Hails Nigeria’s performance at Olympics
The Federal Government has been urged to allocate more funds to sports for youth development to stem the rising tide of restiveness in the country.
The call came from former Minister of Sports and Social development, Saidu Samaila Sambawa.
Speaking from his base in the United States of America, Sambawa praised the current helmsman in the sports ministry, Mr. Sunday Dare, for “achieving so much in just under two years” and advised the Federal Government to support the Youth and Sports Ministry in their grassroot development drive, expressing the belief that sports is the best tool to curb insecurity and social unrest in Nigeria.
He spoke against the backdrop of mixed reactions trailing the nation’s “poor” performance, winning only two medals (a Silver and Bronze).
Defending Mr. Dare, Sambawa is of the view that the minister has the vision and zeal to reposition the sports industry but was hampered by lack of resources.
“I am a big fan of Sunday Dare and I have done my little part from afar, to support his success story. I like the way he started and I am happy with every step he has taken so far. If not for the ten athletes that were disqualified during the games, I was very confident that Team Nigeria would have won at least 5 medals at the Tokyo Olympics,” said Sambawa.
Despite the poor harvest of medals by Team Nigeria, the former Minister and one-time governorship aspirant on the platform of Peoples Democratic Party in Kebbi State commended the athletes and the ministry for rising to the challenge by winning a Silver and a Bronze medal from Tokyo, describing the outing as “our best achievement in a long while.”
To improve the country’s performance in future international engagements, he stressed adequate funding.
Said he: “I will also like to use this opportunity to appeal to the federal government to give more funds to the ministry as sports has so much potentials to tap from as a country. I am not disappointed that D’Tigers and D’Tigress exited the games without a medal. I followed their preparation all through and I am very encouraged by the fact that we have so many young boys and girls in these teams that will form the nucleus of our future exploits at the Olympics.
“If the Federal Government can put 10% of what they invest on Security into sports development, in five years, millions of Nigerian youths will be taken off the streets and be meaningfully engaged and billions of dollars will be coming as remittances from Nigerian talents scattered abroad.
“Our youths are talented and patriotic. They are everywhere in the world winning medals for countries like the United States, Canada, Great Britain and the rest not only because they are not supported and encouraged by us, but also because these countries have provided a conducive atmosphere for them to thrive.
“The present sports minister has done so well in convincing and encouraging most of these athletes to return home and on my part, I helped to facilitate the process of securing Nigeria passports and talked to a few of them on the need to don the Green White Green jersey of Nigeria.
“For a start, I will want the federal government to build a minimum of 6 zonal national institute of sports, NIS, in the six geopolitical zones of Nigeria. Add these to the NIS in Abuja, the federal capital territory, Nigeria will have seven fully equipped institutes.
“These institutes will train Nigerian youth in all sports based on what each can offer. The best of the best will move to Abuja. Each of these zonal Institutes will be linked to the one in Abuja from where all the talents will be harnessed.
“Australia and many other countries did this after poor outings at the Olympics in the past. That way, the ministry will have a platform to discover hidden talents from the regions.
“Secondly, there is the need for Nigeria as a country to invest more in multi-medal sports. Sports where we have comparative advantage. These multi-medal sports can win us many more medals at the Olympics and Commonwealth Games than the team sports as they do to other countries.
“The likes of Great Britain, Canada and the United States of America are winning lots of medals from Swimming, Athletics, Gymnastics, weightlifting, wrestling, boxing, Judo, Tennis among others. These are the sports that gives also give us more medals at major competitions and most of which we can produce good talents
“As a country, we have wasted so much money in sports participation rather than Sports Development and I think enough is enough! We must endeavor to encourage our sports men and women, give them the best facilities to train, provide adequate training grants and offer them the best coaches to excel at the Olympics.
“Like I said, Dare seem to have the mental awareness and psychological drive to succeed as a sports minister. He looks very focused and if encouraged, he will take Nigeria sports to that height we all dream of.”
Sambawa, who was succeeded as Nigeria’s Minister of Youth and Sports by late Bala Bawa Ka’oje in 2006, will be remembered for his sports development policies and many laudable steps he took in trying to reposition Nigeria sports even though his tenure ended abruptly when he sought the permission of the then president, Chief Olusegun Obasanjo, to step down and pursue his gubernatorial ambition in Kebbi State.
Adewale Ajayi, a Canada-based journalist, can he reached at: email@example.com