Presidential gaffe, 2018 soccer strokes


Ikenna Okonkwo

One bizarre stroke Nigerians got less than 48 hours to the end of 2017 was the shocking announcement of many Professionals, politicians and loyalists meant to either head or occupy board positions in various government agencies and parastatal under one ministry or the other.

At first, many saw it as a welcomed development, coming from President Muhammadu Buhari who has spent over two years in office before taking such drastic action. It didn’t take longer time when deep revelation concerning the appointees’ list began to unfold.

One of the content in the list which was dished out from the Presidency was the aspect that revealed some Persons have been delegated to take up leadership role at the country’s Apex football body, Nigeria Football Federation (NFF), a soccer body being supervised by the federal Ministry of Youth and Sports Development.

The supposed selection of about four board members with a caveat that they would have to meet and decide who among them becomes President of the federation sparked so much outrage within Nigeria’s football fraternity where the atmosphere radiates peace after barely one year of crisis occasioned by those who laid claim to its leadership.

Even with nine months to the end of the current NFF tenure, the powers that be around President Buhari have quickly forgotten it has not really taken time when the tussle between incumbent NFF Supremo, Amaju Pinnick and then factional leader, Chris Giwa was settled and the Nation’s soccer began to heave a sigh of relieve.

The calamitous moves which nearly incurred the wrath of World football governing, FIFA was somehow managed and resolved after series of overtures from even some of the President’s Men.

With the somewhat outbreak of another perplexity this term, many were of the view that no distraction or invasion whatsoever was needed especially at a period all hands should be on deck to ensure successful outing of Nigeria’s senior National team, Super Eagles when 2018 FIFA World Cup gets underway in Russia in June.

Before the Youth and Sports Minister, Solomon Dalung eventually intervened via a convincing and timely Press statement from his media aide, uncertainty grew by the minute, the psychological state of virtually every football Stakeholder who spoke to me and through any other platform blew beyond proportion.

Now that another predicament seems averted, attention needs to be channelled on how ongoing revival of football in a country with densely populated young Men and Women will be strengthened. Apparently, due to lack of cash to finance its programmes, the leadership of NFF contemplated scrapping some age-grade teams.

As it were, apart from the Super Eagles, the number of officials accompanying other teams has been cut down as the excruciating economic hard times bite harder. The budgetary allocation for the entire Nigeria’s sports has kept growing lean.

Instead of focusing on making appointments that will continuously raise eye brawl and in most cases cause unnecessary misgivings vis-a-vis allocating more funds to non-youth or sports-related segment, efforts should be tailored on how both public and private-based individuals would be engaged in taking Nigerian sports to Eldorado especially at a time population has continued to soar high. Let the interest of government grow in supporting human capital development.

Sadly, Sports summit, a programme lastly organised by Ministry of Youth and Sports Development which should be used as an avenue to draw the attention of corporate organisations and other well-meaning individuals from all walks of life was turned to a mere jamboree when it held barely two months ago in Abuja. Not even the media were largely carried along.

Sorry excuses of no-money have always hindered Nigeria’s athletes from being discovered or groomed, let alone sponsoring them to competitions within and outside the continent.

With this year’s Commonwealth games drawing, officials are still grappling with funds which are supposed to be used to give Athletes, a befitting training exposure. As at the time of putting this piece together, there are grumblings in the various camps where the country’s sportsperson are preparing for the second-most rated global sporting competition. Though Minister Dalung has come out to state that funds have been released, the impact is yet to be felt.

Perhaps, Dalung needs to be reminded that upon his assumption to office more about two year ago, he promised to make sure that in as much as winning medals at events are necessary, his uttermost desire is to leave Nigeria’s sports space from the usual competitive driven to developmental oriented sector. His desire then was anchored on the fact that raw talents that can hold their own anywhere, anytime like what was obtainable have gradually disappeared.

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