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Taraba State: The Need to Revitalize the Sports Sector

By Sam Zanunga, Jalingo

Taraba state boasts of one of the most beautiful sporting edifices in the country. The Jolly Nyame stadium complex is second to none in the entire northern Nigeria but the state is lagging far behind other States in the geopolitical zone owing to what? Could this be due to maladministration in the sports ministry or misplaced priority by the powers that be?

The election of His Excellency Arc. Darius Dickson Ishaku as the Governor of Taraba State was greeted with mixed feelings just as sports enthusiasts in the state were unsure if the rescue mission will indeed save Taraba sports.  We waited with bated breath for Programme or policy statements to inform us of the steps the government is taking in that regard and waiting persists.

It is noteworthy that the government should have priorities laid out to develop the state’s decaying infrastructure and re-position the various sectors for efficiency and service delivery and sports should equally feature prominently. It will be an excellent idea for the government to declare a state of emergency in sports to serve as a kick-starter to finding ways of re-positioning the sector.

Most states in the country today are fashioning out strategies to fine tune key areas in their economies that will boost their income generation. In the case of Taraba, the sports sector is a huge revenue generating industry that has been dormant or left in the hands of people without proven track records or antecedents in sports management albeit administration.

The government must begin to walk the talk of rescuing the state from the rot or maladministration of previous governments.

The State is blessed with natural sports talents that can hold their own anywhere. The time to harness the vast potentials of the State in sports is now. We have an active and efficient leader who is ready to put in place structures that will be beneficial to the entire State.

I believe that if steps are taken to refurbish the stadium complex and ensure that levies are collected for its use, we will begin the rescue mission from that point. There is nowhere in the world where facilities like what we have in the State stadium complex is left in the hands of individuals without requisite qualifications and experience and expect it to be effectively handled and revenue generated? Except if the government does not see a need for such.

To begin this rescue mission in the sports sector, the government should start by sending graduates of physical and health education from the State’s college of education who are interested in sports to the national institute of sports for coaching courses in various sports as well as coaches who are sitting idle in the sports council. This will be a step in the right direction that will eventually be of huge benefit to the state.

No one can give what they don’t have or possess hence the need for government to take this bold step and begin the process of identifying undergraduates with interest in coaching by informing them of the government’s plan to fund their training expenses. This will galvanize their interest as well encourage others to pursue that Programme of study.

We must understand that talents in athletics can only thrive under a trained athletics coach with the requisite qualification and know-how on the current scientific trend in the area as it applies to other sports.

The government should take urgent steps and reorganize the state sports council. The days of appointing men and women without any background in sports administration are long gone. That a civil servant interested in sports is not a qualification to head the council. Politicians have no business on the board of the sports council.

The Governor’s representative in the person of the Commissioner for youth and sports should have his office at the stadium complex and not at the ministry.

The State sports sector will become a revenue earner for the State which will ultimately become the same platform from where funds needed to pay the coaches as well as the athletes will be generated.

It is not enough to have a sports edifice like the Jolly Nyame Stadium Complex, and nothing is coming from there. Why was it constructed in the first place if not revenue generation? Or are we saying the edifice was meant to beautify the state capital? If it was built for the purpose of revenue generation,  It then behooves on government as a matter of utmost priority to take a closer look at this sector and carry out a forensic auditing of its financial records to tighten up any loose end.

The rescue mission should be all embracing so that sports enthusiasts will begin to jettison any plan to go and represent other states but focus more on Taraba. The desire to weed out unqualified persons from the sports ministry should be a top priority for the rescue agenda of Governor Ishaku.   The millions that have been embezzled through the sports ministry must be checked, and only qualified persons with track records in sports should be appointed into key offices in the ministry.

We have been inundated with reports of individuals with no knowledge and qualification occupying offices meant for graduates with a degree in the field of sports. This is not healthy for sports development. We need people with knowledge in stadium management to be appointed to handle the affairs of the stadium as this will help in the maintenance of the playing pitch and the sitting area.

It is not all about organising sporting events that will bring about the needed change in the sports sector but should the state government deem it necessary to organise one, it could be the Governor’s Cup in athletics, boxing, wrestling, Judo, taekwondo, gymnastics, swimming, tennis, scrabble and chess.

The days of only dwelling in football is over. The rescue mission should begin to harness the huge potentials we have in these sports rather than concentrating only on football. This is not to say football should be shelved away but the huge resources channelled to football can be redirected to other sports that have equal commercial value as football.

The rescue mission of Governor Ishaku should if necessary lease out  the stadium complex to a client who will be accountable to the state in terms of revenue generation. The main bowl of the stadium must be under lock and key and should not be allowed for political rallies because nothing is generated at the end of these political rallies except wastage.

Privatising the stadium complex will ensure accountability and probity. The use of any facility in the complex should be charged. The time to jettison waste and sentiments is now.

The sports sector can attract commercial interest to the state if the right step is taken and it has to be now. To fast track this mission, the government should have the ministry of sports and its education counterpart synergise in promoting school sports. The best breeding ground for any sporting endeavour is the school sports. Taraba State has the Vice-President north-east of the school sports federation of Nigeria. School sports will help in monitoring the young talents who will be under the tutelage of trained coaches.

The government has the prerogative to organise age grade school sports festival that cuts across the sixteen local government areas of the state with zonal elimination series taking place and only the qualified schools should make it to the state finals.

The government can equally invite ex-national professionals to help in identifying the best talents, and the grooming begins from here.

Privatising the sports complex will also attract investors who will be willing to partner with the state government in commercialising the state sports and before you know it, the national teams and sports clubs within the country will be considering the state for pre-season, close camping and even holding competitions that will generate huge revenue for the state.

The rescue mission of Governor Ishaku should as a matter of urgency,  turn its focus to the sports sector and revitalize the dwindling fortunes of Taraba sports.

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