My Plan For Nigerian Sports

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Sports Minister, Taoreed Adedoja was in Lagos recently for an interactive session with the Lagos chapter of Sports Writers Association of Nigeria, SWAN. Adedoja, who studied Physical & Health Education at the Obafemi Awolowo University spoke to Taiwo Adelu and Sunday Akintoye about his plans for sports development in Nigeria and the forthcoming All Africa Games in Mozambique

How do you feel about the poor state of sporting facilities in Nigeria?
Honestly, I am not impressed with what I saw when I went round to inspect some  stadia shortly after I was appointed Sports Minister. All the sporting facilities need renovation to meet up with international standards and I want them done before 29 May.

Your tenure is very short, how would you renovate all the facilities before 29 May?
It is achievable because we have set the necessary machinery in motion. Renovation works are in progress at all the federal stadia. When I visited the Obafemi Awolowo Stadium in Ibadan, Oyo State, the former Liberty Stadium, I told the contractors to expedite the renovation  works. They promised to meet the set target and Ibelieve  the plan will work out with the level of work going on there. I want to leave an indelible legacy after  my tenure expires in May.

Many sports ministers have come and gone but little was done to improve sports facilities in Nigeria, your reacton to this?
That’s why I am different from the past sports ministers. It is wrong for me to rubbish what my predecessors have done. They tried their best during their  tenure. That notwithstanding, I want to ensure that I meet the target I set for myself in good time.

Knowing well that Nigerians lack maintenance culture, what would you do to ensure that the sports facilities at the stadia are properly managed?
It is true, lack of maintenance has been our problem for many years and I think it is high time we invite the private sector to maintain the facilities for us. Our stadia should compete with rest of the world and I believe there is nothing wrong if we invite the experts to manage the facilities for us.

We observed that sports development has not reached the rural areas and part of your job is to develop sports across the country, what is your take on this?
Ofcourse, what we want to do now is to build sports centres in the rural areas across the federation. When we are through with the compilation of the list of where to build the sports centres, the contractors will begin work immediately.

Nigeria has not done well in swimming for years, especially in international events, any hope for the athletes?
It is sad that we did not even win a medal in any swimming event in previous international competitions. We have good swimmers in this country, but what we need now is to renovate our swimming pools to meet the international standards. We are doing this to expose our swimmers to enable them compete with their counterparts  all over the world.

What are the programmes on ground for the athletes ahead of All Africa Games scheduled for Mozambique in September?
We have a solid programme for the athletes. We are planning to camp them this February if things work according to plans.  I want to assure the nation that the government is ready to provide an enabling environment for the athletes that will represent us at the All Africa Games. We will take good care of them, that will  motivate the athletes to give their best for their fatherland.

Many of Nigerian veteran athletes are struggling to survive, what is the ministry doing to help them?
Very soon, we will organise a stakeholders’ meeting in Abuja to discuss the conditions of our past heroes. We know what our athletes are going through but they should be patient for now. We need to know the numbers of veteran athletes that are still alive and locate where they reside. After that, we can invite them to Abuja. I must tell you that we have a  big plan for the veteran athletes because they have served this country and it is high time they enjoy the fruits of their labour.