Vice President Namadi Sambo (L) with Publisher of Thisday Newspaper, Mr Nduka Obaigbena at the Presidential Retreat on Sports in Abuja
By Muhammad Bello
A target of 36 medals, five of which must be gold must be met by the Nigerian contingent to the 2016 Olympics in Rio, Brazil, as President Goodluck Jonathan raised the bar of sports performance Monday.
This is as the president craved the indulgence of state governors to concentrate on their areas of comparative advantage in order to contribute one athlete in such area to the 2016 Team Nigeria.
Jonathan spoke at Monday's presidential sports sector retreat with the theme “Harnessing the Potential of Nigeria's Sports Sector: From Playground to Podium” held at the Presidential Villa, Abuja.
A couple of months ago Team Nigeria recorded an abysmal outing at 2012 Summer Olympics in London, a situation somewhat later salvaged by the Paralympic athletes and Falconets.
Miffed by this failure, the President identified adequate investment and proper governance structure as necessary ingredients for the country to be among the top sporting nations in the world, assuring that his Administration is committed to Nigeria becoming the best sporting nation in Africa, top four in the Commonwealth and ultimately rule the world.
According to him: “Every state has some level of comparative advantage in one form of sports or the order and if every state will promise Nigerians that we will give you a medal in this area, and another medal in this area, that means we are expecting 36 medals.
“(Governor Rotimi) Amaechi will tell us that Rivers State will give us a medal in this area, Liyel Imoke will tell us that Cross Rivers will give us a medal in this area and Kogi will also say the same and all the 36 governors.
“Out of these 36 medals, at least five will be gold. I also believe that the private sector will play a key role. We know that in some countries, the private sector plays some key roles in sporting activities and not just trading or manufacturing sporting wares.”
Jonathan further assured of his administration’s commitment to ensure that Nigeria becomes the best sporting nation in Africa, be among the top four sporting nations in the Commonwealth and ultimately rule the world.
Jonathan said the vision was not only realistic but was also achievable with hard work, greater sense of purpose and dedication.
He said the purpose of the retreat was to chart a new course for sports in the country and reclaim the country’s past sporting glory as well as restore happiness and glory to the nation’s sporting events.
Jonathan observed that apart from its benefits in bringing joy to Nigerians, especially when the nation’s teams do well, no other sector of national life has a greater force for mobilising and uniting the people around a common purpose than sports.
According to him, sports is the only sector where federal character is not required, neither does religion and ethnicity.
"Make no mistake: our commitment is to become the best sporting nation in Africa, be among the top four sporting nations in the Commonwealth and ultimately rule the world.
"This vision is not only realistic; it is also achievable with hard work, greater sense of purpose, and dedication.
"If we must achieve excellence and meet the objective requirements for the rapid development of our sports industry, then we must broaden the financing base of the industry and create the right conditions for private sector funding and investment in sport.
"Adequate funding of sports is very crucial to this endeavour but efficiently and transparent management of resources is key."
“No nation can afford to overlook the relevance of sports to national development and national well-being.
“As a powerful socio-economic tool for youth development, nation building and instilling core values of social justice, sports remains at the heart of our national transformation agenda,” he said.
President Jonathan said if Nigeria must achieve excellence and meet the objective requirements for the rapid development of its sports industry, then the financing base of the industry must be broadened and the right conditions for private sector funding and investment in sport put in place.
He said while adequate funding of sports was crucial, efficient and transparent management of resources was key.
Jonathan said this reason was behind the setting up of a committee under the Minister of Finance, Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala to work out a strategy for sustainable management funding of the sports sector.
He promised to continue to do all that is necessary to improve the nation’s sporting fortunes.
Earlier, Okonjo-Iweala in her welcome remarks said the presidential retreat on sports was the third in the series after that of power and maritime sectors.
She said clear cut recommendations from the previous two retreats are already being implemented in those sectors.
She assured that the event was not just another talk show, saying specific recommendations and initiatives were expected at the end and that implementation will be in the next two three years that will enable the country to regain its right place in the comity of nations.
Okonjo-Iweala also said apart from a unifying factor, sports is a big business and a tool for job creations.
She listed UK as example where in 2008 consumers in England spent about £17.4 billion on sports related activities which she said represented about 1.5 per cent of GDP.
She said when compared to Nigeria, sports and recreation and entertainment activities represented only about 0.25 per cent of the GDP."
In England, about 440,000 people are employed in sports related jobs. This is 1.8 per cent of all employment in England, with three quarters of these jobs in the private sector."
"At the London Olympics, the UK won a total of 65 medals and given the funds invested, we estimate that each medal won cost about 4.8 million Pounds or N1.2 billion,’’ she said.
The Minister also identified funding, governance and management challenges as factors hindering the development of sports in the country. She noted that greater transparency is needed in the management of fund allocated to the sports sector.
Okonjo-Iweala said the governance of various sports federations in the country, should also strive to meet international best practices.
"Until we fix some of these fundamental institutional problems, all the money we put into the sector would have only limited impacts," she said.
She disclosed that the President had asked for an urgent renovation of the Abuja National Stadium currently in a state of disrepair. She added that, as part of sustainable framework for financing the sporting sector, government would explore the national lottery and additional taxes on luxury goods, as obtainable in other countries.
Minister of Sports, Bolaji Abdullahi, observed that the bickering in sports resulted in the nation’s abysmal outing in London Olympics while the peace in NFF has resulted in positive results for all national teams at international competitions, urging for collective solution.
He assured that the National Sports Commission under his leadership was committed to ensuring the expectations of Nigerians and those of the President are met.
He disclosed that the commission would fashion out a winning system for Nigeria.
He called on the leadership of the National Assembly to expedite action on National Sports Commission Bill which he said held the key to professionalism in sports in Nigeria.
He said the bill, if passed into law, would empower the NSC to hire its own staff and ensure that only the best hands are in charge.
Speakers at the retreat included Dr. Ken Anugweje of the University of Port Harcourt; former United Kingdom’s Minister of Sports, Mr. Gerry Sutcliffe; Secretary, Nigeria Olympic Committee, Tunde Popoola and Governor Rotimi Amaechi of Rivers State among others.
Those present at the retreat included Vice President Namadi Sambo, representatives of the leadership of the two arms of the National Assembly, members of the Federal Executive Council, security chiefs, captains of industries and sports administrators among others.