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The Dwindling Fortunes of Sports in Taraba and The Way Out      

By Victor Gai.                                     

Sports Taraba Apart from agriculture, trade, commerce and ICT, no sector has proven to be a veritable employer and source of empowerment for the youth as sports. Regrettably, it is one of the most neglected sectors in the country and the state despite its huge potentials as a respite for the teeming number of youth in the state.        

So many a youth have risen from grass to grace – becoming billionaires and superstars all because they have embraced sports.

The likes of Ronaldo of Real Madrid of Spain, Lionel Messi of Barcelona of Spain, our own Mikel Obi of Chelsea FC and youth prodigy, Kelechi Iheanacho of Manchester City FC of England, are living testimonies of what sports can do to an individual, a family and country.

They could have been practically, strugglers and hustlers in the streets of their various cities had football not come to their rescue.

Sports have proven to be a source of employment, empowerment, healthy lifestyle, leisure and social interaction. Its contribution to the national economy is quite enormous.

The stars that made it in the various sports like: Roger Federer of the Tennis fame, Tiger Woods of the golf fame, Jamaican sprinter Usain Bolt, couldn’t have made it on their own without government and the private sector providing the conducive and enabling environment for them to achieve those feats.

Apart from having the talents, a nation needs the facilities, the culture, and good will of the people for it to succeed in sports. That unfortunately is lacking in Nigeria and especially Taraba state. The potentials available have been underutilized or allowed to waste away because of our attitude towards sports.

A sure way of curbing youth restiveness, crime and unemployment is through sports. It is the simplest, most cost effective and efficient means of managing youths in the society.

Back to Taraba, despite the poor profile of sports management in the state, the state has been able to produce superstars of international repute. One of those is Ifraimu Jinkam of the badminton fame. Another is the former under-17 star for Nigeria, Macauley.

The state was able to run a club in the Nigerian premiership – Taraba FC and a women club – Taraba Queens.  Apart from that it has facilities of world class. The Jolly Nyame stadium, is reckoned to be one of the best sports complexes in Nigeria and perhaps the best in the north.

But unfortunately, it has been under-utilized, abused and left to rot away.

Many states are hungry for facilities like this but were not opportuned to have. Well, the saying goes, ‘you never know what you have until you lose it’. A word they say is enough for the wise!                                      

As a matter of fact, the few youths who participate in sports and make use of the facility for training in preparation for competitions, often complain of shabby treatment by the state’s sports officials and poor welfare.

Some cannot even afford a good meal after their rigorous training. It is out of this dilemma that some states who are hungry for excellence swoop on these players to represent them in sports competitions.                              

Unfortunately, the few left to represent the state, come back with tales of woe on how they were treated by sports officials.

Added to that, the sporting community in Taraba is bedevilled with witch hunting, sex scandals, corruption, favouritism, sentiments and lethargy. With all these, it is almost impossible for the state to excel in sports;  facilities and talents notwithstanding.                    

With these anomalies, it is high time the government, the organised private sector and indeed sports loving Tarabans cooperate in order to rescue sports in the state. Fortunately enough, the serving governor, Darius Ishaku is on a ‘rescue mission’.        

I stand to be corrected, but i say this without any fear of contradiction, that if sports is taken as an area of priority by this government, it doesn’t have to border much on job creation; sports is simply self sustaining.  Therefore, a robust Youth Sports Program should be evolved in collaboration with the National Youth Council (NYC) and the Taraba state Sports Council, aimed at discovering talents, welfare issues and using sports as a business and job opportunity.     

It would not cost much. Above all, it would be rewarding to provide each Taraba athlete on training with at least a meal at the expense of government, training kits as well as a stipend to cater for transport. This is global best standards and for Taraba and Nigeria, being members of the global community to excel, they must adhere to these global best standards.

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