Chairman of the Lagos State Sports Commission, Mr Deji Tinubu, is the administrator saddled with the responsibility of actualising Governor Ambode Akinwunmi’s dream of making Lagos the hub of sports in the continent. In a chat with KENO EDHOWO, Tinubu threw light on the progress made in the last one year….
What is the overall vision for sports in Lagos State? “My overarching vision and mandate from my boss, Governor Akinwunmi Ambode is to position Lagos as an international sports hub,” he begins. “We realised that for us to deliver on that mandate, it was vital for us to restore a sports culture in Lagos. It is difficult to turn a place without a vibrant sports culture to any sport hub. So we sat down and spent some time strategising and quickly came up with a clear plan of what we needed to do and set about the plan with real energy and fervour and if you look around, you can see we are making significant progress.”
Asked is the core of his strategy to institute a sports culture in Lagos, Tinubu responded initially with just a word: “Events.” He continued, “The core of instilling a sports culture or turning any location to a sports hub is events. How many events are you hosting, participating in, collaborating on or enabling? Sports culture means arousing people’s interest in sports activities; driving participation, either active or passive; creating an environment where there is access to sports facilities so that sports people- student athletes, recreational athletes, amateurs, aspiring professionals and professionals and even spectators all have access to sports facilities and have events that interest them. The more competitions and events you have, the more people you engage and once you start achieving engagement, you have started building the culture.
“From where we stand, our events strategy is meant to achieve five specific objectives. Engage young people and give them a great alternative for recreation and entertainment, discover new talents across the state in as many sports as possible, provide platforms (competitions) through which we can deliver value to corporate partners and sponsors, increase usage rate of state owned sports assets and facilities and finally, prepare Lagos State athletes for competitions.
We are Nigeria’s most prosperous, most advanced state and our standing in sports must reflect that. The Governor is very particular about that. If we have over 20m people in Lagos drawn from all parts of Nigeria, then Lagos has to be very strong competition for other states at sports competitions in Nigeria and produce talents in abundance for Nigeria as a nation,” stressed the LSSC boss.
Tinubu looked back at events the commission has held he since he took charge and broke into a confident smile. “We have hosted and participated in over 70 events this year alone. That’s more than what most sports commissions and ministries have done in the last four years. One thing I am very proud of as per our strategy is the variety we have introduced to our event matrix.
“We have done high profile, international events like the Lagos Marathon, The Lagos Cycling Criterium, The attempt at the Guinness Book of World records with Monopoly. We are also partnering Barcelona in terms of youth development, and also with the Friends of Rugby for the Independence 7s tournament which held just last weekend.
He also gave some of the coming events to include, the Beach Soccer Nations Cup in December which will also serve as African qualifiers for the 2017 Beach World Cup. “At the other end of the spectrum, we have also organised competitions at grassroots level. We have had competitions in popular sports such as athletics and basketball and we have also had competitions in other sports like gymnastics, handball and volleyball.”
He also listed school championships for cricket and hockey as some of the events about to commence with basketball and handball hopefully also on the card to follow.
“There is also a volleyball programme on-going in conjunction with an organisation in America. In line with our focus on inclusion, we have also made sure there are events for people living with disabilities. This is very dear to our governor’s heart even as we are in the planning process for a Disability Games to hold here in Lagos.
“So you can see we have been very deliberate with ensuring that there is something for everyone within our events and competitions matrix that has allowed us to reach out to untapped sports and corporate niches and we are quite proud of that.
Asked some of the challenges he has faced and his plans for the future, Tinubu responded like an administrator who is well versed in his art: “Our initial challenge was to get the staff here at the commission to buy into our vision and I have to say we are getting there gradually. I am very grateful for the way they are now embracing our vision and they are not just staff anymore, they are increasingly becoming champions of that vision. I am especially happy with the difference made by our new Director General, Dewunmi Ogunsanya who has been particularly understanding, cooperative and supportive.”
He however pointed at the next big challenge by his commission “is getting our Sports Connect Lagos platform off the ground and see it start to meet the objectives we set for it. Sports Connect Lagos is our proper grassroots platform to discover talents in sports within environments that make participation and discovery easy and even almost natural. What we have done is to map the whole state and now want to create sports assets and talent discovery platforms for specific sports in those places. That’s the idea behind Sports Connect,” concludes Tinubu.