Sport in Nigeria

At the tenth Nigerian University Games in 1984, 257 athletes from 17 of the 24 Nigerian universities were interviewed to determine their perception and rating of the problems influencing the development of sport at Nigerian universities.

Thus, many problems of university athletes, especially concerning the administration, academic education, training programs and the lack of material and human resources, were reported. As a result of this study 14 recommendations are listed to improve university athletics and, by doing so, sport in general in Nigeria.Thus, they demand an improvement of physical education in secondary schools, the establishment of departments of physical education at all universities and better facilities and more frequent competitions for university athletes. • CiteULike • Complore • Connotea • Del. icio. us • Digg • Reddit • Technorati • Twitter What’s this? Introduction/Rationale Sport is made for the people and vice versa. In fact sport has been described as the opium of the people, as it can make them forget their worries, problems and sorrows as well as forgive their enemies.

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No wonder then that many governments all over the world have usually utilized sport as a means of unifying the populace during times of strive, rebellion or uprising. Sport can also be used to galvanize the populace to support policies and legislations that would have ordinarily been rejected. Multi-ethnic societies where their constituent ethnic groups are always at daggers drawn with each other can also employ sport, as a means of inculcating cooperation, friendship and good neighbourliness in their citizens.All the abovementioned, are possible because sport is perhaps the most potent social integration force available to individuals, institutions, governments etc. ‘Citus, Altius, Fortius’, meaning ‘Faster, Higher, Stronger’ – the motto of the Olympic Games – ably describes why sportsmen/women from most nations of the world gather every leap year to contest in various sports of the Games. The contest is usually very dramatic and keen, and it is the wish of every nation to win some laurels during the Games.

Towards this end, no stone is usually left unturned because, sports, especially on the international competitive front has gone beyond mere competition between individuals or groups of individuals representing their nations. The nations now take part in competitions to win and, a lot of money, energy and strategy go in to ensure victory. This is because sport has become a powerful and veritable political tool.

It is therefore not surprising that nowadays one of the greatest and fastest springboards by which nations or individuals can achieve world eminence is through active, purposeful and result-oriented participation in sport at the international level. Developing nations of the world without the pecuniary, manpower and armaments’ prowess of super powers have always managed to use sport to raise their ‘tiny’ voices when important points are made or sought in the intricate and ever becoming sophisticated political arena.Take for example Nigeria; she spearheaded the dismantling of apartheid in Zimbabwe and South-Africa. Probably the most powerful weapon used by Nigeria and her allies, was sport.

The boycott of International Games like the 1978 Commonwealth Games in Edmonton and the 1976 Olympic Games in Canada championed by Nigeria, went a long way in breaking the backbone of ‘apartheid’ policies as well as ‘unilateral declaration of independence’. Individuals have also used sport to limelight societal problems or gain political despotism. The “Black power Salute” of the Mexico 1968 Olympics readily comes o mind. On the local scene in Nigeria, the likes of Late Chief M. K. O.

Abiola, Chief Jim Nwobodo (former Team Manager of the Rangers International Football Club of Enugu), Chief Samuel Ogbemudia (the sporting-Governor of the Old Midwest State), Senator Osakwe (proprietor of the former Flash Flamengoes Football Club of Benin City) etc. are examples of individuals who have successfully utilize sport to gain political prominence and, power. Political voice aside, sports is now big business, a multi-billion “U. S. A.

dollar” one, especially the professional sports.Individuals get rich and become comfortable for life through sports’ participation. Industries now churn out memorabilia (tee-shirts, face – caps and other sportswear) in thousands for sale to fans. We must also not forget the manufacture of sports equipment and supplies, which on their own are money-spinners for their manufacturers.

Sport also provides means of livelihood to the following categories of individuals: coaches, managers, grounds-men, administrators and secretarial workers, doctors, nurses, physiotherapists, nutritionists, factory workers, journalists etc.Sport, therefore, supports quite a numerous numbers of individuals all over the world. Suffice it to mention that some nations especially in the third world realize a substantial part of their GNP from a few sport practitioners! In Nigeria today, the economic gains that our ‘sport exports’ (Nigerians playing professional sport abroad) have brought into the country cannot be easily quantified. Apart from these professionals directly supporting their parents/siblings/extended families/friends financially, some of them have set up businesses, which employ some Nigerians.Professional sports in Nigeria though in its rudimentary stage, can also boast of contributing to Nigeria’s economy through the employment of both athletes, coaches and, support staffs. Other related commercial/business concerns include tourism industry, hospitality industry, soft-drinks manufacture etc.

Sports could also be seen as entertainment; in this regard, it is also a big money earner, with spectators, the media, and sales of memorabilia being major sources of income. A healthy mind they say, resides in a healthy body.This saying aptly captures the relationship between active participation in sports (even for leisure sake only) and, staying healthy. Any Nation, whose citizens engage in sporting activities to stay fit, can always be sure that her citizens will generally be healthy. This translates into less governmental expenditure on health care, especially prevention and treatment of behavioural pathogen induced illnesses such as Cardiovascular Heart Diseases of all types (CHD). Also, productivity across all spheres of human endeavours will be enhanced, with less and less individuals staying off work due to illness.

Another benefit derivable from participation in sport is education of the mind. Sports build character. It is therefore not surprising that sports inculcate in practitioners such qualities as cooperativeness, resilience, nationalism, discipline, friendship, fair-play etc: usually, sports are played with strict guiding rules and OGRP Main Report 17-3 Health regulations; with other individuals either as co-actors or adversaries; and also, sport is an avenue to burn off excess energy and keep youths away from mischief.

From the above brief description of some benefits derivable from sports, one can easily see that sports is big, it is borderless and therefore, should not be taken lightly. Where Are We Now? The problems associated with sports in our State (as well as other states of Nigeria) will serve to highlight our present position with regards to sport and sport development. The following are those problems: (i) Sport is currently separated from other areas without seeing the relationship or link between these other areas and sport.

These areas include Health, Education, Tourism and the Hospitality Industry etc.Sport can complement all the areas, it can also stimulate and generate development and so doing, move these areas forward faster and further. (ii) There is a lack of appreciation of what sport can concretely contribute to the society. It is therefore perceived as recreation (which is just a part of sport).

This has resulted in the lack of specific programmes/policies to guide sports development/promotion. Serious attention is usually not paid to sport, thereby relegating it to mere mentioning when policies on the Economy, Education, Health etc. are formulated. iii) Lack of adequate funds to promote sports and recreation. The little funds available are usually not judiciously spent because of lack of specific policy on sport. The state has very little funds to spend on many ministries and parastatals (and some of these institutions occupy higher positions than sports in the pecking order). This paucity of funds means that there are no adequate facilities, equipments and infrastructures in both the society at large and in our schools too.

(iv) It can be said that sport has been de-emphasized in schools.Perhaps this neglect of sports in schools has led or contributed to (a) a decline in the state’s performance at National and International competitions: (b) moral decadence in schools. No education is complete without sports. In fact we short-change ourselves when our children go to school and do not have the opportunity to take part in sports thereby being denied of all the abovementioned character-building benefits from sports’ participation. Where Do We Go From Here? There is the need for a policy on sport and recreation.

Such a policy must take care of the following: 1.Ensuring first and foremost that sport is not isolated. Its link with other significant vital areas such as Health, Education, Hospitality Industry, Tourism, Culture etc.

must be emphasized. 2. Popularizing sport and recreation at the grass root level.

Schools (both primary and secondary) must be seen as existing vehicles for such a development and therefore, must be concentrated upon. 3. Provision of playing grounds and other not-too-expensive sports’ equipment in each school (or, where this is impossible, jointly-owned and used facilities, can be put in place) 4. Provision of equipment for training at the grassroots.This can be supported with the help of artisans (welders, fabricators, architects etc) who will put in place creative and ingenious projects to provide basic training equipment, fabricated from local materials (sometimes disused objects like tyres, engine parts etc. ) This can even generate self-employment for these artisans. 5. Motivating individuals at different tiers of the society to participate in sport by enticing them with incentives in the first place.

A classical example is the provision of footballs (an incentive) to each school: one can bet that such balls will be kicked around.If the kicking around requires clearing a space and using it as a pitch, it will most likely be done etc.!!! 6. Creating an event(s) within the State and getting everybody within the state to participate. If necessary inter-primary school sports in all Local Government Areas (LGAs) can be started, inter- LGA games also etc. LGAs can even be zoned into a manageable number (4–8 say) and, such competition therefore becomes inter-zonal. Such a sporting event will generate activities across the state, as mentioned above under facilities, infrastructures etc. 7.

Bidding to host National and International Sporting Competitions.The bigger the event, the more the prospect of feasible rewards. For example, hosting the National Sports Festival and, linking it with other development areas such as Health, Utilities, Facilities, Tourism etc. OGRP Main Report 17-5 Health 8. Bringing in consultants where applicable to plan, source and ensure adequate corporate sponsorship for sport projects because the government cannot do it alone. Such consultancy projects will also include ensuring that the state government gets adequate publicity and mileage derivable from such etc.

9. Creating employment opportunities for youths coming out of school: e. . in the conceptualization/design of training equipment (cheap and functional items for training at grass root level).

Also, employment as training officers/ administrators grounds men etc. 10. Looking at the possibility of sports as an industry e.

g. – creating sport/tourism centers (currently the Obasanjo Farms Complex is used as a camping site for many National teams). Such centers could be developed to include cheap and comfortable accommodation facilities (boarding and lodging). The manufacturing of non-technical equipment from local raw materials e. g. batons, bats, clothing etc. 11.

Concentrating on sports where the state has the talent, interest and could also be started and are inexpensive to operate. The fun and joy that comes with participation will entice many and from there, some talents can be discovered and later groomed for stardom. Conclusion The state has produced notable personalities in sports both athletes and administrators.

Natural talents waiting to be harnessed and developed abound. It is only the incentive to participate that is needed and this can be ensured by spending the meagre resources allocated to sports judiciously in providing facilities and amenities at the grassroots.Sports is too big a motivator and energizer of development to be ignored. Abstract Facilities are very central to meaningful sports participation whether in School sports, amateur, recreational or competitive status. They are as important to the athletes as the laboratories are to the scientists. Without facilities sports cannot take place. This does not however imply that sports facility is the only variable that is necessary for sports participation; others such as equipment, supplies, finance to mention a few are indispensable complements to sports facilities.

Having said this, the availability, adequacy, standard, funding, maintenance, supervision, safety, location and accessibility of sports facilities deserve adequate attention for sports facilities to contribute to excellence in sports participation. The thrust of this paper therefore is to discuss the problems sports facilities pose to school sports in Nigeria with the aim of drawing attention of the government to finding solutions to the identified lapses of sports facilities in school sports.It should be obvious to everyone who recognizes sports as a vital instrument of nation building that sports in Nigeria today is running on low current with declining fortunes. This was a high voltage sector whose contributions to nation building through sterling performances of our youths, made everyone proud, but not any more. In recent times, the downturn of sports in Nigeria has been signposted by our poor showing in Berlin-World Athletics championship and poor run in Football World Cup qualifiers, among others. Nigerian sports should fall no more.It is now time to pull our sports in the upward direction.

To achieve this goal, all institutions connected to Sports must work towards eliciting quality performances at the world stage. Quality performances at the world stage can be achieved by a reinforcement of the domestic input of institutions that impact on sports. It is the low interface of these institutions that has largely brought sports in Nigeria to its knees. The institutions under reference are: 1.

Government at all levels (Executive arm) 2. Sports Agencies 3. Educational Institutions 4. Legislative arms of government . Private sector Institutions 6. Mass Media.

It is my belief that the hisses and tears we experience at home and abroad due to poor performances of our athletes and the consequent unfulfilled expectations can disappear if these institutions complimentarily pull together in the productive management of sports in Nigeria. Are we looking sincerely for the solutions to the problems of low and unbefitting performances of Nigerian athletes? We should not look into the sky in despair. The solution is domiciled in the listed institutions. So, what do we now do?First, it has to be well understood that Governments at all levels constitute the guarantor for sports development as in the other sectors of nation building.

Introspectively therefore, are Nigerian Governments at all levels squaring up combatively to lift up sports? Are government agencies established for Sports development, coping effectively? Do Governments at all levels make the kind of budgetary provisions that a giant of Africa would need to lift and inspire youths to go for Gold in World competitions? Have governments at all levels professionalized Sports management?In some government sports agencies you still find officers without sports professional education and training serving as Heads of Sports departments. So how do such people effectively run programmes and make decisions that can productively impact sports in terms of performance. The legislative arm of Government is also a source of problem. For example, the bill for the establishment of the National Sports Commission may not have been passed into law since 2007 after rigorous debates and public hearings. If there is an act of the National Assembly on Sports, it raises the momentum of Sports activities at the National level.It details out roles and responsibilities of Government Sports Agencies and infact specify the role of Government in Sports development. It will also energize and give teeth to the implementation of Sports polices. As many of these enabling instruments remain hanging you can begin to appreciate why sports is the way it is in the land.

At the State and Local Council levels, Sports is largely tied to the onset of the national Sports festival. Developmental sports programmes are anaemic. A strong developmental sports framework is the bedrock of sports prowess at the national and in turn international levels.To worsen matters, some of the athletes who trickle to national sports federations are not usually prepared effectively by the federations to represent Nigeria due to budgetary constraints.

Infact, many sports federations are unable to effectively represent Nigeria in international competitions. Boxing Federation had to reduce selected boxers to three for a Milan-based competition, recently. Our story therefore, is lack of functional and effective linkage between the bottom layer of sports activities and the top and the incapacitation of federations to run their programmes and effectively participate in high profile competitions.Yet, we will be required to take national contingents to big time tournaments and championships. Unlike other counties of the world where Sports has taken its rightful place, educational institutions in Nigeria are known to be lukewarm about Sports from primary to tertiary levels. These institutions which constitute the source of socio-cultural development of Youths have not been able to be an effective source of supply of skilled athletes for Nigeria. The chronic severance of Educational Institutions from the Sporting grid of Nigeria is a major setback for the actualization of our desired Sports performance standard at the World Stage.

There are many Usain Bolts in our educational system waiting to be discovered and nurtured. This is possible with the teaching of physical education and sports through a Sports designed curriculum and competitive sports programmes. It also means that basic sports facilities must be provided in Primary and Secondary Schools. It further means that Universities and other higher institutions must shape up to develop athletes emerging from the lower levels of schooling. This is not happening to any meaningful extent at the moment.This illustration of the impotence of educational institutions is a poor link in the production chain of competent athletes in Nigeria.

It has often been argued that Governments do not have enough capacity in terms of resources to develop sports. A quick reference is made to funding. I believe that the Governments at all levels, first of all must demonstrate absolute will power to develop Sports. I am personally not so sure if this is happening in Nigeria. But if Nigeria is going to show to the World in future that it has become a member of the Club of twenty richest nations, sports remains a potent factor.Korea and China have hosted the Olympic Games when they did, partly to show the World their new status in the comity of nations, using sports as instrument.

Conversely the continuing poor performance of our athletes, in Global Sports events, believe it or not, tells our story beyond the sports field. A prosperous nation is also s sporting nation. Don’t you think so? If our athletes prove their mettle on the global stage, it says something about Nigeria, beyond the shining medals with which they are decorated.It says something about our competitiveness, good governance and productivity of our nation. The benefits of superior athleticism to a nation are inestimable. The private sector institutions must rise up and make their impact felt.

I have heard of the worn-out argument about lack of trust. They often say, they are not sure of proper utilization of inputs if and when given. Government has now provided tax incentives for companies who support sports. This can be helpful. Most big companies only want to do football.

This is not right.Companies can adopt athletes, boxers etc and develop them. They can build sports infrastructure in schools and Local Council areas in the same way that they build philanthropic social amenities. A company like Glo, MTN or Shell or even a Bank can volunteer to help Nigeria win an Olympic gold Medal in a particular Sport and partner with respective federations to achieve this goal. It is the duty of the media to continue to set the agenda and help Nigerian sports find its bearing through its informative, educative and watchdog roles.

Author: Joyce Wagner


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