Let me begin with fact that all Nigerians are aware of and that is, Sanni Abacha in his sick mind believed he did well in developing the country and its citizens. But every Nigerian in the absence of intimidation and death threat denounced every action by that rotten regime. True, the country did very well in sports then but yet we hated (and still) that dictator.
Before turning to the merits of the Sports Minister statements to Duro Ikhazuagbe of Thisday Newspaper of 3 December 2012 (Mr. Bolaji was a former editor of Thisday Newspaper) I need to deal with issue of constitutional importance, specifically, democratic principles.
The Sports Minister said and I quote, “When the Federal Government wanted to introduce the 6-3-3-4 system, were states education commissioners asked for inputs? When we were going to introduce the basic education, were the commissioners involved? If the Federal Government wants to take a decision on fertilisers, are states commissioners of agriculture called to decide what to do? Yes, we know that sports by nature gives room for everybody to act as experts but the point we are making is that the Federal Government has taken a decision that the festival be open for the good of the competition. However, were we will not be right is not to carry along the states in determining the rule of participation because the rules will affect them directly.”
Unfortunately, this Minister forgot that the country is in democracy and federal government cannot act alone without a legislation empowering it to do so. Looking at these statements, does this Minister believes he can control and have powers over any state Governor or National Assembly? If he does, he must be shown the door with immediate effect. This is dictatorship and his cited precedents were in fact military actions.
Demerits of Mr. Bolaji Abdullahi Assertions
1. “The aim of the festival since inception in 1973 is to discover talents and serve as a platform for unity of all Nigerians but right now it is serving that purpose in a limited way. This is so because most of those coming to the festival are either first timers or athletes who have not been able to break into the elite class.”
Not only is it nonsense to suggest that athletes selected by any state to represent that state are first timers but the statement though condescending and rude suggests that the Minister never competed in his life in any sport. The festival is apex of athletes competing based on prior training regimes and to represent a state meant that you were selected among many other athletes as that state flag-bearer. Many athletes in the elite category now, competed at the festival. This Minister simply believed he can act without any supervision of National Assembly. Surely, this Minister insulted most athletes.
2. “The National Sports Festival is our biggest competition in this country and so we cannot continue to keep it at the level of glorified inter-house sport competition.”
I will tell the Minister to say that to his adviser friends, discredited and banned former athletes he cited who had competed at earlier festivals that the festivals were inter-house sports. Quite frankly, I doubt if this Minister ever attended or competed in any inter-house sports before in his life. I did and I was also part of NSF 1977.
I will say this, it is more acceptable to ban the NSF altogether than inject more money for the sake of bringing foreign based professionals into it. I say that before on economic terms because a single foreign based-athlete will be funded in excess of N2.5Million which can train over 100 youths for better tomorrow. And the probability that the foreign based will not pan-out is higher than future performances of 100 youth athletes. Essentially the idea is to find a way of circumventing money laundry legislations.
3. “So I believe that if you open it to top class athletes like Ajoke Odumosu, Omolara (Omotosho), Blessing Okagbare, (Obinna) Metu and all our top athletes and others from around the world, these are the top athletes that will attract advertiser into the competition. Television will cover it and ultimately bring the competition to the living rooms of Nigerians like the Olympic. When this happens, Nigerians would want to troop to the venues to see these stars. Everyone will know that something big is going on in Nigeria. So, I think if you want to create an opportunity for us to discover good talents and also make it glamorous, we have no choice but to open it up… One of the benefits of opening up the game now is that the festival will now have more commercial value for advertisers to want to put their money on it”
Mr. Minister just doesn’t have any fact to suggest anything in this bogus belief. Firstly, we have annual National Championships that the NSC paid the Athletics Federation (AFN) in excess of N200Million over 3years where AFN also collected over N250Million from Cross Rivers State and private companies.
These monies were used to bring those cited by the Minister to compete annually and let me be clear, NO SPECTATOR OR EVEN THE SPORTS MINISTER SHOWED UP AND EVEN ATHLETES THEMSELVES NEVER SHOWED UNLESS THEY ARE COMPETING ON THAT GIVEN DAY. So to suggest that the NSF will draw crowd is nothing but a hollow ambition to waste money.
Yes, some marketers made foolish statements to support this crazy idea. Again, the Sports Minister royally ‘miss road’ (credit to Fela).
Secondly, we have Grand prix competitions where no spectator or Minister ever showed up and some of the invited athletes had to petition International Amateur Athletics Federation (IAAF) to force AFN to pay them three years after. This Minister lacked credibility or knowledge of anything about sports.
4. “The Under-17 National competition you are planning to start to serve as a platform for talent discovering, have you consider how the states are going to react to that since most of them (states) are opposed to throwing the festival open? …The national Under-17 competition that I have proposed is to serve as a lower tier games to serve the purpose of talent discovering. It is strictly a developmental competition aimed at discovering talents. An open National Sports Festival without a junior competition like the national under-17 will be counter-productive.”
If all states are opposed and this Minister want to force the agenda on them then he is a dictator. (Full-stop)
5. “But good as your proposal is, honourable minister, do you really think this will fly at the larger National Council of Sports forum since most of the states opposed to throwing the festival open are going to be in majority? First, I want you to remember that the National Sports Commission, (NSC) is the custodian of the Federal Government’s position on sport in the country. The NSC owns the proprietary rights of the national sports festival. So, we as the custodians of the festival decided that for the festival to serve better purpose of its creation, it has to be an open festival.”
The Minister is dead wrong here and his knowledge of law is pretty much primitive. The custodian does not own rather holding on ‘behalf of’ and the federal government only act under supervision of the National Assembly. Mr. Minister, Nigerians own the NSF not you or your cronies.
6. “Who says we cannot bring on board past athletes like the Falilat Ogunkoya, Mary Onyali-Omagbemi, Olapade Adeniken, The Ezinwa brothers, Davidson and Osmond, Funke Oshonaike, Bose Kaffo and several of our ex athletes to come and compete in the masters category as a way of creating excitement? Younger generation athletes who have heard of them but did not have the opportunity of seeing them in action will feel motivated and inspired. These are some of the dynamics an open festival will create for the competition.”
IAAF says Mary Onyali and Chioma Ajunwa cannot compete again. Mr. Minister simply forgot that those he cited are either banned from athletics for dope violations by IAAF or are simply too obese to compete or they have called it ‘a day’ years ago. This Minister simply lacked any knowledge of the reality and practicality of his view. These same people along with the destroyer of AFN named Solomon Ogba were paraded in London and in fact made no dent rather enhanced destruction of our team chances.
This Minister is yet to speak well, as such he must be pushed out of Sports Ministry for dictatorial tendency. Opening the festival is aimed at athletics where that federation shamed the country at the London Olympics. Those in charge of that federation are advisers of Delta governor who continues to control this Minister.
I will stop here and expects the Minister and his cronies to voice their views which are fundamental right the Minister doesn’t think Nigerians has.
Dr. Rashid A. balogun, CPA, LLB(Hons.), LLM(London)
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