In a bold stride toward reforming Nigeria’s sports landscape, Senator Owan Enoh has proven his mettle and capability to handle the Ministry of Sports Development, a ministry that attracts the eyes and criticisms of millions of Nigerians, owing to their passion for sports.
With 100 days passing since his appointment as Nigeria’s Minister of Sports Development, Senator Enoh has taken the enormous responsibility with vigor, vision, and vitality. The subsector of grassroots development, is an area that has always needed attention in Nigerian sports. How has Enoh performed in this regard after 100 days?
In a strategic move aimed at bolstering grassroots sports development in Nigeria, the Minister embarked on an ambitious agenda, swiftly garnering attention for its potential to transform the nation’s sports landscape.
From outlining strategic targets, to meeting stakeholders, to visiting grassroots locations, to wooing investors, to enacting action points, etc., Senator Enoh has shown his determination to catalyze a change in the system.
In one of his media statements during a visit to Ajegunle, a suburb in Lagos reknowned for sports talents, Senator Enoh outlined pivotal objectives of his ambitious drive, which showed a man with a vision. Nigeria boasts an abundance of raw sports potential at the grassroots level. It is our responsibility to harness and cultivate these talents by providing them with the requisite facilities, coaching, and opportunities for growth.
What approaches have the Minister Taken?
1. Rejuvenating the Mission of the National Youth Games
While this may sound ordinary, it was important for an authority to restore default settings as to the purpose of the National Youth Games. The Games which was for young talents was becoming a “win-at-all-cost” championship, with states using over-aged athletes.
The Minister gave the marching order, reiterating the main focus of the Games will be to unearth young talents for the country, who would possibly take on the baton at the elite stage in a few years. He enforced an age cap of 15 years for the Games, with over 35 sports featured at the Games. He once was quoted as saying “The National Youth Games is for young athletes who are 15 years and under. It is at this level that we can find the next Victor Osimhen, heir apparent to Tobi Amusan, a protege for Funke Oshonaike and Aruna Quadri.” This action left stakeholders impressed at his determination to ensure the Games was still fit-for-purpose.
2. Schools Sports for Grassroots Talent Identification
A paramount focus lies in establishing talent identification programs across schools, communities, and rural areas. This initiative aims to cast a wide net, ensuring that no budding talent goes unnoticed.
Senator Enoh has not hidden his determination to return to the glory of the National School Sports Championship. During a radio engagement with Nigerians on Brila Media’s Sports Fans Parliament, the Minister stated that Nigeria’s journey towards sporting excellence hinges on the strategic provision of essential sports infrastructure and nurturing talents at the grassroots level. He added that a critical first step towards this noble goal involves a rejuvenation of the school sports system.
Nigeria has always wanted a Minister who will commit to the rejuvenation of school sports, given the enduring legacies the country has enjoyed from it. In his address, the Minister stated “school sports would come back. The ministry is going to collaborate with the Federal Ministry of Education, because they are going to be a necessary partner in this.” Of course, this left a smile on the face of many. He has followed up this statement with a visit to Nigerian breweries, a critical funding partner of school sports in years past.
3. Coaching and Education:
Investing in the training and development of coaches is fundamental. In his first 100 days in office, Senator Enoh has emphasized the importance of nurturing skilled trainers who can effectively mold young athletes and instill in them a passion for sportsmanship and discipline.
While this is commendable, action will always be needed. He followed up with action when he wooed renowned sports innovations and education outfit, Barca Innovation Hub, owned by Spanish giants, FC Barcelona when he attended the World Football Summit. After initial contact, the hub expressed readiness to work with Nigeria. They are known for their expertise in coaching education, sports nutrition, sports analytics, sports business, science, as well as related technology and innovation. This will go a long way in enhancing the coaching and education profile of Nigerian coaches.
Nigeria’s delegation at the World Football Summit, led by the Honourable Minister of Sports Development, Senator John Owan Enoh also had fruitful engagements with the Sri Lankan Government officials, who revealed their desire to offer technical support and education for the development of cricket and hockey in Nigeria. Sri Lanka has steadily ranked amongst top nations in cricket globally, since 1965, when it joined the International Cricket Council (ICC). The South-Asian nation were ICC World Cup champions in 1996 and emerged runners-up in 2007 and 2011. In the T20 World Cup, Sri Lanka were champions in 2014 and finished runners-up in 2009 and 2002. The nation sits in history as six-time champions of Asia, 2002 Asian Test winners and gold medalists in cricket during the 2014 Asian Games. These are definitely good times!
4. Grassroots Competitions:
To provide a platform for showcasing emerging talent, Ministry sources have divulged that plans are underway to organize local and regional competitions. These events will not only foster healthy competition but also serve as a stage for scouts and talent spotters. In his first week in office, the Minister communicated with the presidents and leadership of all National Sports Federations to report for review and strategic repositioning meetings. He told all sports federations to organize multiple talent-unearthing events yearly, across the country. This move has the potential to galvanize the entire sports ecosystem.
5. Collaboration and Partnerships:
The Honourable Minister has been at the forefront of calling and building collaborations with various stakeholders, including sports federations, corporate entities, and NGOs, to amplify the impact of these initiatives and ensure sustained support for grassroots sports. What has been impressive about Enoh’s first 100 days in office is his constant reiteration of the private sector standing as the fulcrum of sports sponsorship.
In a move aimed at bolstering Nigeria’s sporting industry and ensuring the continued growth of various sports disciplines, Enoh paid a working visit to Nigerian Breweries Plc headquarters in Lagos in October, to discuss potential sports investment opportunities. The visit marks a significant step towards fostering collaboration between the government and the private sector to advance the nation’s sports landscape.
Senator Enoh’s unwavering determination and hands-on approach have garnered praise from within the sports community. Athletes, coaches, and administrators have expressed optimism about this first 100 days.
However, challenges are not far from the horizon, primarily concerning funding, logistical hurdles, and the need for seamless coordination among various administrative bodies. Nevertheless, Senator Enoh remains undeterred, emphasizing that the long-term benefits of investing in grassroots sports far outweigh the present challenges.
As Nigeria continues to anticipate more results that will emanate in the future, the nation stands united in support of Senator Owan Enoh’s vision, recognizing the pivotal role grassroots sports play in shaping the future of Nigerian sports.
With a resolute commitment to nurturing young talent and bolstering infrastructure at the foundational level of sports, Senator Enoh’s strategic approach is poised to chart a new trajectory for Nigerian athletics.