Lagos State Commissioner for Youth, Sports and Social Development, Wahid Enitan Oshodi, says 2011 is a year he would want to forget in a hurry. According to Oshodi, it is a year that the fortune of sports in Nigeria plummeted so bad that the country fell out of the top 16 countries in African football. To the commissioner, the personnel in charge of the sports federations in the country account for the success or failure of each of the sports, and for the sector to thrive, the administrators have to get things right. The erstwhile boss of the Lagos State Table Tennis Association told OLALEKAN OKUSAN that there must be conscious effort by administrators to develop sports from the grassroots. He also spoke on the significance of the recent signing of protocol agreement between Lagos State and the National Sports Commission (NSC) on the 18th National Sports Festival to be hosted by Lagos in 2012.
What Is Your Assessment Of Nigerian Sports In 2011?
On the sporting front, we have not done so well. 2011 was not a very good year across all the sports. With regard to our number one sports – football, it was an unmitigated disaster generally. We were knocked out of all the tournaments. Not qualifying for the Nations Cup, which is a minimum criterion for a country as big as Nigeria with all the talents that abound, is a shame. Once again, it has shown that we did not plan properly and therefore the results we got were the ones we expected when you don’t plan properly. But most importantly, this is the time for us to assess the personnel administering sports in this country. It is a time to look at it properly although we have some good people at the top.
But generally, all through, especially our national associations/federations, I think it is the time to look deeply and say, are these people really committed to move sports forward? The issue of bad luck and it will be better next time don’t arise. Countries that plan properly always make it to the top. I think 2011 generally across the sports was very poor.
At the All Africa Games in Maputo, Mozambique, we came third but we have to look individually at the sports with the standard we set. Even the sports we used to dominate – table tennis, we were thrashed by a young Egyptian team and the fact is that we lost in many sports to young teams from other nations, which will then tell us that the future will be difficult because these are young teams coming through.
We are using athletes, who have served this nation excellently well for five to six All Africa Games or Olympics; I think it is time for us to look deep and go back to the grassroots; support the academicals set up by the Presidency, which has lots of work to do. Then we have to stop the in-fighting in sports.
We must realize that the National Sports Commission (NSC) is the government head of sports in this country and we have to work with them and ensure that the right people get into this position. I mean people who are willing to serve. Nigeria Olympic Committee (NOC) has quality people but still they need our support because their support comes from individual federations. The nation will be as strong as its individual federations and right now the future is not bright for Nigerian sports.
What Does The Recently Signed Agreement Between Lagos State And The NSC Mean?
Well, they are two things. Legally, the agreement set out the tasks that are to be imposed upon the state hosting the National Sports Festival as well as the work being done by NSC with regards to the festival.
More importantly, what it does now is that it tells us where our preparation needs to go. We have to double up our efforts with regards to our venues and accommodation for the athletes and even the training of our own athletes.
January 2012 is going to be a very important month with regards to kick off. I have said that we will use six months to settle down to plan and we have done this. His Excellency, Governor Babatunde Fashola (SAN) has been supportive in all our works. Now, it is time for the work to show. Lagos will not leave on its past glory; we are setting out plans for new glory in the coming year. We have a massive crop of young athletes and it is time now to harness those athletes and get them developed for the future.
As the governor said, winning the festival is not the main aim, but the important thing about us hosting the festival is that we will host fairly. For the first time in a long time, there will not be allegation of cheating, defection and we will ensure, along with NSC that has given us the assurance, that this will be a free and fair festival.
More importantly, what you know with Lagos that you will have is the fan base, which is massive. I keep saying that every state has a massive fan base here in Lagos and it is our job to bring them to the stadium and halls to support their states.
What we intend to do is to put up a great show. Everybody talks about the Rivers State opening and closing ceremonies. These were good opening and closing ceremonies but there were one or two problems, as we all know during the festival itself. We must commend Rivers State but we must now try to improve upon what they did, especially in the areas of organization, transportation and accommodation. We have to improve upon these things festival to festival.
As I keep saying, the Director General of NSC, Patrick Ekeji, has been so supportive so far and we expect his support throughout. The festival belongs to all of Nigerians. We will be hosting and we will show off the best of Lagos. The 2009 U-19 World Cup has come and gone and everybody remembered how fantastic that was and it is history now.
We are looking forward to the future. We will deliver full stadium and this is something that has never really happened at the National Sports Festival. Our intention is to deliver full stadium at every event because what motivates the athletes is the support.
We will ensure that the stadiums are full. Our private sector partners will get the best of publicity. The brands that had supported us in the past, we know they will be on board again. So, Lagos is now hosting not by choice but by the fact that it is the centre of excellence in Nigeria. We have to also replicate this in sports as well. The National Sports Festival at the end of 2012, we pray and we will work hard, I think will be a time for us to say Lagos you have done it again.
How Has It Been Being The Sports Commissioner Of Lagos State In The Last Six Months?
When I came on board, I told my friends in the media that we would need some time to settle down. They said to me, you have been in sports for a very long time, why did you need to settle down? I said it is a different seat and we found out that it is a different seat entirely. It is easier when you are chairman of an association or member of the sports council, even as a private sector supporter of sports, it is much easier. But here, when you are on this seat now, there are lots of decision that have to be taken especially going into festival year. It is an Olympics year, all the states have to support NSC, as well and there is a lot of work involved.
In Lagos, you are not just a commissioner for your ministry, we are a team and it is a team effort. We support one another and thankful my colleagues have been very supportive. Sports is what I was brought in to work on and this is my constituency and with the support I have received from the media so far, I think it has lessened the effect of our problem. But we are working on those problems and we have set out plans to deal with most of the problems, as we have to continue to develop our infrastructure.
We have to develop school sports, which I believe is the main focus of this administration. We go back to the schools because Nigeria was a successful nation when school sports was strong. In Lagos, we have to set the pace again. The ministry of education is partnering with us and we are bringing back the school games and events as well as getting equipment into the schools where talents will emerge. The most difficult part is trying to get load of schools in Lagos involved, but we have to get to all of them because we don’t know where the talents are hiding.
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Nigeria Has Never Had It So Bad, Says Oshodi