The Sports Secretary of the Nigerian Customs Service, (NCS), Samuel Onikeku, in this interview with Olawale Ayeni, states the need for sports to be taken as a business rather than recreational activities in the country .
What are the high and low moment of the Nigeria Customs Service (NSC) sports team 2019?
We participated in a lot of competitions and won some, the NCS female basketball team got the finals of the Zenith bank basketball league, though we lost at the quarterfinals after coming out of the group stage as second best.
The NSC athletics got some medals and we have some of our officers that went to the 2019 All Africa Games in Morocco.
The male volleyball team was able to retain their national volleyball league title as the female team came second, we won the Zone 3 tournament in Africa for female and while the men’s we came second.
We went to the club championship in Egypt with the female team and we improved by becoming the fifth-best team at the end of the championship against our previous outing were we came in eight positions, does are the highs moment for us in 2019.
The low moment for 2019 was that we lost some of our vital players to injuries some have to go for a successful surgery, but we can naturally score our performance 85-90percent for last year.
What should Nigerians expect from the NSC sports team in 2020, as the volleyball team will be representing Nigeria in the continent?
Our aim in 2020 is to better what we achieved in 2019, our male and female team have qualified for the continental championship, we are expecting the confederation of African volleyball to release the dates which they will do next week for the club championship for both male and female.
Already we have mapped out training programs for the team which will start in two week time, our target is to take the two team to the semifinals.
Once we get to the semifinals we are not only lifting the Nigerian Customs service but lifting Nigeria as a whole on the map of Africa in volleyball, because last year we defeated a club in Cameroon which encouraged us because Cameroon have been defeating us, which brought a lot of commendation and happiness for Nigeria and we want to improve on that.
As for the basketball team, we want to see how we can improve on our performance at the Zenith basketball league so that we can go to continental games both for our male and female team. We want to also do that in athletics, football and the other sports.
How best do you think we can develop the grassroots sport in Nigeria?
The best way to develop sports at the grassroots is to go back to school sports, l was an athlete and I started from school sports both in primary and secondary school.
When I was in secondary school we attended school sports in Lagos from there we were selected and camped for some times that I how I represented Nigeria in international competitions.
But this point we have eliminated the school sports, I know the sports ministry are trying with the national youth games, but it’s not the same thing as the school sports, because all the school in a state are expected to compete at the state level where the best are selected for the national finals to get the best athletes that will represent the country in future tournaments.
So that brings about competitions and healthy interest because every parent wants their children to do well.
I want the sports ministry and education ministry to work together, that’s the only way that school sports will come out well because during the 80s and the early 90s the sports and the education ministry usually work together.
Then it was the education ministry that bought our kits we needed and paid our allowance when we go for school sports when we now qualified for the international school tournament that’s when the sports ministry takes the responsibilities.
So if both parties can come together and work that’s the only way we can develop grassroots sports in Nigeria.
Nigeria will be participating at the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games in Japan what will be your advice for the sports ministry in term of preparations and your charge for Team Nigeria to achieve a podium finish?
I commend what the sports minister has done by adopting a talent, trying to get sponsors for does who have qualified.
Most of the athletes who have qualified have started preparing, that is why the hits the standard to qualify for the Olympic, my advice is to expose our athletes to competitions abroad on time.
It better we go for training tour on time so that we can compete with the best athletes to test the athlete’s strength so that they can improve on the areas they are lacking behind.
There have always been some times that Team Nigeria trained in Germany ahead of international tournaments.
Am confident that Nigeria can win medals in wrestling and relays race if we prepare well at the 2020 Olympic.
Sports should be taken as a business in Nigeria, must time people to see sports as recreation and that’s why we don’t prepare ourselves well, we want the sport to have structure, where we have facilities and they are maintained for athletes and players to have access to.
Nigeria is a big country in which we don’t have to be disgraced in big competitions, it not a good thing that our football team both the male and female team will not be going to the Olympic, it a dent on our image.
My advice to sports administrators is to put the national interest first in any decision that they want to take and not a personal vendetta against someone if we put the national interest first our sports will move in 2020.
Over the years, it’s difficult to get sponsorships for sports activities in the country, how best can we get cooperate organizations to invest in Nigeria’s sports sector?
Firstly in every sports federation, they should be credible people in the helm of affairs. Once corporate organizations know that they can trust the federation with their money, they will surely come in.
There should be nobody in the board of a federation that does not have a job, so that when sponsors are bringing money they will not be fighting on what they can get, but they should be thinking of how they can use some of their funds to help develop the sports.
Because if we check presently about five to six federation are have internal crisis among themselves and this no not helping sports in Nigeria, even the constitution and guidelines for elections should be looked into.
The last time elections were conducted about eight to nine federations were fighting on election day it should not be like.
I want the ministry to regulate the federation and look into their election guidelines so that credible people can be elected in the various federations for the interest of the country and the sports in general.
Credit : Leadership