Chairman of the Sports Reform Committee, empowered to examine Nigeria’s sports architecture during the reign of Solomon Dalung as Sports Minister, Godwin Kienka, has described the planned return of the National Sports Commission (NSC) as the best legacy current Sports Minister, Sunday Dare, can leave for Nigeria’s sports.
Dare had at the unveiling of the partnership between telecommunications outfit, MTN and Nigeria Football Federation (NFF) hinted that the NSC would soon come back as the nation’s sports governing body.
The minister said: “We have had two hearings on the return of the National Sports Commission. Very soon, the NSC will be back and we believe that together with the National Sports Industry Policy, they will create a new orientation and structure.
“It will be peopled by those with the required credentials to build a new sports industry. We are all properly guided in doing this.”
Reacting to the minister’s revelations, Kienka, a former international tennis star, said, “It will be the best thing to happen to Nigeria’s sports since the days of Isaac Akioye and Awoture Elaye.
“If it happens, the NSC will attract and be better managed by a core of sports professionals and this does not necessarily mean Physical Education graduates.
“For example, a first-class physical education graduate from the University of Port Harcourt, who has never competed at national or international levels, goes on to do a Masters and PhD in the same university, but has never left Port Harcourt, cannot be a better secretary-general of a federation than a graduate in Business Administration, who has represented Nigeria in international competitions or officiated at major international events and has been exposed to the highest levels of organisation and seen world-class facilities.
“The latter will be preferred because he or she can bring the knowledge of business models to make the Federation extremely successful.
“Again, the NSC will be in a better position to establish a coaching department headed by a proven material from any part of the world. The department can then run training and certification programmes, monitor performance, and have uniform sanctions for erring coaches.
“We cannot have a successful grassroots development programme without knowledgeable and disciplined coaches. Nigeria has very, very few high-performance coaches across all sports. Most of our coaches are actually semi-illiterates and very uncouth. The NSC can change that.
“The second part is that we have a federation and elite department in the ministry, who are more interested in the federations aspect than the elite athletes. A professional will follow the elite athletes at all times. They couldn’t have missed their tests if they had professionals as coaches and sports medicine officers. The last time they missed their plane to Rio; but if they had a professional protocol department with seasoned travel agents and protocol officials, that would not happen.”
Kienka said the biggest hindrance to a professionally run ministry of sports is that the minister and officials don’t have control over who is employed in the ministry.
“The Ministry of Establishment can send an animal scientist to head a sports department.
They can bring anybody who has never seen a gym in his life to head weightlifting or wrestling federation. They will tell you he will learn on the job.
“We need a director-general who has genuine skills in sports. A graduate of business administration, who was an athlete and studied in the United States and knows how they treat athletes, will do better than a Physical and Health Education graduate, who has never been to any international event or seen organization at the highest level.”
According to Kienka, without the National Sports Commission manned by sports technocrats, the minister cannot achieve much even if he is the best in the world.