SPORTS DEVELOPMENT IN NIGERIA IN THE LAST ONE YEAR

Anulika Menanya, Lagos

JOHANNESBURG, SOUTH AFRICA - FEBRUARY 10: Nigeria celebrate during the 2013 Orange African Cup of Nations Final match between Nigeria and Burkina Faso from the National Stadium on Februray 10, 2013 in Johannesburg, South Africa. (Photo by Lee Warren / Gallo Images/Getty Images)

In just over 12 months ago, President Muhammadu Buhari assumed duty as the 4th democratically elected president under the present democratic system. In his one year in office, there has been a lot to celebrate in different sectors of the economy. One year is such a short time to assess a leader that is expected to serve a four year term in the first instance.

Even though the administration was inaugurated on May 29, 2015, the cabinet was inaugurated about six months after by President Buhari. The twenty six ministers have since been literary firing from all cylinders.

For the Sports and Youth Development Ministry, Mr. Solomon Dalung was appointed as Minister. His appointment signaled the beginning of a new era in the Sports sector in Nigeria.

In line with the change mantra in which the present administration built its campaign on, expectations were high that every sector would witness drastic change that would immediately restore Nigeria’s lost glory in all facets of life. The case of sports was not any different as sports stakeholders also hoped for a quick fix for Nigeria’s lost glory in sports.

Interestingly, the Buhari administration took off at a time Nigeria was preparing for so many international competitions particularly the qualifying tournaments for the 2016 Olympic games coming up in Rio – de Janeiro, Brazil later in the year.

Team Nigeria qualified in different sports for the Olympic Games, key amongst was the Table Tennis team event for men. Other sports that Nigeria qualified for include men’s football, athletics, rowing, men’s basketball, canoeing, wrestling and boxing.

So far, over fifty-four Nigerian athletes have qualified for both the team and individual events for the 2016 Rio Olympics with other sports still engaged in the qualification contests.

This is an improvement when compared to the last edition of the Olympic Games in London in 2012 where Nigeria featured in just one team event, which is Basketball men’s event.

Also, Nigeria’s under- 17 boys football team, the Golden Eaglets led by Coach Emmanuel Amunike soared over all countries at the 2015 FIFA World Cup in Chile, winning the title for a record  fifth time.

On the continent, the country’s under twenty-three football team finished second at the 2015 All Africa Games in the Congo Brazzaville. The team however went on to win the CAF Under Twenry-Three Nations’ Cup in Senegal to qualify for, the 2016 Rio Olympics in Brazil.

Another worthy point to note is the fact that for the first time in over three years in club football, Enyimba Football Club of Aba, has advanced to the group stages of the Confederation of Africa Football Champions league.

Nigeria did not only perform well in football but also in other Sports under the present Administration such as Basketball, Athletics as well as many indoor sports.

In Basketball for example, Nigeria’s senior men’s team, known as D’Tigers won the Afro- Basketball Championship for the first time ever while their female counterparts, the D’Tigress came second in the female category of the African competition.

At the 2015 All Africa Games in Congo Brazzaville, Nigeria finished second on the medals’ table, behind Egypt with one hundred and forty-four medals comprising forty-seven gold, fifty-five silver and forty-two bronze. The nation also won the 2015 Africa Junior Athletics Championships in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, with twelve gold, eight silver and six bronze medals, to retain the title they won in 2013.

Following their impressive outing at the 2016 International Tennis Federation (ITF) Africa Junior Championship in Pretoria, South Africa, the ITF has listed Nigeria’s U14 Boys team for the World Team Cup African qualifiers. In board games, Nigeria won the 2015 World Scrabble Championship in Australia.

Apart from this, the last one year has also witnessed some disappointments in Sports where the country has failed to make her mark in certain areas of. For instance, the men’s national football team, the Super Eagles failed to qualify for the 2017 Africa Cup of Nations, for the second time in a row.

As if that was not enough, the National Women’s football team, the Super Falcons also failed to qualify for the 2016 Rio Olympics.

All these inadequacies, according to sports pundits are attributable to the various leadership crises bedeviling various federations and associations in Nigeria.

Regrettably also, the sports community and indeed Nigeria was thrown into mourning last week, when two of its best football coaches died within three days. The two former coaches of the Nigerian national team the Super Eagles, Amodu Shuaibu and Stephen Keshi at various times in their careers took Nigerian football to respectable heights.

It is important to note that Nigeria’s sports sector can build upon its successes if states and local governments in the country create conducive atmosphere for the development of the sector through infrastructural development.

The desired level of development will remain a mirage if sports administrators in the country continue to show lack of dedication and commitment to the development of the sector. They also need to come up with fresh policies that will help build on the successes attained in the past.

Government should put in place policies to encourage the organized private sector to play a pivotal role in the improvement of the sector, especially through corporate sponsorship of the various sports.

 

A.E