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New sports federation boards must hit the ground running

After accusations and counter-accusations, manipulations and other underhand dealings typical of Nigerian politicians, elections into boards of most of the sports federations were held on…

After accusations and counter-accusations, manipulations and other underhand dealings typical of Nigerian politicians, elections into boards of most of the sports federations were held on Thursday, September 30 and elected leaders inaugurated by the Minister of Sports, Sunday Dare, on Friday, October 8 in Abuja.

 While almost all the federations managed to have ‘free and fair’ elections by the Nigerian standard, the crisis in the Nigerian Basketball Federation (NBBF), which started in 2017, reared its ugly head and aborted the federation’s 2021 election.

 The immediate past president of the federation, Musa Kida, an engineer, and his predecessor, Malam Tijani Umar, are locked in a fierce battle for the leadership of the Board of the NBBF. While Kida is eying a second term, his opponent, Umar, under the aegis of the Nigerian Basketball Vanguard, wants to stage a comeback.

 For now, zonal representatives into the NBBF have emerged, but the election that would produce the president and his vice have been put on hold, pending the resolution of issues that bother on the 2019 constitution of the federation.

 But away from the deadlock in the NBBF, it is now an open secret that most of the past presidents who were made chairmen of the caretaker committees set up by the sports minister to oversee the affairs of the federations pending fresh elections were re-elected as presidents of their respective federations.

 This didn’t come to many as a surprise because, in Nigerian politics, it is usually difficult to upset incumbents. As a matter of fact, in the history of Nigerian presidential elections, former President Goodluck Jonathan is the first and only incumbent that was dislodged by an opponent.

 It will be recalled that prior to the sports federations elections, there was a deafening clamour by stakeholders for the caretaker committees to be dissolved for a level playing field to be set, but such passionate calls fell on deaf ears as the chairmen remained in charge till the time the elections were held on Thursday, September 30. 

Inevitably, questions bothering on fairness for all contestants surfaced as many stakeholders felt that the re-elected presidents who stayed on as caretaker chairmen had undue advantage over their opponents.

 While re-elected presidents like Daniel Igali of the Wrestling Federation and his lawn tennis counterpart, Dayo Akindoju, an engineer, may be seen as being truly worthy of their recent victories, the same can’t be said of their colleagues in other federations.

 For instance, one of Team Nigeria’s two medals at the 2020 Tokyo Olympics came in wrestling, where Blessing Oborodudu won a silver medal in the women’s wrestling 68kg event. And going by the beehive of activities at the Lawn Tennis Centre in Abuja, one can say that in no distant future, Nigeria may produce a Grand Slam player.

 Apart from these two, other re-elected presidents must have tried in their own ways to reinvigorate their nearly moribund federations, but it is possible their efforts didn’t yield the desired dividends, maybe because they over-depended on the government for funding.

This inevitably brings us to the biggest challenge before the new boards of the sports federations.

 After the mad rush for the exalted positions, how are they going to make the sports federations self reliant? In other climes, governments only provide the enabling environments for sports to thrive. The sport sector is run by individuals and corporate organisations with profit making as the overriding motivation.

 Unfortunately, here in Nigeria, the government at both state and federal levels is deeply involved in sports funding. The sports federations keep running cap-in-hand to the Federal Ministry of Sports for money to prosecute their programmes.

This overdependence on the government has contributed significantly to the underdevelopment of sports in Nigeria.

It is said that he who pays the piper dictates the tune. Since almost all the sports federations are nearly funded 100 per cent by the government, the presidents become subservient to the supervising ministers of sports. Sadly, most of these ministers are political appointees who are not knowledgeable in sports administration.

Against this background, it is pertinent to call on the newly elected boards of the sports federations to do aggressive marketing and publicity of their respective sports to attract private sponsorships. They must take their eyes off government money. 

 In addition, if they show more transparency in the management of available funds, sports friendly corporate organisations would be encouraged to come on board for the overall interest of the sector.

It is also imperative to advise the board members to work harmoniously. Experiences have shown that presidents of sports federations most times sideline their colleagues in all financial transactions. Sports federations are susceptible to corrupt practices.

To sign out, I want to reiterate that after ‘doing everything humanly possible’ to be elected, the presidents and their lieutenants shouldn’t fold their hands to wait for manna to fall from heaven for them to deliver on their given mandates.   

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