THE EXPLOITS OF NIGERIAN ATHLETES IN INTERNATIONAL SPORTING COMPETITIONS
By Lekan Sowande
The year 2022 will go down in Nigeria’s sports history as one of the finest in terms of winning medals in world championships. The recent exploits of Nigeria at the World Athletics Championships in Eugene, Oregon, United States and the Commonwealth Games in Birmingham, England, proved to be the crowning glory for the country.
US-based Tobi Amusan won gold in the 100 metres hurdles event in 12.1-2 seconds, at the World Athletics Championships in the US, creating a new world record in the process. Her compatriot, Ese Brume, also leapt 7.2meters in the long jump during the Championships, to win silver in an unforgettable night for Nigerians at home and around the world.
Both Amusan and Brume also won gold medals again in their respective events at the Birmingham 2022 Commonwealth Games. This fiesta turned out to be Nigeria’s best performance ever in the quadrennial event, with the country winning 12 gold, 9 silver and 14 bronze, totaling 35 medals. This represented the highest for the country’s contingent at a single Commonwealth Games outing, in addition to finishing as the best ranked African country on the medals table.
All these couldn’t have been possible without the financial support from the government, corporate bodies and some individuals.
Despite these successes some analysts still view the sector with mixed feelings. They believe that with the country’s abundant human and material resources, more Amusan’s and Brume’s will be discovered if more funds are injected into sports,
For years, lack of funds had posed a serious threat to the progress of the sector. For example, the country had in the past witnessed withdrawal from major events, threats by athletes to boycott major events due to lack of funds and protests by players and coaches over unpaid allowances, amongst many other challenges.
In 2021, the Nigerian Ministry of Youth and Sports Development came up with a new strategy for the general development of sports in the country. It involved establishing relationships with individuals and the private sector. The Ministry opened up the sponsorship of individual athletes or teams through the “Adopt an Athlete” policy.
This gesture has enabled the private sector to partner with government to exploit the commercial potential and benefits of the sports sector. As a result, the private sector has begun to invest heavily in sports by building or renovating sports facilities, sponsoring sporting events, providing monetary rewards and scholarships, as well as, sponsoring free international travel for deserving athletes.
The adoption of Public Private Partnership is to allow government concentrate on the provision and maintenance of sports infrastructure and also improve athletes’ welfare.
It was this partnership that paved the way for the renovation of Moshood Abiola National Stadium, Abuja, National Stadium, Surulere, Lagos, Liberty Stadium, Ibadan, Oyo State and Daura Township Stadium, in Katsina State. These were taken up by some notable philanthropists and business moguls, such as Aliko Dangote and Keshinton Adebutu.
Some athletes, as well as, national teams have also greatly benefitted from the adopt-an-athlete policy of the present government under which money was raised by wealthy individuals and corporate bodies for teams and athletes alike to compete in international championships.
Public Private Partnership in Nigerian Sports is without doubt the way forward if indeed the sector is to be developed to conform to what it is obtainable worldwide. Government therefore needs to boost private investment confidence by creating an enabling environment for them to operate and fully participate in the business aspect of sports.
Corporate organizations desiring to be a part in this strategy through sponsorships of any sort must do so through the Corporate Social Responsibility approach. In return they should be allowed to enjoy the benefits and incentives that come with it, like tax breaks, rebates and government patronage amongst many other incentives.
To build on the successes recorded in 2022, the forth coming National Sports Festival to be hosted by Delta State in the Niger Delta Region of Nigeria should be made to attract international athletes, not only of Nigerian decent, but also from neighbouring countries. This will serve as way of exposing the local athletes to international competition standards.
With increased investment in facilities, athlete’s welfare and the organization of more competitions, definitely more Tobi Amusans will be discovered and Nigeria’s flag will continue to be hoisted at all international events.