BIO: NEW MINISTER, FRESH CHALLENGES
It is two weeks since I wrote on the scorecard of the former chairman of the National Sports Commission, Sani Ndanusa. Ordinarily, that piece should be enough as a guide for the new minister, Ibrahim Bio, but enumerating the challenges before him is essential.
Again, President Goodluck Jonathan stuck to the zoning system of the Peoples Democratic Party by picking the new sports minister from Kwara State, North central part of the country. The party has zoned the leadership of the NSC to the region.
Ndanusa remains the president of the Nigeria Tennis Federation. He is even aspiring to be the president of the Nigeria Olympics Committee but he failed to exhibit his wealth of experience in sports during his tenure.
In the past few days, followers of sports and my colleagues have been lamenting the appointment of Bio because he has no antecedent in sports.
It is sad enough that Bio will have to learn the ropes but I honestly believe he stands a good chance to do well if he is focused.
Bio should learn from the mistakes of the former sports minister who did nothing to develop the less popular sports.
Swimming, shooting, gymnastics and weight-lifting are some of the medal-spinning sports that should be developed. For big events like the Olympic Games and the Commonwealth games, it is vital to have talented athletes in key events.
In Nigeria, the football federation gets almost everything it wants but it is difficult for the other sports to get regular funding.
Bio was the minister of transport in the former cabinet. In the past 20 years, he has been in government in Kwara state and also at the national level. He was a Speaker at the Kwara State House of Assembly and was also a former House of Representatives member. He studied Pharmacy at the Ahmadu Bello University and graduate with a First Class.
With his background, Bio might not know much about sports but he should be smart enough to perform well.
Bio should be out to make our athletes active. Athletes are in Lagos training on a daily basis without competition to assess their current form in their various disciplines. There is a difference between physical fitness and competition fitness. I cannot remember when last a national wrestling, swimming, gymnastics, volleyball or handball competition was held in Nigeria. Basketball, another event that has huge fan base, is almost dead. The era of having a full house at the sports hall watching Islanders versus Comets is over. We have to make the less popular sports attractive to bring fans back into various stadia in Nigeria.
Football is a beautiful game and it is number one in Nigeria. Bio should be conscious not to follow football and neglect other sports just like his predecessors. For now, he should get busy with Nigeria's readiness for the forthcoming Commonwealth Games in Delhi, India. He should also show interest in Nigeria's qualification for various events at the London 2012 Olympic Games. Nigeria did not attend most of the qualifying competitions for the last Olympic games due to financial problems. If there is money to run football, there should be at least a quarter of that amount to boost other sports.
It is a World Cup year and so much is on football but the new minister should be able to manage the situation such that other sports will not suffer.
For Bio, my mind is open. He needs our support to move sports forward in Nigeria.