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Why nigeria’s sports is stagnant

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Alhaji Shuiabu Gara Gombe is not only passionate about sports in Nigeria, but has very radical views on how to improve the standard. He shares his views on the poor state of facilities, sports policy, the World Cup and sundry issues in this incisive interview with our correspondent.

What is your view on why it is difficult for Nigeria to attain her full potential in sports?

First and foremost, inconsistency in policy, lack of sustainable funding arrangement that leads to poor planning. Thirdly, lack of sufficient interest and corruption. These are the four key factors, in my own view, as militating factors against Nigeria attaining her full potential in sports.

What is your impression of sports development under the Buhari administration?

When the APC was campaigning, they did talk about youth development. Under that youth development programme, sport is a factor of youth development and that is why, if you are campaigning, you must ensure you do what you say. But yet, we have little plan for youth development. From the president to the minister, they have really done well by providing employment to some unemployed youths in the country.  Unfortunately, they have forgotten that the employment they want to generate for the youths, sports is the answer. They didn’t see sports as a function of youth development, which is wrong. When they were allocating portfolios, they merged sports and youths development. But the capacity of the minister appointed to oversee youth development and sports together has a lot to do with the success of that mandate. In other words, the Minister of Sports must try to provide employment. If merging youth and sports and given to someone who has capacity then I can bet you, we will make progress. The money we are spending on youth empowerment today would have achieved more than what we have right now. Empowerment is just like ‘Sure P’. Any other programme that fails to empower them is nothing to be discussed. But if we channel our minds to sports development we will be developing our youths as everlasting asset.

So, it is unfortunate and I really feel bad for the youths under Buhari’s administration. What is happening in sports today is not really what we bargained for.

The minister came up with list of achievements under this administration. What is your view?

Let me tell you, the minister has done absolutely nothing. When the president came back from receiving treatment in London, ministers were made to state their achievements while he was away.  The only thing Dalung could tell the president was that Nigeria had been elected a member of the Confederation of African football (CAF).  Is that what he was supposed to be telling our president? Secondly, the success we recorded in Basketball, the Falcons’ victory in Cameroon, the success in boxing and so on and so forth were not product of Buhari’s administration, but Dalung claimed the credit.  As at the time we are achieving such landmark in our sports, they were barely two years in office and in sports, you can’t attain such huge achievement in two years, it is not possible. So, those achievements are product of three to four years’ development, which became reality when Dalung and Buhari came on stage. For anybody to tell me Dalung has succeeded, we have to wait for the next two years to see what this administration planted in 2017. He set up a committee but none of those things has become reality till date. This is the same person that told us that he had declared an emergency in sports. What is that emergency? He was saying he wanted to correct the wrongs without following due process.

He only succeeded in creating confusion and the outcome will manifest in the next two, three years because most of the sports federations are now in total confusion. Bad blood, poor state of finances, poor transition, we had the worst election in the history of sports federation in Nigeria. We have never seen it that bad and all these bring inefficiency, lack of capacity, corruption and other things, which are not encouraging. He refused to listen to the truth, or work with the right people that would give him the right advice.

How can we get out of the woods, where sports can attract key stakeholders in sponsorship and structural development?

Everywhere in the world, sports is owned and managed by the private sector. In Nigeria today, the private sector does not want to put money into sports. These are the same private sector that is putting money on SuperSports to sponsor EPL. We need transparency if we want to lure them. In the good old days, nobody collected a penny   without accounting for how it was spent. And it is in only Nigeria sports that people collect money because they see it as stolen money.  Only in Nigeria sports we have never had someone sent to jail. The only people that were taken to prison were those government wanted to do away with, but till date, their case has not been dispensed with. If they had taken only Sanni Lulu, they will say oh they have not touched Igbo man or a Yoruba man. If they had taken Bolaji Ojo Oba, they will say o, they didn’t take Igbo or Hausa man. If you take only Amanze, they will say the same thing. So, we chose those to punish. Galadima was pushed away because we did not qualify for the World Cup and Maigari was pushed away over alleged embezzlement.  I have not seen anyone sent to jail for corruption in Nigeria. We pay lip service to fighting corruption, but there are too many sacred cows.

What’s your view about the chances of the Eagles in the Russia 2018 World Cup?

To be honest the NFF has done very well in the manner the body handled the preparations. For the first time we have seen the NFF unveiling a comprehensive World Cup programme. If the programme is implemented to the letter, it would have a positive effect on the team’s performance in the competition.

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