Last week, Nigeria’s mini Olympic Games, the National Sports Festival (NSF), was again postponed for the third time. There were mixed reactions as athletes who have been in camp were left in the cold to return home while the money spent by the states somehow was again a waste.
We are aware that the government of Edo State under Governor Godwin Obaseki has spent so much money on the NSF project, especially on facilities just as the Ministry of Youths and Sports has been resolute to stage the grassroots event.
So many reasons could inform the shift ranging from the second wave of COVID-19 threat to financial situations, but we observe sports are not taken seriously in Nigeria. If not, the event which already has the approval of the Presidential Task Force on COVID-19 should not have been shifted again but due to financial constraints and logistics, it was shifted again to April.
It was originally slated for March 2020, postponed indefinitely and January 3rd was picked as another date which was later shifted to February 14. Now, the event is fixed for April without a specific date announced. At the point of the first postponement, the Federal Government, through the minister, Sunday Dare, noted that the postponement would cause additional expenses to Edo State and therefore promised to provide financial assistance to the state. Paucity of funds coming from Ministry’s 2019/2020 budget spending isn’t available.
No doubt, the sports festival is a talent hunt project where budding talents are to emerge from various sports disciplines. It is sad that the Federal Government came out that there was no money for the festival. All the states of the federation have wasted money three times preparing the athletes only to decamp them.
The February 14 date was shifted largely due to money issues and not because of the pandemic. We make bold to say it is sad sports suffer at crunch times rather than enjoy despite giving the country a good image abroad. For example, a product of the National Sports Festival, Blessing Okagbare, entered the Guinness Book of Records only last week due to her exploits. How many of such cheery news do we have in other spheres of endeavour? Now that the April arrangement is tied to the Olympics preparations, attention should be geared towards a huge success. We hereby emphasize that having a national sponsor for the event is not out of place because it will bring in more credibility and remove the bottlenecks of the bureaucracy. The NSF surely deserves better.
The youth are eager to showcase their talents. Wrestlers and boxers representing Nigeria at the Olympics will be part of the festival and so it is not a joke. If the competition is taken seriously, there could be a title sponsor which will create a template for huge excitement for the games.
There are little or no expectations toward the event and that is why it is easy to shift the event anyhow. The sports ministry should work with all the national federations to give attention to the National Sports Festival so that a good template could be created for the country’s future champions. In most countries, an evaluation of respective segments of human endeavour reflects that sport has persistently been at the receiving end especially in Nigeria.
The effect of COVID-19 on the day-to-day life of everyone is enormous but in recent times, the world is coping with it and people go about their various activities as if nothing has gone wrong. As severe as the pandemic is in the United States of America, electioneering took place while elections proper were also held wherein Joe Biden defeated Donald Trump to become the new U.S. President.
Marathon events which attract huge crowd of participants, officials and fans also took place in various parts of the world including Washington DC and Cairo, Egypt. Back home, campaigns and elections took place in Ondo and Edo states. Nothing affected the day-to-day running of the states and normalcy was maintained before, during and after the elections. One of the four Grand Slam Tennis events of the year, the Australian Open, is currently ongoing with full COVID-19 protocols duly observed.
As it is, the world is not waiting for the pandemic to weigh them down, rather people, governments and organisations are going about their normal dayto- day activities with caution. We expect proper planning and adequate monitoring of all aspects of the games from now on to ensure there will be no further shift.
We appreciate the readiness of Federal Government to support Edo State with the funding of the games, but the ministry will have to double efforts to get things right. The youth are eager to display their talents and all efforts should be made to make it happen in April. The athletes are losing focus with the disappointments of NSF shift and they need to be on the right frame because the Olympic Games is just around the corner.