‘We Lack The Adminstrative Ability To Run Sports’

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As part of his new transformation agenda, the minister of sports, Alhaji Yusuf Sulieman, has declared that he is ever ready to bring total transformation into the sports sector.

In this interview, he explains why the sports sector is in need of changes and what he hopes to do to ensure that the fortune of sports in the country changes for the better. He spoke to journalists recently and BASSEY EKPO BASSEY was there for LEADERSHIP SUNDAY

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Recently, there were a lot of new development within the sporting circle; what will be your plan and your area of focus as the new helmsman?
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Well, I believe that these new developments all took place within the context of the law, just to ensure that whatever you do must be in the best interest of this country.?
?My present, major task is to organise the sports sector of this country, because the sports industry has the greatest potential of engaging our youth. It is a means of employment to this generation, as well as a means of getting our youth fully engaged all-round. That is what we are trying to do, but in the mean, what we are trying to do is to ensure that all the various federations come up with talent discovery and youth engagement programmes, as well as others that will continue to encourage competition at various levels.
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Through this process, we will get our youths off the street and re-direct their minds towards productive ideas. Although I have spoken with the presidents of various sports federations in the country, I am going to seat down with them again, because it is going to be a continuous interaction. I believe that the sports ministry, for now, has the greatest potential to engaging our young people.
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There are so many unemployed youths and you can see a lot of them moving around our streets. But with proper re-direction, education and engagement, we can bring them back into the field and create an avenue for them to be fully engaged. So, as part of this transformation agenda, we are going to get our youths fully and positively engaged in the development of this country.
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My idea and vision is to see Nigeria producing champions at various international competitions; the ATP, WTA, tennis meets and others organised by the international amateur Athletics Federation (IAAF), including the Golden League. I want to see Nigeria coming out with gold medals in all competitions. We have the commitment, so, it is now left for us as sport administrators to put all these together and move in the right direction.
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Do you think that the just concluded 17th national sports festival has positively contributed towards what you have in mind for the industry?
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You see, the National Sports Festival are meant to be avenues the discovery of talents. Infact, the 17th national sports festival that just ended in Port Harcourt, saw a lot of national records broken and new international records also made, as well. So, for all intent and purposes, it was a great success. Nigeria has the capacity, because we have the talent, potential, and commitment, but lack the ability to properly coordinate these resource in a proper, administrative manner. I think if we do this, we can project our athletes, so that they can compete internationally and come out with positive results.
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Lately, there was crises in the sport industry and you promised to harmonise the issues or problems within the sporting community. What are the strategies you are putting in place to ensure that the sports industry in Nigeria moves in the right direction?
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Well, it was evident that the biggest challenge we had when we came in was the seemingly impasse in terms of the crises that broke out in the football house. Unfortunately, we were able to sit down and harmonise the issues in the various sectors. I can boldly tell you now that peace has returned to the ‘glass house’ and to the Nigeria football, as well.
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Let me tell you; the good thing there, as I said (which eventually turned out to be correct ), was that both factions had the interest of Nigerian football at heart. They were both committed to the promotion and the development of football in the country. As a result, it was easy for us to sit and agree on how to move Nigerian football forward. I think this same method will be applied to any sporting federation having problems with its leadership.
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I believe it is going to be easy, because you can never develop any place ?if there is no peace. First, peace must reign and I am glad to inform you that we now have peace in the Nigerian football house.
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Your success in the transport sector definitely made the president to re-assign you to the sports sector; can you highlight the extent to which you went to achieve this success?
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Well, with due respect, I do think that it would be fair for me to start giving the run downs of what I did in the transport sector. I think some one has been assigned to that sector and I have thoroughly briefed him, handed over everything to him and I believe it is his responsibility to advice ?the president on issues relating to that ministry. Let me concentrate on the assignments available in this ministry.
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Back to sports; to what extent are you going to put on policies that will guarantee revenue generation for the sector?
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If you have been following my discussions, particularly the sport writers association of Nigeria (SWAN). Recently, I had a press briefing where I informed them that I will summon a strategic meeting, one that would focus ?on the identification of new funding options for the development of sports in Nigeria. I think this will be one of my major priorities in terms of what I want to do. Funding of sports is the key issue that I want to address, and we want to do this by calling all the respective sponsors, the federation and some major stakeholders in the industry to sit down and chart a new course, in order to have a viable funding option for the sports industry in this country.
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?What is your message to all the sports fans in Nigeria?
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Well, my message to all the sports fans in this country is this; we have a lot of talented young men and women who are committed, dedicated and they also love to win. We must come out and support them and give them all the support, in order for them to excel. I am sure that with a little push from all our interest groups, states ?and the Federal governments, and other various stakeholders (sponsors like the MTN, Glo, Sharon, Mobil Oil, and all the other sponsors) we will achieve success in the sports sector.

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