OPINION: The Fallacy Called Imo Sports Commission Review

OPINION: The Fallacy Called Imo Sports Commission Review

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By Norbert Njoku

In what has become a pass time for Gov. Hope Uzodinma’s administration, every policy of the immediate past government in Imo state, no matter how well-intentioned must be discarded on the alter of political witch-hunt.
However, there are certain areas of our national life that shouldn’t be politicised . These include; Education, Health and Sports. Nigerians, irrespective of political affiliation agreed that Rt. Hon. Emeka Ihedioha’s Sports policy,if allowed to endure, would have made Imo State the epicenter of sports development in Nigeria in the nearest future. The current minister of Sports, Mr Sunday Dare, a member of APC, had while attending the first ever Imo Sports Summit and a tour of on-going Sports projects;described Imo as “home of sports”. Just few months into the inauguration of Ihedioha’s administration.
Unfortunately, the present regime in Imo is not in the business of taking the state to greater heights. The Sports Commission Law, which was driving Ihedioha’s sports policy ,has been multilated by way of a Review. Instructively, the present House of Assembly ,only in August last year, created the Law being reviewed just to accommodate a predetermined end.

The Chief Patrick Ekeji led Review Committee set up by Gov. Hope Uzodinma has submitted it’s report.

A close look at the report shows pure “shadow boxing” as there is really nothing that the committee did within the three or four weeks it sat or worked. Perhaps the Covid-19 Pandemic affected the committee which sat once or twice before the lockdown and had to do all its remaining works through conference calls and correspondence.

But one least expected the committee to hide the truth all under the guise of preparing an empty report. The report most truthfully is empty. First, the report succeeded in returning sports in Imo to the inglorious era whereby bureaucracy sentenced the sector to the prison of non-performance if not non-existent .

Let’s look at the four focal recommendations of the of the Review Committee. First, it created the position or office of the Director-General/Chief Executive Officer in the Sports Commission and as well as a board which also has a Chairman.

It must be noted that the real essence of creating or establishing the Sports Commission is to reduce if not totally remove bureaucratic bottlenecks in the administration of sports especially in the hands of politicians who see sports more as a political tool than money-spinning sector for the state.

So for the Review Committee to create the office or position of Director-General and a board (with a Chairman) yet the former will report to same board is tantamount to sending a child to buy salt in the market yet sending rain to go after the child. It is simply creating a stumbling block for the smooth operation of sports especially as the board will have to equally report to the Governor.

Ekeji should have known this given his vast experience in sports administration cum management. However, with his position as Deputy Chief of Staff to the Governor, perhaps, he could be running the affairs of the board or influencing the activities of the board which reports to the Governor hence the creation of the board which equally has a chairman. Gross confusion ahead.

Imo Sports Commission as created by the ousted government of Rt. Hon. Emeka Ihedioha consulted widely to work with the laws setting up the Lagos, Delta and Edo State Sports Commissions. From findings it was gathered that these states had and have been having issues with the creation of DG Sports Commission and Chairman of Sports Commission who operates through or under a board, so it is worrisome that the Review Committee desired to have the DG, Chairman and Board of the Sports Commission as a cog in the wheel of progress of sports in Imo State.

Sadly, we have gone through this path before and had our fingers burnt. It must be noted that even before Imo State Sports Commission was established by Ihedioha’s administration, the then, Sports Council operated under a board which sent sports to the doldrums. IF WE MAY ASK: who sits in EXCO meetings for the Commission? The chairman of the Board or the Director-General?

One would have expected the Review team to simply advise Gov. Hope Uzodinma to continue with the structure and operational model of what he met on ground in the Sports Commission rather than embark on a shadow-boxing review.

Secondly, the Review Committee did not see the need to sustain the existing five zonal sports structure in the state which is aimed at taking sports to the grassroots.

Incidentally, the existence of five zonal structure of sports in the state (Orlu, Owerri, Okigwe, Aboh Mbaise and Oru West) which was meant to drive the process of sports development through the grassroots was truncated by the Review Committee which reduced the five zones to three (Orlu, Owerri and Okigwe).

This is a clear disservice to teeming youth in the state who have embraced a return of sports to the roots. Going to a three-zone structure is equal to limiting the advancement of sports in the state which attracted a huge result during the 13th Imo Sports Festival held in December 2019.

Rather than pursue a political agenda seeking to destroy what had been created by the former government, the Uzodinma administration which already accepted the establishment of the Sports Commission as created by Ihedioha as the way to go, should have been better advised.

Thirdly, the Review Committee decided to increase the four departments in the Sports Commission to seven. The Law being reviewed had already vested that power with the board of the Commission. In other words, it is not an innovation nor a new development.

Fourthly, the Review Committee proposed a sports stakeholders forum to help generate fund to drive the process of developing sports in the state.

It must be noted that the ousted government of Ihedioha was working on establishing a Sports Trust Fund to achieve this objective. It must also be noted that one of the departments proposed by the former board of the Sports Commission was the Marketing and Sponsorship department which will equally drive the process of funds generation.

There is no vacuum in government. It is a known principle of governance that government is a continuum. Therefore, it will take nothing away from the present administration if it simply continues with the structure and workings of the Sports Commission as constituted by the previous government which ensured that the office of Executive Chairman coordinates the activities and affairs of the Commission through the inputs of a board with representatives from the three senatorial zones in the state.

Imolites are obviously worried about the state of the famous Dan Anyiam Stadium which was under rehabilitation during the shortlived administration of Ihedioha. Rather than wasting time and resources reviewing a Law that received national acclaim, efforts should have been channelled into completion of the rehabilitation work.

Already the present state of the stadium informed the ghost-like town around it as athletes no longer train after the Imo Sports Festival. According to feelers the athletes’ slogan now is “We have returned to Egypt”.

May God save Imo Sports!

●Norbert Njoku is an Owerri-based Sports commentator.

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