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If there is one area this administration is seriously struggling to impress, it is sports. No apologies….and please feel free to contest or debate this or even hurl your stones at me. Well, perhaps because sports was never among the cardinal points or focus or agenda of the Muhammadu Buhari government from inception. And it still amazes Nigerians how Mr. President has stucked to the Sports Minister like a leech on a smooth tender skin despite his numerous faults and continuous faltering. That’s an issue for another day.
I was in Abuja last weekend and to say the least, I was amazed that the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) was actually hosting the National Sports Festival (NSF) almost unnoticed or do we say quiet or betterstill almost anonymous. I did not visit Abuja for the sake of the NSF. I was in the city for another purpose entirely but I was attracted to the fact that there was nothing whatsoever to indicate that our National Sports Festival was on.
Photo: Daily Trust /Poor attendance at National Sports Festival 2018 opening ceremony
May be those at the corridors of power talking about Aso Villa forgot that the National Sports Festival is our own Olympic Games….and the fact that it is holding in the seat of power means that it should be adequately organized to international standard. Just recently, Cameroun lost the hosting right of the 2019 AFCON and many wondered why Nigeria was not in the forefront of countries scheming to host the apex football competition in the continent. Why and how can Nigeria make a bold bid or move in a short notice when her facilities are almost obsolete if not moribund….no thanks to poor maintenance culture. Morocco and South Africa boldly stepped forward with clean bill of health given to their stadia.
It is not surprising that what should be our Olympic Games is now a show of shame, talking about the National Sports Festival. If only those advising Mr. President tell him the truth, he would have realised that with the National Sports Festival, he would have smartly erased that very fatal comment on “Youths being lazy” which is still hunting his administration. If only Mr. President’s advisors are sound, they would have told him that it is very possible to use the National Sports Festival to galvanise support for him ahead of the 2019 election. They would have turned the National Sports Festival into a sort of carnival for youths who are paticipating to enjoy and take back the experience, memories and sweet tales back home to their respective states to drum support for him ahead of 2019. The National Sports Festival would have been a celebration of sports and youths for this administration especially when we consider that it is the biggest sports fiesta in the life of this government leading to an election year.
Photo: ThisDayLive/Solomon Dalung -Minister of Sports
I was in Abuja for a brief business visit but all I could hear in the airwaves talking about radio were the music shows of Davido and Wizkid coming up in the second week of December. Both shows like I learnt are already sold out. I did not hear of any story on the National Sports Festival from the several radio stations especially FM Stations in Abuja. I did not see any billboard announcing or displaying the National Sports Festival event. I was at two major newsstands in Area One, Garki, I didn’t see a single mention of the National Sports Festival on the cover of any of the major national dailies. The city and it’s dwellers don’t even know nor feel the presence of a National Sports Festival. That is how much this administration cherishes sports.
Sadly, I hear that the Minister of Sports, Barr. Solomon Dalung was not in support of Abuja hosting the Festival which affected it’s organisation and all that, but I really wonder why it should be so if the story is true. The National Sports Festival has a Local Organising Committee (LOC) I guess. It must have been planning for months or weeks before this festival commenced. So what happened to discussions with corporate or multi-national bodies from the private sector? What happened to seeking sponsorship deals with all the top companies in the Federal Capital Territory? Assuming the LOC couldn’t raise funds from the private sector and government, why didn’t they raise alarm and possibly drop the hosting right? Why decide to embrace this huge shame?
I dare ask, must we hold or host the National Sports Festival if and when we are not ready? Since an election year is fast approaching and that is the major excuse of most of the state governors for not wanting to host given the huge fund involved, why not postpone it?
It seems we enjoy disgracing ourselves. Some people take delight in messing up the system and country with the slightest of opportunities. This is not the National Sports Festival we used to know. This is shameful and very disgusting. I wonder how and why a state will send a contingent of 22 persons yet only 11 took part in the shambolic opening ceremony. Like someone said, may be we should stop calling it a National Sports Festival….and adopt a new name, National Inter-House Sports.