What Ned Nwoko’s Sports University means to Nigeria and Africa
…Ned has triggered revolution in Nigeria’s sports development
…Set to offer 150 scholarships to outstanding students in sports
BY PRECIOUS OGBUENYI
In all the countries that are consistently doing well in diverse sports activities, it is a statement of fact that the private sector occupies the driver’s seat in sports proprietorship and development. Private individuals and companies are dictating the pace in the United States, Spain, Brazil, Great Britain, Germany, Italy, Egypt and other countries that are doing well in sports.
Matter of fact, government can only give support and provide occasional incentives. Nigeria’s sports development is characterized by ups and downs and her greatest undoing is over reliance on government for sponsorship and promotion of sports development in the country.
Government’s control and sponsorship of sports breed corruption. One thing is that government’s money earmarked for sports hardly comes early enough due to administrative bottlenecks and corruption in the system. Most times, the huge sums budgeted by government are pursued by corrupt officials who embezzle a large chunk of it, if not the entire budget.
Corrupt government officials and their private accomplices feeding fat on government’s sponsorship of sports are the ones scheming to sustain government’s control of sports. In many cases, government funds pumped into sports development are hardly accounted for. Even grants from international sports organizations like FIFA for sports development or tournaments are often shamefully cornered largely because of the culture of pilfering engendered by government’s wholesale control of sports in the country.
Due to pervasiveness of corruption nurtured by the feeling that government monies budgeted for sports are part of the proverbial national cake, officials scramble for them at the expense of the purposes they were meant for. The officials largely relegate excellence and place more value on estacodes for themselves, relatives and friends whenever there is international sports competition such as FIFA World Cup, Olympic and other competitions.
But the inescapable truth is that government only needs to provide the enabling environment – facilities, infrastructure, occasional grants, scholarships etc for sports to sports to thrive in the country. And Nigeria cannot reach the desired destination under the present arrangement because there will be no sustainability without private sector-driven sports development while the nation’s sports will continue to nosedive. Building structure through increased private sector involvement is the assured solution to the nation’s sports challenges.
The above scenario underscores the importance of the yeoman’s job of Prince Ned Nwoko through the establishment of Nigeria and Sub-Sahara Africa’s first Sports University. Located on a large piece of land in the serene community of Idumuje-Ugboko in Delta State, the university is a perfect example of private sector intervention in sports development. What Ned Nwoko has done by establishing this unique institution is unprecedented and commendable. He needs support of both the Federal and Delta State Governments as the Sports University takes off next academic session.
The examples of successful private initiatives in sports abroad are instructive here in underscoring the Delta State-born philanthropist’s praiseworthy efforts. Successful clubs such as Zamelek, Al Ahly, Al Hilal, Orlando Pirates in Africa are privately owned and have expanded beyond football (for both males and females) to other sports such as basket ball and tennis.
Going by the patriotic efforts of Ned Nwoko and others expected to follow his good example, Nigeria is set to join the league of countries where the private sector plays the central role in sports development. Ned Nwoko has invested billions of naira in the development of the premier Sports University in the past decade or thereabouts and is poised to do more.
After spending weeks assessing progress of massive and frenetic structural developments at the Sports University preparatory to its fast approaching take off in the coming academic session, the newly nominated candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) for Delta North Senatorial District spoke with newsmen upon arrival at the Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport, Abuja.
He disclosed that plans are underway to give out full scholarships to 150 students at the newly licensed and approved First Sports University in Nigeria. Ned Nwoko who is also the Chairman of Prince Ned Nwoko foundation which is focused on promotion of Education, Health, Sports Development, Culture and Tourism and Environment stressed that for students to qualify for the scholarship they must be good in one aspect of sports. He added that there would be trials where qualified students would be selected for full scholarships at the university.
Ned Nwoko said the university’s focus would be 80% sports development and 20% conventional academy study adding that it would be a university to train and develop young lads from the age of 15 and above so that they could compete in any international sports such as the Olympic games.
Among the various courses that would be offered are Sports Communication, Sports Journalism, Sports Psychology, Sports Technology and Science, Sports Administration, Sports Criminology etc. The former lawmaker also revealed for the first time that there would be exchange programmes for top notch students with leading European universities whose representatives were at the newly approved Sports University idumuje-Ugboko during the week for on-the-spot assessment of what has been done. Also these European universities would equally send their students to Sports University to gain knowledge.
He said “There would be exchange programmes with top rated Europeans universities; their representatives were with us (at the sports university Idumuje-ugboko) yesterday (Monday) and we are doing this to groom the students so that they can compete anywhere in the world”
Speaking with Image Newspaper, a former England (Three Lions) national team football legend, Ambassador John Fashanu stated that with the establishment of Sports University, Idumuje-Ugboko, Ned Nwoko has triggered a revolution in Nigeria and Sub-Sahara Africa’s sports development. “What Ned has done for Nigeria and Africa through this gesture is sublime and beyond comparison. Ned has triggered a revolution in Nigeria’s sports development”, Fashanu stated.
First Olympic gold medalist of Nigeria in long jump, Chioma Ajunwa and former Sports Minister, Mr. Solomon Dalung spoke in similar vein while heaping accolades on Ned Nwoko for his foresight and love for Nigeria. ** PRECIOUS OGBUENYI, a lawyer contributed this piece from Abuja.