‘Sports reform committee may be another jamboree’
“From all indications, it is clear that our sports is taking a 60 degree nosedive and heading to a big crash. The sad thing is that all these are happening in an Olympic year. It is sad.” That was the summary by former Nigerian jumper, hurdler and sprinter, coach Seigha Porbeni, while speaking with The Guardian during the week on the state of Nigerian sports, particularly the setting up of a Sports Reform Committee by Sports Minister, Solomon Dalung.
On Thursday, Porbeni, who is the coordinator of Nigerian track and field coaches overseeing both senior and junior athletes in Team Nigeria’s camp at the High Performance Center in Port Harcourt, said government attention for the Rio Olympics preparation was far from impressive.
He announced the withdrawal of his services from the camp, sighting among other things, low motivation for Nigerian coaches compared to what goes into the pocket of the two foreign athletics coaches (Eric Campbell and Angie Taylor) who are on the pay roll of the sports ministry.
Now, Porbeni has added his voice to the barrage of criticisms thrilling the setting up of a Sports Reform Committee by the Sports Minister.
“First, the Hon. Minister assumed office only for the National Sports Commission (NSC) to be re-structured to a Sports Ministry. He did not render any apology,” Porbeni told The Guardian.
He added: “Many states have already legally changed from sports councils to sports commission to fall in line with the national structure. This dissolution of the NSC led to the posting of a grassroots sports professional, the former Director General in the National Sports Commission, Al-Hassan Yakmut to the Ministry of Niger Delta. This is like taking a medical doctor to head a department in Water Resources or Ministry of Solid Mineral.”
In his active days as athlete, Porbeni competed in seven different sports. He was Nigeria’s first decathlete, who later trained as a coach. Porbeni introduced combined events into the nation’s athletics. He was a director of sports at the University of Ibadan before his appointment as Director of Sports in Delta Sports Council in 1991.
The Sports Reform Committee put in place by Dalung has Godwin Kienka as chairman with former Green Eagles skipper, Segun Odegbemi, Ayo Ojubato, Bola Oredele,
Fatai Williams, Retired Col. Sam Ahmedu, Yusuf Datti, Kayode Thomas and Mary Onyali, as members.
Dalung had tasked the committee to restructure and redesign sports from a service-oriented model to a private sector developmental one.
Some well meaning Nigerians have said that the Dalung’s Sports Reform Committee might just be one in futility, considering the fate of similar ones in the past.
For Porbeni, what the sports minister (Dalung) needs urgently is a ‘Think Tank’ to help him get back on the right track and not a Sports Reform Committee.
“With due respect to members of this committee, I think someone needs to tell the sports minister that there are enough literature about our sports already written and waiting to be implemented right there in Abuja. Even the last work by Adokie Amiesiemaka’s committee is there,” Porbeni said.
The ex-Nigerian hurdler is not also comfortable with some of the people picked by Dalung to reform Nigerian sports saying: “Of the three ex-sports personalities on that list, only Keinka would contribute beneficially. Odegbami would do better in that football resolution committee, which the minister just set up.
“To me, we need sports academicians like Prof. Ken Anugweje, who specializes in sports medicine, Prof. Ojeme, Prof. Seun Omotayo, Dr. Adam, Dr. Patrick Ekeji and Dr. Tijani Yusuf than some of these ‘political friends’ to work with the professionals.
“There is too much confusion in our sports with less than four months to the Rio Olympics. Australia is launching their wears, yet Nigeria has no athlete in camp. My appeal is that those people who want to destroy our sports should stop now,” Porbeni stated.
The Guardian recalls that veteran basketball coach, Oliver Babatunde Johnson had expressed his fears that the Sports Reform Committee maybe one in futility if government remained lackadaisical about its report and recommendations.
Coach Johnson, who administered basketball as the first secretary of the body in Nigeria, had said that though the committee is made up of some people of integrity and sound minds that can work for the development of sports in Nigeria, his major worry was the fate of similar bodies in the past.
“There have been several bodies set up in the past but nothing has come out of the papers they submitted to government because most times, it is not favourable to government officials. This time around, it would be necessary for the committee to be given the powers to make public their recommendations so that it is not swept under the carpet like others. If its recommendations are in the public domain, then it would serve as a reminder to government that there’s job to be done.”
The American, who is a staff of the Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria, advised government to create the enabling environment for sports to thrive by sticking to their words.
Also, former Green Eagles player, Adegoke Adelabu said that several committees had been set for Nigerian sports in the past and nothing has worked.
“This time, we need an holistic approach. What we are seeing as challenges are indications of our capacity for development. How we define the issues will determine what the committee will be looking for and what they will come out with.
“I have said that you have to understand the complexity of an issue before you can simplify it. Also we have to be clear about what to reform; because if we focus our attention on what we do not want, we will destroy what we have out of ignorance. We need a comprehensive research into various aspects of our sport in terms of: administration, sport philosophy and human resources management.
“These are the factors that can tame the political touts in our sport. We do not need to beg organisations to sponsor. They will come when we get it right. You can only reform something that has a form or shape. Let us form the shape and we will see who will fit in,” Adelabu stated.
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