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Marathon: Kaduna people’ll run together – Commissioner

Professor KABIRU MATO, the Commissioner of Sports Development, said that the coming Kaduna International Marathon race will host a galore of local and elite athletes,…

Professor KABIRU MATO, the Commissioner of Sports Development, said that the coming Kaduna International Marathon race will host a galore of local and elite athletes, as close to 10,000 people will take part in the event. In the interview below, he explained that while some participants will jostle for prizes, others will hone their talents and several citizens will seize the opportunity to exercise, make friends, or just cheer up the runners.


At a recent press conference, Governor Nasir El-Rufai said about N300 million will be expended on the coming Kaduna International Marathon, which will hold in November. Why should the state spend such an amount just to gather people to run?

 Well, the marathon is a huge one, it is going to have all the features of a marathon race that you see happening across the globe. So, number one, it’s going to be an international event and what that means is that you have to involve international marathon runners who we technically call Elite Runners. You have to invite them, you have to provide for them and the prizing system obviously would have to reflect international best practices. So, in the first place, you can see that that’s one major cost item. Secondly, the process of preparation towards the conduct of this marathon race also involves a lot of technical issues. For instance, this is the first time we are doing it, there will be need for the provision of some basic marathon infrastructure that previously did not exist; a lot of them such as barriers that we normally create where we have potential intrusion on the part of anxious or what you can call overzealous spectators wishing to meet one star or the other. You also need to spend a lot of money in creating a niche for that particular competition.

You know marathon races are staged through a very protracted but enduring process. It has to be recorded within the International Athletics Federation calendar; it has to be reflected within the African Athletics calendar and the Nigerian Athletics calendar. So, by the time you agree on a date, it is on the map and every year you are expected to plan and the runners will be expected to be in Kaduna within that particular period, so that they can participate in the race. So, that’s another interesting aspect of it. So, like I said, it is a very capital intensive activity that requires a lot of money.

For instance, marathon race is not like sprint where you normally award prizes to those who come first, second and third. In fact, ours is even a half marathon for the first time; it’s a 21 Km race. You are expected that at least, at the end of the day, prizes should go to the first 10 and not just those who came first, second and third. Remember, we are running a race that is in two major categories; the first category is the race by Elite Athletes that have been invited from outside and other international marathon runners that are indicating their interest to participate in the Kaduna marathon race, that is one category. And of course, the prize money we are going to pay for that obviously will have to be denominated in international currency. So, it is in dollars. Let us assume that it is $10,000 each that the winners of both male and female category of the Elite Athletes will get as prize money; that obviously means you are spending $20,000 and that amount, as it is today, will be about N10 million. That is just for the first position in both male and female category. And then subsequently, the second positions will also be entitled to probably $7,000 each, third position may get $5,000 and then you scale it down like that. By the time you sum up the total amount that you are going to give as prize money, you will find that it is a huge amount of money. That explains one aspect of the spending. Secondly, the other category of participants has the national and local marathon runners and we are hopeful that we are going to have a lot of talents that we will discover as a result of it.

This morning (30th September, 2020), one young man came to procure the form and he is optimistic that he can run 42 kilometers not even 21 kilometers. It’s so exciting to see this kind of people coming. In that category of race also, we will also give prize money to the first to the 10th positions in both the male and female categories. So, what that means of course, is that, if you pay N3 million for instance to the one who becomes first; being that the race is in both male and the female categories, that means you will give out N6 million for those who will clinch the first positions. Specifically, there will be prizes down the line, up to the 10th positions in the two categories. So, you can see that bulk of this N300 million that we have budgeted for is indeed going to be prize money.

So, like I said, it is a very capital intensive activity and like the governor said during his press conference, he is considering putting some amount in the 2021 budget so that by the time we successfully conclude this, in 2021, the incentives will increase. Instead of probably $10,000 prize money for the athlete who will become first, it will be $15,000 or may be even $20,000.


 Is the N300 million coming from government coffers? Giving the competitive demands for infrastructure and services all over the state, why should government expend such an amount on the marathon race?

Not at all, it is not from our budget. In fact, we have no provision for it in the 2020 budget. The N300 million is actually coming from sponsors and partners. As I speak with you now, many of such sponsors have already started crediting the Kaduna Marathon Account and we are hopeful that before the takeoff of this activity, we are going to realize the money or possibly a little much more than that. If we are able to get above the N300 million, we would be able to effectively account for it and possibly set aside the balance which will become the seed money for the 2021 Kaduna marathon race. So, hundred percent of this N300 million is going to be sourced from title sponsors and other kind of sponsors.

For instance, Olam has shown its interest to be a title sponsor, GIA Transport has also shown its interest to be a title sponsor, UBA which is the official banker for the marathon race, has also shown its interest to be an official sponsor, African Mining Ore Company along Abuja road has indicated its desire to be a title sponsor and it has in fact paid a large sum of money of about N20 million just yesterday (29th September), Nigerian Maritime Authority and Safety Agency (NIMASA) has also indicated interest to be a title sponsor. So, the whole of the money is coming from sponsors and partners. In fact, not a dime is coming from official coffers, it is all coming from people who desire to sell their brands and people who desire to advertise their products and services and not just from Nigeria but across the globe since the race is an international race.


 What is the take home for Kaduna state in all of this, apart from making the people physically fit? What will be the value addition for the state for hosting the marathon race?

 There are multidimensional benefits. There is the economic dimension, there is the social dimension and there is even a political dimension. You know the news that is coming out of Kaduna in recent times has not been a pleasant one. It is story of one conflict or the other, it’s a story of abduction, kidnapping etc., sometimes unnecessarily over amplified. But be that as it may, the marathon race will present a new picture of Kaduna. For instance, people keep thinking, especially those who are outside, that life is brutish, life is so unbearable, that it is impossible for people to live any decent social life in Kaduna. The race will open up the horizon for people that are thinking like that, to show that their thinking process is faulty in the sense that, in fact, life and activities, despite these social menace that we have in the society, are still going on in Kaduna state. So, you can see that we are achieving a particular objective.

Secondly, there is integration factor. It is only in sports that people drop all their idiosyncrasies and differences. People get united for a common cause when it is sports. So, we intend that the marathon will be a community affair. Just before you came, the president of of Jamiyyar Matan Arewa came in to say that they are interested in being a party to it, that they will like to advertise it, they will like to stage a walk just a week before the marathon race, so that they can sensitize women throughout the state and especially certain sections of the state, where some activities are not seen as women’s activities, to know that this activity also involves them. There is nothing stopping a housewife coming out of her house wearing her clothes properly and participating; she can walk, she can run and so on and so forth. So, there is going to be this integration factor. By the time you assemble about 50,000 people for a common activity, people will make new friends, people will begin to know each other, you will open up new horizon of relationships; more so that we are asking the 23 local government areas to come in and purchase participation forms on behalf of aspiring runners in their respective local areas that cannot afford the N3,000 or N5,000 that is required to buy the form. We are also talking to members of the Kaduna State House of Assembly, we have spoken to members of the National Assembly from Kaduna State; we have spoken to our senators and members of the House of Representatives and they all indicated their interest to buy a lot of these forms and distribute it in their respective constituencies. By so doing, all those who have the potential to run or those who desire to participate in this community activity will be given a chance to do so.

Also, when you assemble 20,000, 40,000, 50,000 people, there will be a lot of economic activity. People who sell water, people who are running hotels, people who are in transportation business and so many other things, will benefit. So, the marathon will also help in boosting the economic activity of the state within that particular period. And then, importantly also, it is going to be a platform where a lot of these businesses will be able to project themselves to the rest of the world as enterprises that are engaged in one form of business or provision of service or the other. So, the marathon is not a single thing, it’s a lot of things put in one. I can assure that this is going to be the first time we are doing it and it’s the first time in the Northern part of this country and it is going to take its roots from what is going to come out on November 21st.


Some people are  suggesting that the athletes should  undergo medical tests before the race, in order to find out whether or not  they have some underlying ailments. They argue that in a bid to keep fit, some participants shouldn’t have health complications during the marathon. Is government thinking along that direction?

 Yes, we have thought about that but what we are doing is that, we have made provision right on the forms that athletes are expected to clear from their physicians, certifying that they are fit to run in the race. The alternative would have been to go for insurance but that will be very costly, at least this is the first time we are doing it. So, on every form, it is boldly provided that for you to participate in this activity, you have to be certified as fit, as not having any serious medical condition that could come with complications when you participate. So, that has been absolutely taken care of. It is not a free for all thing that anybody can just come and pick up form and go and run. But we hope that, maybe subsequently, by the time the event becomes institutionalized, we may look at the possibilities of involving insurance companies to be able to guaranty for would- be runners that might suffer from one medical issue or the other. But for now, the burden is on the person who intends to run, to make sure that he has sought for the necessary clearance from medical practitioners before he can participate.


How will social distancing be achieved in this kind of event?

Well, athletics is one of the events we call non-contact sports because it is not a combat sports like football, is not like boxing or stuffs like that. You can run on this lane and the other person can run on the other lane. Our concern obviously is more with those that will be the spectators and that is why when we are talking about the possibility of doing a concert at the end of the race, the Commissioner of Health raised a lot of concerns which are genuine. And you remember even during the press conference, the governor made it abundantly very clear that we will go ahead with the plan, hoping and trusting that between now and November, the protocols and the restrictions that we have on public gathering would have substantially been relaxed. If it becomes necessary that we postpone the event, the governor made it clear that we may postpone it. The Commissioner of Health is a very central actor in the planning committee and every step we take, she tries to guide us and provide the necessary professional advice that will go a long way in ensuring that the Covid-19 protocols are not breached and that the activity itself is not organized to the detriment of the wellbeing of the members of the society. So, we are very concerned about that and no stone will be left unturned, we will make sure that every item on the agenda is efficiently taken care of so that there will not be backlash as a result of one failure or the other in the planning and execution of this race.

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