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Nigeria’s democracy has neglected sports – Gara-Gombe

From May 29, 1999 when the democratic government took over the mantle of leadership in Nigeria, sports have not been having it rosy. Analysts say…

From May 29, 1999 when the democratic government took over the mantle of leadership in Nigeria, sports have not been having it rosy. Analysts say former President Obasanjo’s presidential handshake policy as a reward for athletes who did well in sports did a lot of damage to our sports, during which some of our good athletes like Gloria Alozie and Francis Obikwelu changed nationalities.

Toeing the same line, former Chairman of Gombe State Football Association, Ahmed Gara Gombe said civilian administration needs to do lot more in order to be able to equal or surpass the achievements of the military regimes, saying in the last ten years of democracy, under Obasanjo and Yar’adua, the fortune of sports has declined greatly.

  According to him “sports administrators like Col. Abdulmumini Aminu, late Emeka Omeruah and the rest did better to manage our sports than the current crop of administrators are doing. During Babangida regime, we had the Vice-Head of State, Augustus Aikhomu who loves sports dearly and did a lot to ensure that sport was taken to the next level in Nigeria.

“But during Obasanjo, we had Atiku Abubakar whose love for sport was suspect. Also, we had Obasanjo himself who preferred giving handshake to sports heroes to rewarding them monetarily or in kind. That unfortunate presidential handshake actually killed the morale of most of our sports men. That was why some of them refused to go to ASO villa when they were invited by the president; because they knew the man was only going to give them handshake, which they were not interested in.

“On the other hand the military succeeded because those who were at the helms of affairs in sports were passionately committed to developing it. They were not kleptomanias who preferred to enrich themselves at the detriment of our sports. Then, money was always released as at when due; but now, money is released at the eleventh hour, when there is little time for serious preparation.

“That is why in the last ten years, we have not been able to win anything tangible in the Olympics. Even in the Africa Nations cup, Nigeria is struggling, worst of all, we could not qualify for the last World cup and we are currently on our knees praying to God to allow us to be in South Africa come 2010. That is how bad things have gone in the last ten years.”