment was not by error or coincidence. So, there is nothing that should stop an ‘outsider’ from performing. I was once a Chairman of the House of Representatives Committee on Sports. If you ask someone before I was appointed, he won’t tell you I was a sports guru. So, at the level of a Minister, professionalism is secondary. You work with technocrats and if you are able to harmonise their work, you will succeed. Good enough, when I went to congratulate the minister on his appointment, he said ‘I will work with those of you who have been there.’ Once he opens his eyes and ears to wise counsel, he shouldn’t have any problem winning the confidence of all the stakeholders and delivering on his mandate.
What is your take on his recent meeting with all the directors of sports in Nigeria?
It’s one of the best things he has done since his assumption of office. His meeting with the directors of sports is a good start because it availed him the opportunity to rub minds with the custodians of sports across the country. He must have seen a broad picture of our potential and how we can excel in sports. By this, no one is going to accuse him of over concentration on football. Of course, football is the king of sports in Nigeria. Every country has their number one sport and football happens to be the one in Nigeria. If you ask 10 Nigerians what their favourite sport is, I am sure six out of 10 will say it is football. So, nobody will be wrong to give special attention to football but that does not mean neglecting the other sports. If you go to the Olympic and win gold in any other sport, Nigerians will celebrate because that gold is equivalent to any gold in football. Football is only one gold even as it is a team sport. So, the Minister is aware of that and he has started well by calling for the meeting with directors of sports.
It appears the NFF has made a U-turn on Coach Randy Waldrum. Are you in support of a new contract for the Super Falcons coach?
The issue is very simple. The NFF has a very competent Technical Committee and the matter has been referred to it by. Anything I say now will be like putting the cart before the horse. Therefore, we have to wait for their recommendation. I am sure, if they want our input, they will approach the relevant stakeholders.
Are you in any way surprised that the NPFL board is struggling to kick-off the 2023/2024 season?
I am really surprised by what is happening. When league kick-off date is sacrosanct, it gives stability and credibility to such the league. Elsewhere, the time table is well known and always adhered to. But when the commencement is doubtful, it tampers with the preparations of the clubs. It is unfortunate that this is become a recurring decimal in Nigeria. However, I want to call on the board to put its acts together for the league to start. I have confidence in Hon. Gbenga Elegbeleye. He was my deputy when I was the Chairman of the House Committee on Sports. I know his ability to perform. I am sure he and his board members will turn things around. He proved his capability when he was the Chairman of the IMC and I believe it was on the basis of that sound leadership that he was retained as Chairman of the new NPFL board. I don’t think he will do anything to cast doubts on his capacity to deliver on his assignment.