SPORTS’ ANTI-CLIMAX IN JOS, NIGERIA
That there is no accurate statistical data of the number of Nigerian youth that are unemployed is no longer in doubt. What is also not in doubt is that both government and independent sources in Nigeria believe that unemployment among Nigerian youth has reached a frightening emergency dimension.
Officially, Nigeria's Bureau of statistics recently told us that unemployment rate in Nigeria increased to 23.90 per cent in 2011 from 21.10 per cent in 2010.
From empirical evidence, most Nigerians who should know say that the actual rate of unemployment has become very politically subjective given that political office holders are more concerned about winning elections than delivering good governance.
The Abuja- based National Bureau of statistics, stated that from 2006 until 2011, Nigeria's unemployment rate averaged 14.6 percent reaching an all time high of 23.9 per cent in December 2011 and a record low of 5.3 percent in December 2006.
The unemployment rate measures the number of people actively looking for a job as a percentage of the labor force.
Our emphasis on the increasing rate of youth unemployment was motivated by the sad development in Plateau State capable of sending the wrong signal that at the sub-national levels, state governments are not showing sufficient evidence of commitment to explore all vibrant and viable avenues to create employment opportunities including of course the development of the sports industry.
Most local newspapers on Tuesday October 29, 2013 reported the disbandment of the Jos University teaching hospital's football club by the governing board of that health establishment which has become more popular for producing great soccer talents than the rendering of daily health services to her clients.
One of the talented football players produced by the now disbanded Jos university teaching hospital's football club is the Russia-based professional footballer Mr. Ahmed Musa who is one of the best soccer talents doing Nigeria proud as a national team player-the Super Eagles which is at the verge of a historic such qualification to play at the 2014 senior World Cup in Brazil.
A goalkeeper of the team, Gyanga Musa, informed MTNFootball.comthat JUTH has been disbanded and an official of the club further confirmed this “There is no more JUTH FC. We have been disbanded. We just finished meeting with the management this afternoon and they told us the acting CMD said they don't have money to spend on the team again,” a devastated Musa told MTNFOOTBALL.COM.
A top official of the team further confirmed; “Well, I think that is the true position because we received a letter from the acting CMD to that effect that they won't be able to fund the team, so we have no choice than to inform the players of the latest development and to switch off the team, but we can never tell may be if a substantive CMD is appointed because the present one is in acting capacity, the story may change and the club return.”
JUTH FC which hold the record of the first team in Plateau State to play for two seasons consecutively in Nigeria's Premier league were relegated to the Nationwide League at the end of the just concluded NNL season, This Day newspaper recalled.
The rich history of the club shows that the club brought many players to limelight, including but not limited to Ahmed Musa (Super Eagles and CSKA Moscow) who cut his professional teeth with JUTH when he was discovered from Aminchi Academy, Kehinde Fatai (EX—20, EX-U-23 and Club Brugge), Willy Adams (Sudan-based), Babawo Mohammed (now a licensed player agent), Uche Agbo (U-20 star) and Tochukwu Nwankwo (USA- based).
Other players who have played for JUTH as recorded by sports reporters in Nigeria include Eze Fidelis, Hassan Hussein, Kelechi Okoye, Kamaldeen Sikiru, James Amankwei, Musa Yawale, Sunday Omolade, Thomas Kemeh, Walter Peter, Emmanuel Abba, Victor Yakubu James, Amankwei and Danjuma Ibrahim among others.
Two things struck my consciousness on reading this shocking tale of the unwise disbandment of a sporting institution. Firstly, I am aware that youth unemployment is at its peak in Jos because of the sudden closure of small and medium scale companies which resulted from the twin evil of social, religious and ethnic unrests tearing apart the economy of the once renowned Nigeria's most beautiful tourism destination [Plateau state] and the rapidly declining electricity power supply situation.
Secondly, I am aware that sporting events like football has the potential to serve as effective healing balm in this troubling season of terrorism and mutual suspicions brought about by the unprecedented inter-ethnic and inter-religious violence in Plateau state in the last two years which have led to the killing of over 2000 persons.
Sports, I am told is also one of the best avenues for wealth and employment creation. People like Kanu Nwankwo, Austin Okocha; Tijani Babangida and Victor Ikpeba who were once young starlets that played for Nigeria's football teams, successfully transited to professional football playing times and on retirement have set up diverse economic and profitable business ventures in the tourism, Estates and other relevant activities that have created hundreds of employment opportunities for Nigerian youth.
Kanu Nwanko particularly, is known to have leveraged on his global brand to set up a heart foundation that has successfully sponsored life saving heart transplant surgeries in India for the benefit of children born to very deprive and poor Nigerian homes.
I am yet to find useful reason for why this federal government funded health facility located in Jos cannot find resources and sponsors for the legendary Jos University Teaching hospital football club [JUTH FC] which is an Iconic national sporting institution.
While calling on the Plateau State government to bail out this football club and save Nigerian youth based in Jos from further unemployment woes, let me quickly say that sports if properly governed could transform Nigeria's economy.
I make bold to state the aforementioned following a recent research from the Brazil's ministry of Sports which calculated that the FIFA World Cup in 2014 is going to be a cash cow for that country resulting in an estimated $70 Billion financial windfall as the host nation.
In a report by Kenneth Rapoza published in www.forbes.com titled; “FIFA World Cup forecast to add $70 Billion to Brazil's Economy”, we can clearly decipher the enormous economic potentials of sports especially for countries that transparently govern the administration of their sports industry.
Brazil's economy is forecast to grow by at least $70 billion as a result of its hosting the World Cup, the Brazilian Ministry of Sports said July 6 in a statement. The figure is based on the country's investments in private and public investment in infrastructure, heightened consumption, increased activity in the services sector and, of course, tax collection.
The World Cup is expected to generate over $30 billion in direct taxes, $10 billion in additional indirect taxes, and an increase in consumption of Brazilian goods and services by an estimated $3 billion for the period leading up to and during the Cup. Approximately 600,000 tourists are expected to come to Brazil for the games, which could bring in an additional $2.5 billion for the Brazilian travel industry.
Around three million Brazilian tourists are expected to travel throughout the country as well, potentially generating an additional $3.5 billion for travel and tourism. The figures were announced on July 5 by Ricardo Gomyde, special advisor to Brazil's Ministry of Sports, during the 2nd Legislative Forum of the Host Cities of the 2014 World Cup.
Recently, when Nigeria woefully failed to win a single match at the first ever senior world cup hosted in an African country in 2010 in South Africa, the Nigerian government threatened to ban the team from FIFA organized events for two years but later rescinded following imminent threat by the World Football governing body (FIFA) to sanction Nigeria if it makes good its threat to withdraw for two years.
In a press statement dated July 5th 2010, read by the then presidential media Adviser Mr. Ima Niboro, Nigerians were told why President Jonathan rescinded his threat and one of these reasons was anchored on an assurance from the Nigerian football federation to transparently develop rural sports.
“The Nigerian Football Federation at a meeting with President Goodluck Ebele Jonathan today tendered unreserved apology to the President and the Nigerian people on the dismal performance of the country's football team, the Super Eagles, at the World Cup appearance.”
“They also informed the President of their decision to disband the team, and address the numerous shortcomings evident in the management of football in Nigeria.”
“They assured the President of their commitment to evolving an enduring football development programme, and grow a new senior national team that will bring glory, rather than consistent embarrassment to Nigeria on the world stage.”
Sadly, rather than witness rapid progressive advancement of sports in Nigeria since that fiasco of 2010, what we have continued to see is the reverse even as the recent disbandment of the JUTH football club is only but a metaphor of how reckless Nigeria government is when it comes to the all important issue of development of sports.
The Nigerian government must intervene and bring back the Jos University Teaching hospital football club without any further delay.
There is no gainsaying the fact as stated by experts that Sports can also be used to reduce tensions and prevent conflict on a broader, community-wide level and Plateau state is in dire need of a healing balm.
Wilfred Lemke, the special adviser to the UN Secretary-general Banki-moon stated thus; “Sport builds bridges between individuals and across communities, providing a fertile ground for sowing the seeds of development and peace”. Plateau state government should use sports as one of the tools to bring about reconciliation; peace and prosperity in this crises-torn community.
* Emmanuel Onwubiko is Head; HUMAN RIGHTS WRITERS ASSOCIATION OF NIGERIA; and [email protected]; www.huriwa.org.