A New Year, A New Message And A New Nigeria! –Odegbami
It is a New Year – 2023
For the first time in ages, I am deliberately setting several New Year goals and resolutions for myself, but anchored to a one basic philosophy.
The philosophy is not to join in the chorus of dwelling and being driven by the negative narratives of Nigeria. I have done that for too long and produced little or no result. So, it may be time to change the strategy.
Already, we are entering a period in the country’s life that is obviously going to be difficult, very challenging for every Nigerian, and a critical addition to the story of a country that is really like no other on the planet, one so abundantly blessed and at the same time, seemingly, so ‘cursed’.
I have resolved to start to think the future of Nigeria differently in the hope that the veil of underperformance and underachievement shall be lifted from our eyes by new attitudes that will enable us make new and better choices. We must not carry the burden of the past into 2023’s architecture.
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For several decades, cobwebs of ignorance, politics, greed, corruption and ethnicity have clogged and blurred the original vision of a great country, one with very obvious potentials of becoming a global force in virtually all spheres of human endeavour. Those cobwebs must be removed in order to be able to clearly glean all the evidence around us of Nigerians excelling in other countries that are benefiting from this our rich fountain of human capacity, that can be deployed back home to develop the Motherland.
Within Nigeria, we play the game of life and governance with our country’s Third XI citizens, celebrating and deploying some of the least of our rich human stock to shape the future. Otherwise, there is no other way to explain Nigeria’s present poor state and abysmal story. It is as in ‘a tale told by an idiot, full of sound and fury, signifying nothing’.
To dwell on our failed ways and processes is to continue to wallow in despair, depression and inertia. Things became so ‘bad’ towards the tail end of 2022 in sports that we had to continually ask the question: how much deeper can the country sink?
The response came when Tobi Amusan and Ese Brume came to remind us of our latent and unending potentials by lighting up the ‘darkness’ in Track and Field.
They clear the cobwebs of 1972, when, in order to host the All-African Games, the National Stadium in Lagos was constructed with first class sports facilities in 28 different sports to serve as foundation of an authentic sports development projectile. The icing on the cake then was the establishment of a state-of-the-art sports science institute with clear goals and objectives. The National Institute for Sports was the best such institution in the whole of Africa, a replica of the German Institute of Sports in Hennef, Germany, that till this day still continues to provide capacity development training for sports technocrats, technicians and administrators from all over the world. The Nigerian version is now a carcass, pretending to be alive, having lost essence, focus and direction.
In 2002, not a single one of the sports facilities from 1972 is functional, not one!
Even the National Institute for Sports, the think-tank of sports education and development that should be the builder of human capacity for sports development in country lies prostate, irrelevant, lost in limbo, ‘as idle as a painted ship, upon a painted ocean’.
Almost all the over-30 sports federations were performing at the lowest ebb. No sport was thriving. Sponsorships of federations, programs and events were but in a trickle. There were no existing facilities good enough to package sports for great television consumption anywhere in the country, and sport without television is like tea without water and sugar.
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So, there is little to take away from Nigeria’s past in sports anymore, not even lessons, because any thought of the failures and lost opportunities merely adds to dampening of spirit, leaving genuine stakeholders wondering when and how the country derailed and arrived at this sorry State; how the country got caught in this mangled mesh; how the country with its potentials acknowledged around the planet in other spheres and climes can be so unproductive, languishing in the morass of underperformance and underachievement within its boundaries; how the country’s sports became infested with corruption in every fibre of its existing structures.
The story of Nigerian sports should be left and buried to avoid the shameful images and commentaries they provoke. Nigeria’s story is one eloquently captured in Onyeka Onwenu’s famed TV-documentary – ‘the squandering of riches’, a country so abundantly blessed and yet, now so squalid.
So, here we are at the dawn of 2023.
I have resolved to end any unproductive ‘romance’ with sordid old tales of the worst of Nigeria’s sports history.
I step into 2023 reminded of a new path to take into the future by Tobi Amusan’s world record feats and Ese Brume’s incredible jumps, two bright moments in the consternation that have become pointers to new possibilities and potentials that had always existed for Nigeria to become a major global player in sports, whilst developing a sports industry that will ‘feed’ millions of Nigerians. The evolution of a new National Sports Industry policy also provokes a new ‘song’ and message of hope from 2023.
Those are the basis of my New Year’s resolutions:
I shall not curse the ‘darkness’ within Nigerian sport because therein lies (but hidden) the best rewards and treasures of success.
I shall be a match-stick to ignite, or instigate the lighting of other candles that will illuminate and reveal the gemstones that ‘the dark unfathomed caves of ocean bear’.
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I shall join with innovative and creative thinkers and assist sports to rise from the debris of past failures, and start charting new pathways to development by deploying new technology, and the entrepreneurial spirit of a younger, smarter and more technologically-savvy generation.
I shall join with others in reviving the culture of sports within academic and sports institutions, through events and programmes aimed at the discovery, training and production of new talents and athletes.
I shall join forces with others of like mind in developing the sports industry that will feed on the talent and achievements of these emerging athletes, by organising, packaging, promoting and presenting first-class events and projects.
I shall expend plenty of energy joining forces with colleagues and other stakeholders to set up a special fund and programmes to cater for the welfare of retired and ageing Nigerian athletes.
I shall join with others in implementing national policies that will reposition sport as a business in Nigeria.
I shall pursue my ultimate dream in sports, establishing the foundations of bidding and hosting the FIFA World Cup in 2034 with soft-power diplomatic tools as the basic ingredients.
I shall reinforce my personal projects with additional infrastructure to sustain them through the challenging period that the World will be passing through as irreversible challenges take place in the world in an emerging new World Order.
Finally, I am going into 2023 with excitement at the prospects of what lies beneath the superficiality of the impending ‘chaos and confusion’ in the political and economic space that will usher in a new Nigeria from 2023.
Happy New Year!
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