Welcome to The Octagon
The Octagon: We appreciate you taking time out to Join this Chat Session which will end at 4pm (1 Hour). We have two moderators in the room who will only offer guidance where necessary. Please feel free to openly share your thoughts and experiences. Let’s begin with some introductions before going into the discussion. Can everyone let us know who they are and share a bit about what they do?
Shamsu: My Name Is Yusuf Shamsudeen Tijjani. I’m a Football Agent/Intermediary and also Co-owner of the Football Fives World Championship Franchise For Nigeria F5WC. I’m also the MD of NewAge Sports Africa, a sports business company.
Rehia: Rehia GIwa -Osagie. Owner elitebox. We are experts in boxing and combat sports. I’m a general sport lover.
Boma: I’m Boma Ekiyor, a US soccer licensed intermediary and president of BEA LLC, a sport development/representation company. Also founder of Youth Converts Foundation, a non profit that focuses on sports development and using sports to address social issues. Also spent 15 years as a sports business executive in the NBA- Atlanta Hawks, NFL-Tampa Bucs, and NHL- Atlanta Thrashers. Also served as Project lead for the Racial and Gender Report Card for the Institute for Diversity and Ethics in Sport.
Bambo: Hi All, Bambo Akani, Founder & CEO of Making of Champions, a Sports Media & Management Company dedicated to reviving Track & Field in Nigeria. I’m also the Executive Producer and Director for Top Sprinter, a Reality TV Talent Search we launched last year to find Nigeria’s best Sprinters for the 2020 Olympics and beyond.
Nigeria may lack in the area of sports achievements but never in festivities and events. Many have called for a total change of leadership of the sports governing bodies following the country’s failure to win a single medal in two consecutive Olympic Games. While others are of the opinion that participating at the Olympic games is not primarily about winning medals.
However, no one argues with the lack of preparedness or low support for representatives at international games. Over the years more and more initiatives have been set up to discover new talent with little focus on developing these and existing ones.
If we stay on the current path we are on, will there be a future for sports in Nigeria? What are the real challenges facing sports in Nigeria? How do we address them? How do we ensure that we are able to get quality representation and not lose our best to other countries?
Rehia: Typically in this terrain the right person for the job doesn’t always get the job. For Example the minister of sports in theory should be a huge pioneer and beacon for progressing sports within any country but in Nigeria sports may be the least of his/her priority. That being said, Understanding your environment plays a role – the support will not necessarily come from the government. The enthusiastic and avid sports lovers themselves need to make the change they want to see. People need to stop sitting down and watching premier league at home and actually go out and support the local leagues or create their own pockets of sporting platforms. Every little initiative can help somebody. It’s just a start it’s not a revolution . Revolting doesn’t happen here, so let’s work within realistic frames and make baby steps. More pro-active participation in creating awareness and platforms for sports within. Support your own first. It’s a similar story for every sport . Football, Boxing, Athletics Tennis etc.
Shamsu: First of all I would say, sports in Nigeria is not seen as something the Government should bother or worry about unlike in other countries. We only focus on the major events like the World Cup and the Olympics were we just do the fire brigade approach and hoping a miracle Will happen. If we don’t plan then we’re planning to Fail. Mind you preparations for next Olympics starts immediately when the current one ends. Development has been our biggest problem. It’s just lip service by the people in charge. It is time the Government leaves the sport and focuses on other sectors. They can help in Infrastructure set up. In the world today, Sports is a business. It’s not selling akara. It requires huge investment.
Rehia: Haha. Sometimes miracles occur because we have some good talent .
Bambo: Unfortunately sports in Nigeria is mostly funded by the government and the Sports governing bodies and over the years these bodies haven’t demonstrated the level of accountability, transparency and value that would attract sponsors and other forms of private funding in sports in Nigeria. Actually preparation for any Olympic Games starts at least 8 years before. So essentially we’re already 4yrs behind serious nations even if we start preparing right now for 2020.
Rehia: 1- Education/empowerment 2-Cooperation/Mutually beneficial projects 3. Execution
Boma: I believe a clear and specific definition of the problems in Nigerian sports have not been identified. If I were to ask how many Olympic style swimming pools are in the country? Who can give me a clear answer? Or how is the NIT organized ?Or how many reps work for the NSC ? There are some deep rooted issues that need to be identified before a solution can be arrived at
Shamsu: I agree. Even the Football that we claim to be so good at is no more attractive any longer. How many adequate football pitches do we have in the country? Not Sand pitches.
Rehia: How many quality boxing rings in the country?
Bambo: Huge investment is needed, yes, but unfortunately even if $10 billion was poured into Nigerian Sports today that money will disappear by tomorrow. The emphasis should be on finding the right people to govern sports else we’re going to be saying the same things for years to come.
Boma: Majority of the people that implement Nigerian sport are civil servants that work for the ministry. And we all know how civil servants work in Nigeria.
Shamsu: That’s why it doesn’t need to be run by civil servants any longer. But then, who are the right people ? Not the NFF, NSC ? For Example: How many of these so called football academies that have sold players over the years have Invested in their own Academies? None. Not even a Bus, Balls, School. So sometimes it’s not just the Government, even the private individuals claiming to be in the sport have nothing to offer. For them, money is the motive, nothing else.
Rehia: The Right person for the job doesn’t always get it – Individuals that are passionate and have unadulterated drive to grow a sport.
Bambo: Very good question, who are the right people? Not only do they need to have a large range of skills to grow sports (management, media, fundraising skills etc), they need to be selfless enough to put country way before themselves. In Nigerian Sports we don’t have much of either unfortunately.
The Octagon: From the points raised, clearly the approach to sports in Nigeria has either failed or been set up for failure. Do we consider that another strategy should be employed to set up sport administrative bodies? Maybe even consider PPP for developing both infrastructure and managing talent?
Boma: Clearly, another strategy needs to be created and implemented by competent people. I believe PPP can be an option, however the involvement of the government must be clearly defined, even minimized. Another option will be creating a new platform for development. Because the government’s involvement in sport will not stop…it’s too political. A new platform for development is clearly the way. Tap into the 180 million, create leagues nationwide. Make sure the platforms have strong business plans. What that platform is will depend on the sport. The business of sport must be practiced – without it, it’s pointless. What can be sold, how can it be sold, and how will it contribute to development.
Shamsu: PPP can work. But the right people in both the Government and the Private sector must be identified, or else it won’t work. I’m with Boma on creating a whole new structure, without the government. All these men in Agbada’s and their over sized Coats won’t take our sports anywhere. There are many youth in this country doing nothing. How can we tap into that?