Saturday, November 01, 2008

Hosting U-17 World Cup is Government’s Obligation to Nigerians

I have watched with rapt attention and absolute dismay these past few weeks, the theatrics, as they play out in Nigerian football. What has happened recently only goes to show that, as a Nation we are yet to really understand and accept the fact that the most important office in the country is that of the citizen.

In the last two weeks or so, lovers of football in this country have been made the pawns in a game of chess. In 2003 Nigeria was the host of the All African Games; that tournament till date has remained an issue of controversy after huge amounts of tax payers’ money was expended without recourse to the tenets of accountability to citizens who are supposed to be the most revered in any civilized clime.

Mr. Amos Adamu who was in-charge has continued to act like he owes no one an explanation. It is however, understandable Mr. President’s (Umaru Musa Yar’ Adua) hesitation about going ahead with hosting the U-17 world cup, the right of which Nigeria fought for and won, yet with tax payer’s money, after the LOC, constituting the same shylocks who run the country aground during the hosting of the All African Games, presented a budget of a whooping N37 billion for the event.

It pains me to note that in the year 2008, when other countries are working tirelessly to improve the lot of the youth, we still have people whose major interest in sports development is self aggrandizement. The importance of sports in a society can not be over emphasized and sometimes I really get bored with the monotony of having to talk about the same thing everyday, week, month and year. By the year 2009, we will continue to talk about these same issues to no avail. These scavengers are shamelessly the same people who go on TV to criticize and question Nigerians’ dedication to foreign leagues attributing it to lack of patriotism. They really think Nigerians are fools. Even if we were, I think we know the difference between good and bad-even a five year old does.

Sports development has little to do with the fans. If those appointed, elected or selected to run our football are inept and bereft of ideas or bent on grabbing as much money as they can within the period he/she is in office, I don’t think there is anything a fan can do about that. I challenge our sports administrators today to develop our league and see if the fans wouldn’t come running down to watch matches. Back to the U-17 world cup billed for Nigeria in 2009. Agreed that the LOC over killed it with that budget, the president’s attitude is what I wish to analyze here.

Let’s take it one by one. Haba! Mr. President, are you so insensitive to the plight of Nigerian football fans? Do you know how much money a country makes hosting international sports events? I am particularly surprised (despite the fact the decision has since been rescinded) that though this administration’s lethargy has failed to provide employment for the youth of this country, it was about to throw away the only opportunity it has to achieve that to some extent. I am not about to talk about how much money cooperate Nigeria can make from the influx of visitors, what the hospitality industry stand to gain, the TV and radio stations on commercials, the aviation industry considering the influx of foreigners coming in and those who may have to shuffle from one venue to another and all those big wigs in circulation. Let’s take a look at what a simple sector that affects the common man on the street stands to loose.

Millions of Nigerians have chosen to take their own destinies into their hands and have adopted a means of livelihood that has not just been enough to feed them, but clothe and even pay school fees and other basic needs- the ‘pure water’ sellers! President Yar’Adua does not need an adviser to know that sellers of pure water can change their lives for the better in just this one swop as this is neither rocket science nor brain surgery. While I do not want to sound like I am in support of reckless spending in government, it is worthy to note that no amount of money is too much to spend on a venture that promises to better the lives of Nigerians. Apart from the fact that these resources belong 100% to the people, government officials should understand that we are the only reason they should be in office at all. So what’s my point? The president did well to have pointed out that amount earmarked was outrageous but it shows total disregard to have to make Nigerians beg him to dialogue with the LOC in order to come to a common ground.

The president should be presidential enough to know that negotiations can achieve everything. He should have for the sake of Nigerians who have already spent millions to expand their businesses in preparation for the event, which in the process will employ more hands to help them out during this period, done us the favour of negotiating on our behalf. If a president gets so irritated that the plight of Nigerians becomes secondary, let me say here that such attitude is unacceptable by Nigerians.

The government owes Nigerians the obligation to provide jobs, good roads, clean water, housing and education. So far, I do not think this government has shown any desire to achieve any of this and that first decision not to host the U-17 world Cup was an affront on the youth of this country. Government should note that N37 billion or N9 billion makes no economic sense to the ‘pure water’ seller whose major concern is to stay alive with the N10 profit from sales of one bag of sachet water.

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