By Pastor Paul Bankole is the Head of Sports, The Redeemed Christian Church of God (RCCG).
My Beloved Minister,
Congratulations and welcome on board! The headline of this treatise appears to be a very daring one, but I believe that as a media expert, you would be able to seamlessly diagnose it with the positive hindsight of your profession, react to it appropriately with the insight of who you are and, no doubt, your foresight will influence the methodologies applied.
Mr Minister, globally, sport is a humungous field of life, which offers children, teenagers, the youth and young adults, a massive platform for personal development and growth. Sport teaches endurance, discipline, hard work, tolerance, teamwork, focus, forgiveness and respect, among other several noble virtues.
Research conducted over the past three decades shows that the involvement of children, teenagers, the youth and young adults in recreational and competitive sports – as proposed by the United Nations, UNICEF, FIFA, International Olympic Committee, the Association of Sports Performance Centres and several other concerned and credible international organisations – has tremendously contributed to the successful process of eradicating poverty, hunger and illiteracy in several parts of the world. The USA, Australia, Brazil, South Africa are some of the nations that can testify to this fact.
Sir, sport is the only thread binding us together as a nation in Nigeria, not politics, not religion, not entertainment. Sport is also one of the most lucrative vocations in the world. Sport business is a massive fallow ground yet to be positively and effectively explored in our beloved country. Sport is a humungous platform for jobs creation, which is a sine qua non for socio-economic and political relevance, as is practised in nations where sport is regarded as a viable industry. When appropriately harnessed, sport will seamlessly generate more jobs than the telecoms industry and produce massive internally and externally generated revenues like the oil and gas industry. Sport cuts across all stereotypes and borders. Consequently, sport has the potential to be a veritable tool in securing the future of millions of talented Nigerians, now under your care.
Unfortunately, the systemic decline in national sport development over the past four decades; the bastardisation of sport values; the emergence of morally debased sport administrators, managers and coaches; the absence of adequate training facilities, the poor maintenance of facilities and the inability of your predecessors to provide the necessary enabling environment, sadly frustrated and truncated efforts made by some of the patriotic stakeholders and technocrats who tried to help.
Sir, the race before you is a marathon and I think you have started well. However, I wish to humbly crave your indulgence to proffer some suggestions, I believe, will take sports to the next level in this greatly blessed nation.
Sir, please we – I have used the word ‘we’ advisedly, need to urgently conduct a research into the tenure of your predecessors, from Chief Joseph Modupe Johnson (aka JMJ) 1960 – 1964 to Solomon Dalung 2015 – 2019. You will discover that there have been 34 sport ministers and you are the 35th. This research is to unravel the mystery behind the systemic decline and how to revive the moribund sport industry in Nigeria, in order to maximally use sports for youth empowerment, achieve educational advancement, combat crime, prevent substance abuse, produce global icons, establish political hegemony, encourage physical fitness, solve communal conflicts and other socio-economic problems, experienced in Nigeria currently.
Sir, for us to successfully conduct this research, I humbly recommend we take a look at the aviation industry, as suggested by my good friend, Mathew Syed, who in 1995, became the British number-one table tennis player at the age of 24. He is also author of the ‘Black Box Thinking.’ Each of the 34 ministers before you was the pilot of an aircraft that landed softly or otherwise. Each of these aircraft had a black box, filled with data – positive and negative – for us to decipher in order to proffer credible solutions that would strategically reverse the decline in Nigerian sport. How can this be achieved?
Mr Minister, I humbly recommend that you convoke a National Sports Summit, which will involve all stakeholders and technocrats, especially from the Ministries of Education, Agriculture and Health, National Orientation Agency, and from the Local Government Areas of the country. Corporate organisations like banks, industries, etc., should also be invited to participate in the summit.
This summit should be tasked with the responsibilities of eliminating bureaucracy and red tape from sports management and administration in Nigeria, by ensuring that Nigeria embraces one of the global best practices in sport, with the formation of a National Sport Commission, instead of the Ministry of Youth and Sports, with you as the Executive Chairman. This will enable you to overhaul the system and employ people who will run sport in Nigeria as an enterprise and not as civil service.
The summit will also discuss issues concerning funding of sport in Nigeria generally. In countries where sport is managed as serious business, elite or professional sports thrive on sponsorships and government funds are used strictly for development of grass-roots sport, especially at the community and school sport levels. The reverse is the case in Nigeria. Ninety five per cent of government funds in Nigeria go to funding of football clubs, sport federations and associations. This is a travesty of the nobility of this vocation called sports.
Sir, it is when the National Sport Commission is put in place that the Nigeria Olympic Committee, can become the hub of elite sports and not just a department under the Sports Ministry, as currently constituted. This is one of the major changes that must take place in Nigerian sports if we are serious about taking sport to the next level. What is happening in Lagos State is a perfect model for a sports commission to succeed.
Please be assured of our warm sporting regards, always, as we pray that the Lord God grant you perfect grace to succeed in the mighty name of Jesus, Amen!
Cordially yours, Paul O. Bankole