It’s just a few days to the 19th National Sports Festival which the Ministry of Youth and Sports has volunteered to host in the Federal Capital Territory, Nigeria after many years of postponements.
Sadly, nothing seems to be happening despite just 10 days to the commencement of the festival which was last hosted in Lagos in 2012.
Right now, the problem is not just from the centre which has to do with the Ministry of Sports and the hosting city under the FCT Ministry, most states intending to participate are also guilty of this worrisome level of inactivity.
Many may want to point accusing fingers at journalists for a deliberate media blackout, but sadly the organisers and the key stakeholders (states) have not really done much worth reporting.
If we were to go with the rate at which state commissioners and Directors of Sports were blaming the Ministry of Sports for conniving with Cross River State not to host the National Sports Festival, one would have thought that the various states would have gone into a frenzy in preparing their athletes for the 10-day competition when Barrister Solomon Dalung at a press conference on Tuesday, September 11, 2018 announced the 6th of December as commencement for the Festival.
Apart from the TORCH OF UNITY which as at the last time we heard was in Ondo State and being hosted by Governor Oluwarotimi Akeredolu Aketi at the Government House, Alagbaka, Akure far away from athletes, would- be investors and sports lovers, nothing seems to be happening concerning the sports festival.
(On Monday, it miraculously made its way to Lagos)
From all early indications, the 10-year contract signed with Greenfield Assets Limited to rebrand, repackage, market and deliver five editions of the games starting with the 2018 edition is turning out to be a failed project.
It is 10 days to the NSF and there is no jingle on radio, television or adverts in the national dailies creating awareness about the biggest multi-sports event in Nigeria.
From the information available on the website of the games, (https://nigeriasportsfestival.org/home/) which was last updated on the 12th of October, it’s obvious the Torch of Unity is “stranded” in Kwara State.
I was in Abuja last week and I paid a visit to Package A and B of the National Stadium where the bulk of the events will be happening.
Let me burst your bubbles, apart from the 2 banners in front of Package A gates announcing the games, NOTHING IS HAPPENING!!!!!.
With the zero funding, the facility committee headed by the Director of Facilities of the FMYSD is seriously handicapped to carry out the necessary renovation of games venues.
It’s obvious that despite the setup of a media and publicity committee headed by the Director Press in the Ministry of Sports, they have failed to have a substantial media team to collate information, take pictures, videos and churn out news about the festival.
Even, if there was no money for media activations, Nigerian Television Authority (NTA Network News), Federal Radio Corporation of Nigeria (Radio Nigeria (FRCN)), Voice of Nigeria-VON and News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) all non-profiting media organizations owned by the Federal Government with outlets in the 36 states of the federation have not been utilized to promote the games.
Despite the NSF fully captured in the 2018 budget which was approved by the House of Assembly, according to the investigation carried out, no dime has been released from the budget office to set the ball in motion.
Unfortunately, in Nigeria, everything has been known to be put on hold months to general elections and so the NSF has continued to suffer neglect and zero-funding from the Federal Government while Greenfield Assets Limited have also gone to sleep waiting for the event to fail.
Apart from the Unity Torch tour and a “news portal already in coma” created by the Ministry, all the pre-Festival activities to sensitize Nigerians as well as create publicity and awareness have failed to happen.
Till now, registration process for intending journalists who wish to cover the events has not started which is another serious concern.
Across the states, things are being done in a hush tone with nobody ready to upset the cart months before the general elections albeit the zero level of financial commitment from the state governments.
In Lagos state where I stay, there are different tales from the different sides of the coin.
To some, things are being done in a haphazard way which may not guarantee any form of high performance which never was the practice before in Lagos.
For example in football, it was reported that 10 players are in close camping while the rest of the team were being told to come from their respective homes for training.
For many other sports, a visit to the Mobolaji Johnson Sports Complex (Rowe Park) is really not encouraging as we still see athletes already pencilled down to represent Lagos state wandering around and eating gala and pure water after their personal training.
With the inauguration of new executives of the 40 Sports Associations in Lagos apart from football on Monday, 3rd of December, many are wondering how these sports have been able to coordinate with their coaches to pick athletes for the states.
Sadly, since it became obvious that Mr Akinwunmi Ambode is not returning as the APC Gubernatorial flag bearer for the 2019 elections in Lagos State, EVERYTHING HAS STOPPED WORKING in the state.
Many are scared that from now till May 29, 2019, everything will continue to retrogress which will also affect sports and the overall funding and performance of Lagos state athletes at the NSF.
On the other side of the coin, Lagos State Sports Commission Chairman, Dr Kweku Adedayo Tandoh said the report was the handiwork of haters while he revealed that close camping will start on Wednesday, 28th of November.
Tandoh said despite the 19th edition being an open NSF, Lagos is not keen on using elite athletes which is why Lagos state athletes totaling 300 have been placed on grants since last year.
With the state participating in 37 sports with 442 athletes and 81 coaches who have been in camp (open camping) since 2017, Lagos is prepared as usual to take the NSF by storm.
In Bayelsa, according to a media report credited to Harrison Iyonmana, Athletes and Officials of the Bayelsa State Sports Council on Monday took to the streets of Yenagoa to protest non-release of funds.
According to him, the athletes stormed the Government House gate with placards, demanding camping allowances in preparation for the biggest Nigerian sporting event.
Reliable information hinted that officials were reportedly demanding N5,000 while athletes wanted N3,000 as daily camping allowance.
Out of the N250million applied for by the Bayelsa State Sports Council, only N20m was allegedly approved for the festival which left many angry snd sceptical of the state’s willingness and readiness to participate in the festival just few months to the elections.
Across the other states, the stories seem to be the same with nothing serious befitting of the NSF status which should be the hunting ground for the next generation of Nigeria’s Sports Stars.
Going by early indices, the competition in terms of organisation may turn out to be a glorified inter house sports if something drastic is not done to salvage the situation.
If we fail in 2020 to get a medal in Tokyo, I hope the usual people whose calling is apportioning blames for failures at international competitions will not start picking on the government of the day.
Now that something can still be done, nobody seem to be talking because it’s just the National Sports Festival.
Solomon Dalung Solomon Dalung Foundation Solomon Selcap Dalung