FROM ROMANUS UGWU, ABUJA
There was no doubt when Hon Gbenga Elegbeleye assumed the position of the Director General of the National Sports Commission (NSC) that even with little cognate experience in sports administration, he would fit into the position.
Almost two years down the line, he has carried out some salient reforms to better the lot of Nigerian sports. Under him laurels have been won, in addition to many other pragmatic measures to take sports to the next level.
In this interview with Sunday Sunsports/Soccer Star the NSC DG, delved into several issues in the administration of sports including the real reason for the multiple postponement of the National Sports Festival, his expectations for the forthcoming All Africa Games amongst others.
The effect of the just concluded political campaign and elections on sports ministry
I must tell you that it didn’t really affect us in any way. Thank God you always meet me in the office. We are here every day putting things in order as we prepare for the various competitions that are facing us.
We have the All-African Games in Congo, World Youth Games in Samoa, as well as other competitions. We are also targeting the 2016 Olympics Games in Rio De Jeneirio, Brazil.
You know that definitely we cannot sponsor Team Nigeria to all the competitions and this we have let the various sports federations to know due to financial constraint. But, those we have the abilities to sponsor must be sponsored adequately. We are putting our athletes in good shape for the All African Games and Olympics.
Our athletes just returned from the Junior Athletics Championship in Ethiopia where they came first. It shows the level of our seriousness in international championships . Nigerians expect us to do well and we will definitely do that in every competition we enter into.
The volume of envelops to the sports federations in the 2015 budget
Certainly, what we were given was an envelop by the budget office, that means we cannot go beyond what is contained in the envelop. Within that frame of the envelope given to us, we have to ensure that all our activities would be built inside it. Federations are supposed to be involved in producing athletes that would represent the country in international competitions.
As much as the budget can carry us, we will support them for competitions, especially in the areas of camping and participation. We have always urged them to minimize cost because of the paucity fund in the NSC. They must only travel for tournaments that are very necessary.
Also in such trips it must not be an all comers affair because there is no money. We can only participate in tournaments that would help us rise up rather than registering for all events when we know that the fund is not there.
For example, I do not always travel outside because I always try to accommodate first those that must travel for tournaments like coaches and players. This I would want the sports federations to emulate.
Not participating in crucial tournaments
Yes there were cases of that nature in the past, but let me tell you, the issue of weightlifting missing one championship like the one in Kazakhstan because of funding should not be over emphasized because there are always many other championships they can participate in that would count as an Olympics qualifying events.
If they miss one and go to the next one, it is still the same thing. We cannot attend all because it is not possible for us to finance all the championships. What we are going to do is to involve them in at least two competitions that would earn them qualifying points for the Olympics.
Again talking about basketball, the bill they gave us for their male and female ran into about N60 million and we were able to release N25 million for them. We have about 42 federations and you now that this money is not always there. We have so many competitions to participate in but it is so unfortunate that we don’t have the finance to be in all of them.
Target for Team Nigeria at the All Africa Games
To be honest with you, it is quite embarrassing that we only came first when we hosted in Abuja in 2003. We moved from there to second position and now we are perpetually in third below South Africa and Egypt.
That is not acceptable to us. We do not want to drop again, we do not want to remain in third position. We want to move up. Its either we are first or second. I am very serious about it. I have considered third position as a failure that is not good for a country like Nigeria.
We have taken some measures to actualize this. Right now, we are involved in grassroots programs through the youth games, National Youth Festivals, School Sports which culminated in our participation in African Youth Games in Botswana where we won more medals compared to what we won in the last edition.
We believe that these youths will move up to the elite division to represent Nigeria and probably get the results. We do not need to rely on our old legs who are ageing. We need the younger ones to replace them. My target here is the Olympics games. My tenure runs through the next games and I want to make sure that we rewrite our poor outing in the 2012 edition. Yes, we have won a lot in Africa, but it is highly insignificant if we fail to win at the Olympics level. That is where I am targeting now.
National Sports Festival and Youth Games not held as planned
The reason we could not hold the National Sports Festival as planned last year was that it coincided with the national primaries of political parties in December which led to it postponement. Then there was also the issue of Ebola Disease. So the Cross Rivers state government felt that it might be unsafe to gather such number of athletes and players together at a period when the Ebola disease was spreading rapidly in West Africa. By the time the Ebola crisis was over, it was fixed to start from April 9. But with the postponement of the 2015 general elections to that same period, we cannot be having a competition of that magnitude at a period when the country is going for an election.
So, Cross Rivers state is the host and it is very important to obey their position as far as the Games is concerned. We are waiting for the LOC from the host state to meet and give us a new date. We want the games to be held when governor Liyel Imoke is still in office as governor as honor for his numerous contributions to sports development in Nigeria. We want to use the Games to hand him a parting gift.
For the national Youth Games, it was not captured in our budget for 2014. The first time it took place it was funded from money from our sporting activities. Now we have agreed that like the national Sports Festival, the Youth Games should be hosted by states. But we are yet to find a state to host towards the end of the year.