With the appointment of a new minister of sports in Solomon Dalung, so many people have gotten a bit excited by some of the pronouncements made by the red-beret wearing man from Plateau state. And there are now great expectations by some concerning the fortune of Nigerian sports this year.
Will the Eagles win a first-ever CHAN title?
The sports calendar for 2016 kicks off in Rwanda with Sunday Oliseh leading the home-based Super Eagles to the Africa Nations Championship. Now in its third edition, that is a tournament Nigeria is yet to win. Most of the players, to be led by Chima Akas, are hoping the tournament would become a shopping window for their skills in order to win contracts outside Nigeria.
Will the private sector increase their stake in sports?
It is a known fact that unless the private sector decides to inject its energy and funds into sports in Nigeria, we will continue to operate on the abysmal level we are in now. Football, which seems to see the bulk of funding, is even losing out because most of the club sides are owned by state governments, who are finding it hard to pay the minimum wage to civil servants.
Will the NSC prioritise infrastructural investments?
In the 60s and 70s, there were a lot of playgrounds across the country where young boys and girls could play and be discovered if they showed any bit of talent but those were the days. Right now, every nook and cranny has been taken over by buildings and offices with the children finding it hard to express themselves physically. And as long as this remains the case, Nigeria will continue to lose out on gems that could have been discovered.
Will Team Nigeria win any medal at the 2016 Olympics?
At the last World Athletics Championships, the country failed to win a single medal, and some analysts believe that is a picture of what the country’s participation in the Rio Olympics would look like. But we will like to add that wrestling, boxing and maybe football will be in the picture and these events have been known to produce medals for the country – we hope it will be the case again!
Will the LMC be decisive against clubs who do not pay their players?
Towards the end of 2015, we saw pictures of players of relegated Taraba United camped in front of the Taraba State secretariat, protesting unpaid wages for 11 months. Those pictures degraded any positive development the League Management Company could have bandied about as the gains of the new-look league system they implemented. So in 2016, will they ensure that the players – without whom there would be no league, are paid commensurately as at when due so that they will be able to give their best to their respective clubs.
Will Lagos succeed with her international marathon?
There is an international marathon planned for February in Lagos, designed along the likes of the famous city marathons like London, New York and Boston. The question for the country is that would it become as famous as the others cited above. Will it become the most colourful marathon in the world?
Will the National Sports Festival finally hold?
The avenue for which stars are nurtured and created – Nigeria’s Olympiad, the National Sports Festival – has continuously been postponed and the major reason is that the importance of the festival is not appreciated and states that are given hosting rights have not found the right formula between government and private individuals to develop sports in the country. If Nigeria finds that combination, then the world would see the talents that we have.
All in all, we can only hope that sports continue to lead and help people away from penury and poverty. We can only hope…that the minister, who is fondly remembered as “the man who brought coloured roofing sheets,” due to his massive transformation of public facilities during his tenure as Chairman of Langtang South local government area of Plateau State, can also transform the sports scene in Nigeria.