Abuja (WorldStage Newsonline)– President Goodluck Jonathan on Monday identified adequate investment and proper governance structure as necessary ingredients for the country to be among the top sporting nations in the world.
Jonathan who spoke at the opening of the Presidential Retreat of the Sports Sector with the theme “Harnessing the Potential of Nigeria’s Sports Sector: from Playground to Podium” held at the Banquet Hall of the Presidential Villa Abuja, stated that his administration was committed to Nigeria becoming the best sporting nation in Africa, top four in the Commonwealth and ultimately rule the world.
The president who was emphatic about the country’s potentials stressed that the country can turn the present situation in the sporting sector around with collective agreement by all the stakeholders.
The retreat which is as a result of recent disappointment recorded by the country in international competitions including the recently concluding the 2012 summer Olympics in London and other competitions.
The vision to rule the sporting world according to the president was realistic and achievable with hard work, greater sense of purpose and dedication.
According to him: “Make no mistake: our commitment is to become the best sporting nation in Africa, be among the top four sporting nations in the Commonwealth and ultimately rule the world.
“This vision is not only realistic, it is also achievable with hard work, greater sense of purpose, and dedication.
“If we must achieve excellence and meet the objective requirements for the rapid development of our sports industry, then we must broaden the financing base of the industry and create the right conditions for private sector funding and investment in sport.
“Adequate funding of sports is very crucial to this endeavour but efficiently and transparent management of resources is key.”
The president explained further that he has also set up a committee under the minister of Finance and the Coordinating Minister for the Economy, Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala to work out a strategy for sustainable management of funding of the sports sector.
The President also underscored the importance of sport as a source of joy to people, a unifying and mobilizing factor and revenue generation.
He therefore urged participants to brainstorm and strategise on how to reclaim the countryâ€™s past sporting glory.
“There is no gain saying that apart from its obvious benefits in bringing joy to our citizens, especially when out teams do well, no other sector of our national life has a greater force for mobilizing and uniting our people around a common purpose, than sport.
“I remember very vividly as a Vice President when we are to host a team that did well and the Chief of Staff then, Gen. Abdullahi, was emphasizing that we must receive the people very well because it only sport and especially when we are winning that Moslems and Christians donâ€™t know the difference between themselves.
“They sing the same songs, dance the same steps and we must encourage sporting activities in this country,â€™â€™ he said
The President said the country could not overlook the relevance of sports to national development and well being.
He described sports as a viable socio-economic tool for youth development, nation building and instilling core value of social justice.
The president who also recalled the superlative performance of Nigerian athletes at Atlanta 1996 in particular, Chioma Ajunwa who won the first Gold medal for Nigeria and the Dream Team led by Kanu Nwankwo decried decline recorded in the sport sector over the years and called for ways to reverse the situation.
He said, “This retreat is timely, given the recent disappointing performance of Team Nigeria at the 2012 Summer Olympic in London and our recent lows in football competitions among others.“This unacceptable trend points to systemic failures that urgently call for a drastic and holistic review of our sport policies.â€™â€™
The President also stressed that the retreat was no to apportion blames or point accusing fingers, but to find solutions and put in framework for achieving national sporting excellence.
The President tasked the States governors to identify potentials where they have comparative advantages in sporting event for development.
He said, â€œEvery state has some level of comparative advantage in one form of sports or the order and if every state will promise Nigerians that we will give you a medal in this area, and another medal in this area, that means we are expecting 36 medals.â€œ(Governor Rotimi) Amaechi will tell us that Rivers State will give us a medal in this area, Liyel Imoke will tell us that Cross Rivers will give us a medal in this area and Kogi will also say the same and all the 36 governors.
â€œOut of these 36 medals, at least five will be gold.
He also called on the private sector to devise means of supporting sporting activities in the country.
â€œI also believe that the private sector will play a key role. We know that in some countries, the private sector plays some key roles in sporting activities and not just trading or manufacturing sporting wares,â€ he said.
Earlier, Minister of Finance, Dr Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, outlined the objective of the retreat to include among others, come up with initiatives to implement over the next one to three years to develop the sport sector.
She noted that regaining the nationâ€™s glory in sport was imperative considering the importance of the sector to national development.
Okonjo-Iweala also said apart from a unifying factor, sports is a big business and a tool for job creations.
She also buttressed her claim with a UK example where in 2008 consumers in England spent about 17.4 billion Pounds on sports related activities which she said represented about 1.5 per cent of GDP. Compared to Nigeria, the Minister said that sports and recreation and entertainment activities represented only about 0.25 per cent of the GDP.“In England, about 440,000 people are employed in sports related jobs. This is 1.8 per cent of all employment in England, with three quarters of these jobs in the private sector.“At the London Olympics, the UK won a total of 65 medals and given the funds invested, we estimate that each medal won cost about 4.8 million Pounds or N1.2 billion,â€™â€™ she said
She also identified funding, governance and management challenges as factors hindering the development of sports in the country.
The Minister noted that greater transparency is needed in the management of fund allocated to the sports sector.
She said the governance of various sports federations in the country, should also strive to meet up with international best practices.“Until we fix some of these fundamental institutional problems, all the money we put into the sector would have only limited impacts,â€™â€™ she said.
Okonjo-Iweala disclosed that the President had asked for an urgent renovation of the Abuja National Stadium currently in a state of disrepair. She added that, as part of sustainable framework for financing the sporting sector, government would explore the national lottery and additional taxes on luxury goods, as obtainable in other countries.
In his remarks the Sports Minister Bolaji Abdullahi said for a change to take place in the sector ” there must be the will to tell ourselves the bitter truth”.
He said Nigerians mostly relied on Miracles rather than method, adding that though “prayers are very important, but I believe that fortune favours those who are prepared. We must rely on method rather than miracles”.
The minister pointed that though there were issues and excesses eating deep in the sports sector, how long will this serve as an excuse for failure.
He urged all stakeholders in the sector to put aside the bickering of the past adding that without doing the sector will not be able to move forward even of funded by the Central Bank.
He also attributed some of the problems faced in the sector to having about 90 % of the staff in the ministry as administrative staff. He urged the President to look into the matter and see how people who are involved in Sports can be brought in to run the sector. Present at the retreat were Vice President Namadi Sambo, States governors and stakeholders from the public and private sector.