By; JACOB ONJEWU DICKSON
Nigeria has the capacity to be amongst the best in the world in all spheres of human endeavour, a development that has seen the country excel in various international sporting competitions.
Minister of Youth and Sports Development, Barrister Solomon Dalung expressed the while speaking at the National Council On Sports Meeting, in Kaduna on Thursday.
“All we need is to proper plan and diligently implement our programmes. We have seen from the little efforts being put in, the level of results we have continued to achieve in the various sports we present athletes,” he said.
He said that today, we can proudly say that we have credible men and women at the helm of the affairs of the Sporting Federations of Nigeria.
“The results of their heading these Sporting Federations have been the visible improvements in the performances of our athletes culminating in the overall increase in medals that have been garnered by several Federations, including those that had been virtually neglected over the years.
“A very striking example is the Nigeria Hockey Federation, whose last podium performance at continental/international tournaments was recorded 14 years ago, in 2003 during the All African Games (COJA) which Nigeria hosted.
“Now with commitment, new ideas and drive of the new Board of the Federation our coaches got the kind of training that could only have been dreamt of. Not only did it become a reality, they coaches took our athletes to Ismailia, Egypt and won the Bronze Medal at the 2017 Hockey Senior Africa Cup of Nations,” he added.
The Minister said that in addition, five of the country’s National Coaches have been certified as Grade 3 Coaches by the International Hockey Federation.
“This is the highest certification any Nigerian Hockey Coach has attained. Other achievements of the Federation, which are worthy of note, include:
“The certification of two (02) Nigerians as International Hockey Umpires;
The election of Prof. Ediga as an Executive Member of the African Hockey Federation; and
Samuel Fagunwa becoming the first Nigerian to officiate at the World League Series.
“Team Nigeria won a total of 11 medals (5 Gold, 1 Silver and 5 Bronze) in Badminton, at 4 international competitions in 2017 alone.
Our Female Basketball Team, the Tigress won the Gold medal at the FIBA Women Afro Basketball Championships in Bamako, Mali, while their Male counterparts, the Tigers, won the Silver medal at the FIBA Men Afro Basketball Championship in Tunis, Tunisia. Our U18 Boys Team won Silver at the FIBA Africa U-18 3×3 Boys in Bamako, Mali and the girls also came back with the Silver medal from the Girls’ category of the same Tournament i.e. the FIBA Africa U-18 Girls,” he outlined.
Still in successes recorded, he said that at the 2017 Senior Men FIBA Africa 3×3 Nations Cup and the 2017 Senior Women FIBA Africa 3×3 Nations Cup both held in Lomé, Togo, Nigeria brought home the Gold and Silver medals, respectively.
He pointed out that the National Council on Sports, as is well known, is the highest policy making body in Nigeria and must continue to provide the direction for our sports development.
“Our last meeting was the Extra-Ordinary Session of 14th February, 2016 in Tinapa, Cross River State. That gathering was specifically convened to address the challenging militating against the hosting of the 19th National Sports Festival by Cross River State. It is a matter of grave concern to me personally that we have not been able to host the 19th Edition of our own “Olympic Games” since after Lagos State hosted us in December, 2012.
“This is the 6th year after Eko 2012 when should ordinarily be preparing for the 21st Edition of the National Sports Festival in this year, 2018. The negative impact of not holding the National Sports Festival as scheduled can only be imagined.
“During this period, we have had to rely on verbal recommendations and our imaginations to pick athletes and officials who attend trials from which we settle those for camping towards international sporting engagements. The obvious result is that unknown talents are not given the opportunity to attend trials and the consequence is that our best, based on current forms, may not be the ones representing and flying our flags.