Take away the freebies from national sports teams’ overseas engagements, and you’ll witness a return to sanity in Nigerian sports administration, accountability in funding, fewer crises and a fair process in sports federation elections, and an emphasis on domestic sports growth.
That’s truly all there is to it.
The opportunity to profit from the luxury of international travels, estacode allowances, bonuses, and access to sponsorship cash, all of which are largely never adequately accounted for to anyone, drives the hunt for offices inside Nigerian sports associations/federations.
I’m starting to sound like a broken record, stating the same things over and over and rarely getting any attention. My commitment to sport, on the other hand, will never be compromised. My unbroken relationship with sports for almost four decades is priceless expertise and information that can’t be bought in a store. Considering how muddled today’s sports world has become, those experiences are certainly worth remembering.
In athletics, if we don’t know where we’re going, at least we know where we’ve come from. That is the wisdom to use in the current crisis in Nigerian basketball, a crisis that is symbolic of a broader problem in many other sports, strangulated by inexperience and facing insurmountable challenges.
Unfortunately, most of those who understand ‘where we’re coming from,’ having been active participants when a National Sports Policy document pioneered sports development in the country, are no longer in the sports ecosystem to provide the vital light and direction through the current gloomy clouds.
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The Sports Ministry, which is in charge of overseeing the country’s sports administration, has lost a number of experienced and qualified sports administrators due to retirements with no adequate successors. There is hardly anyone left in the system to properly guide the Ministry in putting Nigerian sports back on track after the systemic ‘derailment’ that occurred under the watchful eye of Amos Adamu, who rose to become the most powerful man in Nigerian sports administration history, but was not well-grounded in the original foundations laid and vision for Nigerian sports development.
He lingered in the system for too long, influencing and influencing the path in which athletics would pursue him. Because the deviations from the original itinerary were too far gone, most efforts to get the train back on track have been shortened since his departure. Shortcuts, confusing processes and systems, cheap money, weakening of government’s role and responsibilities, culminating in a new scramble for sports offices, and manipulative mechanisms for choosing sports associations had all been tasted by administrators across all sports.boards, the politics of sports, and the inevitable friction and conflict that will arise between the government, stakeholders, and sports organizations.
As a result, the situation worsened and remained indefinitely. The solution, on the other hand, is a low-hanging fruit, almost too simple to be true: the sports ministry must abandon its ‘fear’ of baseless international sanctions and take decisive control of its own responsibilities, providing competent oversight without fear or favor. It can’t hand over any of its key tasks and obligations to sports organizations who aren’t qualified in any way to handle them, no matter how bluff or posturing they put up.
The first step toward improvement is to return to the framework, which includes establishing a National Sports Commission with the appropriate leadership and mechanisms to guide Nigerian sports in the future. That is a need; otherwise, as we have seen from earlier and current experiences, the deterioration will continue inside a ministerial organization. It doesn’t work because the burden of government bureaucracy slows, if not halts, proper progress.
The current basketball problem serves as both a case study and a reminder of how not to attend competitions and how to treat athletes’ wellbeing. Because essential clearances from the Ministry of Finance are pending, funds intended for athletes are being held in the Central Bank of Nigeria. Such tales are the ‘enemy’ of sports development, which is typically characterized by dynamism and rapid problem-solving.
In the absence of a sports commission, the Ministry of Sports must fill the void by establishing ground rules for all of the organizations it oversees.
What’s missing is a sporting architecture in which everyone understands their obligations and roles.
The Ministry must set an example and not be led by sports federations bent on exploiting the ambiguous situation to govern and damage the country’s sports administration.
The government – municipal, state, and federal – is the most important stakeholder in Nigerian sports. That is how it would be for a developing country and economy until sport becomes a major economic contributor that can stand on its own and become what it is in the United States and other wealthy countries that we always use as a model.
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Once the international component to sports at the national team level is added to their list of obligations, no federation, including the Nigerian Football Federation, can stand alone without government.
National sports federations will survive on their own without adding international engagements to their mandate, will be fully independent from any interference, including from government, and will be able to carry out their major mandates of organizing their local members for national and international club competitions and programs.
The Nigerian sports architecture places grassroots sports development in the hands of local governments, schools, states, and the federal government through schools, sports councils, and the sports commission/ministry of sports, combining and institutionalizing the fundamental need for all children to learn and their fundamental right to play. Federations, which are private associations of clubs, are unable to assume this responsibility.
Government is also in charge of elite sports development and international relations. The National Sports Commission is a sports organization having experts in all elements of sports, as well as all of the key facilities, infrastructure, and government resources needed to foster national sports growth. For the time being, it is unable to transfer or relinquish this obligation.
The Afrobasketball Championship, which the Nigerian Women’s National Team is competing in, is an international event similar to the AFCON in football. The Ministry of Sports is primarily responsible for funding the team’s preparations, competitions, bonuses, and allowances. They must accomplish these goals in conjunction with the basketball federation, without relinquishing control. Should money be produced through sponsorships obtained through the federation’s efforts, it should either be properly accounted for to the ministry and used for the purpose for which it was obtained. It could also be done to relieve the financial strain on the government.
When it comes to money, there is far too much tension between the sports ministry and sports federations. That is what is at the foundation of Nigeria’s current embarrassing basketball dilemma.
Who is in charge of the Nigerian national teams in various competitions? The answer to this question holds the key to one of Nigeria’s most perplexing sporting issues.