Sports Minister, Mallam Bolaji Abdullahi
The Head Coach of Nigeria’s track and field team to the just ended London 2012 Olympic Games, Innocent Egbunike, has urged Nigerians to support the planned restructuring of sports in Nigeria by Sports Minister, Mallam Bolaji Abdullahi.
Egbunike, the first Nigerian to win an IAAF World Championship medal on the track, exonerated Abdullahi from Team Nigeria's failure at the London 2012 Olympic Games.
“The rot in our sports has been there for about two decades or more, there is no way Mallam Abdullahi, who was confirmed Sports Minister two months ago can turn around the situation. Even if we give him all the support and encouragement he needs to rebuild sports now, his efforts will not start yielding result in another four years, it could take about five years or more,” observed the former athlete former Kenyan President Arap Moi rechristened ‘Innocent of Africa’.
He said that since Abdullahi now understands the industry, he should be allowed to lay the foundation for our eventual domination of global sports. We have the same talents as the Jamaicans, all we need do is to have a long term programme and we will rule the world.’’
“Between 1999 when Nigeria returned to civil rule and today, we have appointed between 13 and 14 sports ministers. This is not good for development. Sepp Blatter became the President of FIFA in 1998, he is still there today. Lamine Diack has been the president of IAAF since Primo Nebiolo passed on 2000. For development to take place, we need somebody like Mallam Abdullahi to be given a free hand and all the supports he will be needing to build a foundation that his successor as sports minister in 2015 will build on,’’ he noted.
Egbunike, a Los Angeles ’84 4x400m bronze medallist, whose ward, Chris Brown, helped Bahamas’ 1600m relay team to win the gold medal at London Games, believes that he can achieve more with Team Nigeria if we plan ahead.
“Like the 2014 Commonwealth Games, we should identify our athletes that are in the top ten in the sports that we wanted to participate in Glasgow now, and start supporting them with training grants and exposing them to competitions. By the Glasgow Games they will be in top shape. It is this same set of athletes that we will form the core of Team Nigeria for the Rio Olympics in 2016. I believe Mallam Abdullahi has the leadership qualities and drive to achieve all the above if given all the support and encouragement he needs to succeed,” stressed Egbunike who has seen it all as a former top athlete and grade ‘A’ Coach now.