Below is an opinion piece written by Former Super Eagles skipper, Sunday Oliseh.
The general state of a country’s sports is measured by its performance at the Olympics. Why you may ask? Well, that’s the only event in the world where all sport competitions take place at the same time with a near level playing field.
Judging by the 2012 Olympics results and the current near-dead state of Nigeria’s darling sport, football, it is safe to say that Nigeria’s sport is at its lowest level ever since independence.
Nigeria’s last Olympic appearance was at the 2012 London Olympics, but the country left the global showpiece empty-handed.
1996 was Nigeria’s best sporting year as it came home from the Atlanta Olympics with two gold, (one of which was achieved in the the ever elusive soccer) one silver and three bronze medals, placing a relatively respectable 32nd in the world.
The Western world is currently celebrating Nigeria’s peaceful and we must underline, classy election of President Muhammadu Buhari as incoming President, thereby saving our name as a successful and exemplary democracy.
Now it’s Buhari’s turn to save our sports and, especially, football.
Nigeria’s best periods in sports strangely enough have always been under military leadership. I leave you to guess why. Can an ex-military president, now a civilian president elect tackle our sports’ decline in an effective matter?
If yes, how?
Below are five key points I believe President Buhari should focus on.
Wage an outright war on corruption in sports
Sport is a general image of a society. That corruption that is so deeply crippling Nigeria’s general well-being is also evident and present in our sports.
Currently, attention is focused on the sport where there is loads of unaccountable money (football) while other sports are neglected. This has to be tackled via better accountability and stiff sentences for inappropriate behaviour.
Scandalous cases like missing millions from the football association coffers and football matches involving two Nigerian promotion playoff games that ended 79-0 and 67-0 for example should not go unpunished.
Privatise football clubs and ban government ownership of sport infrastructure
A law banning state Ggvernments from not only owning football clubs, but also sports infrastructure should be put in place. Privatising football clubs to motivate profit orientation and thereby reduce state sponsorship that obviously is a catalyst to all kinds of irregularities will go a long way in growth stimulation.
This is a more than a necessary move to try to save the local league clubs and the National league that is responsible for nurturing future national stars and serving as a social tool for youths to grow.
Honour sports men and women who achieve
Nigeria’s sport heroes are often left to rot after making their country proud. President Buhari will motivate interest in national glory by ensuring better compensation of our sportstars when they represent Nigeria.
The golden generation of 1994 is yet to receive its promised houses by the Nigerian Government. Today, 21 years after the fact some have sadly passed away without receiving any thanks for putting Nigeria on the world map of respectable sport nations.
Don’t be deceived, the Western world compensate their sport heroes even to the tune of millions at times when they win wearing their national colours, so why not Nigerians?
Remove tribalism and politics from sports
It is no secret that in recent years sports and politics have taken center stage in our sports. This has resulted in incessant court cases that have ridiculed our sports. This has to be urgently tackled in an “African” way and not in a Western manner.
Acknowledge the role of sports, especially soccer
Nigerians are so fanatical about football, it is almost a religion. Success motivated in sports by any sitting President guarantees peaceful rule and a second term. If you are not Nigerian you might doubt this, but it is true.
President Buhari’s internal consciousness of this will go a long way in not only helping Nigeria’s sports but helping him too in the complicated leadership and governance of Nigeria.
Nigeria is at a crossroad. Outgoing president Goodluck Jonathan (God bless him) and the majority of Nigerians showed so much maturity, patriotism and world class civilisation in their conduct during and after the election, this can only be equated by a conscious effort to give to the people, rich or poor, what makes them happy: Success in Sports!
That is where President Muhammadu Buhari has a golden opportunity to come in and act. We pray for him and wish him well.
Long Live Nigeria!