Sports For Security: What PMB Can Gain From Ifeanyi Uba, Others

by on March 28, 2016

Ifeanyi Ubah

By Atoye Ariyo, Two good things have happened to Nigerian Football League of recent. First, the Nigerian Premier League is enjoying a rare moment: more away victories are being recorded with impressive spectators and soccer fans coming out to cheer their teams. This is in addition to significant improvement in the good conduct of home fans, irrespective of the results. There is now what seems like a keen and healthy competition among the clubs for honour.
The second, is the foray of oil mogul, Dr. Patrick Ifeanyi Uba into the business of soccer. His entrance has further added glamour to the League with exceptional commitment and dedication. Don’t get it twisted, he is not the first private person to acquire, sponsor or promote a league club in Nigeria. Others have done so for decades. However, Uba has shown an exceptional passion, investing heavily in football within a short time. My take is that there is something President Muhammadu Buhari can explore from the entry of Uba for the good of this nation.
From antiquity and throughout history, sports have mobilized the people. Any form of sports is usually a competitive physical engagement that captivates the hearts and minds of individuals as well as the entire nations. My intention is to draw the attention of Mr. President to take a holistic look into how football and sports at large, can be effectively adapted as a strategic intervention for peace and security. My point is: a conscious and deliberate effort of President Buhari, using the sports sector as a strategic industry to keep the youth employed, the nation happy, the people busy and become a money spinning venture.
At a time the President is searching for the magic wand to solve the unemployment problem in the country and create jobs for the numerous unemployed youth across the land, he can take a deeper look into the foray of Uba into soccer by encouraging “the cabal-sector” (as Nigerians often refer to the rich industry players) to invest in football and other sports. It does not matter if some of the cabals sponsored his election or he genuinely hate them; it goes beyond personal interest as the President of Nigeria. It behoves on him to use what he has within his territory to get what he wants for the nation. Security is number one.
The President can in good wisdom convene a special summit on ‘Sports for Peace and Development ,’ by inviting very rich Nigerians to have a buy in. Such summit will be an avenue to enlist their support to engage or sponsor different kind of sports in the overall interest of the country. It goes beyond using sports as a corporate social responsibility. Another compelling reason for them to buy in is that, aside creating a peaceful atmosphere for their business to thrive and live in a peaceful nation, It will in no distant time becomes a full fledge business concern as obtained in the developed world if well managed.
For instance, the President can appeal to someone like Alhajii Aliko Dangote to double his spirit of patriotism for Nigeria by dropping his much touted interest to acquire Arsenal Football Club of England and invest such huge money to transform the Nigerian Premier League.  This is instructive. However, if the idea of Dangote is to have a global brand through Arsenal and he is bent on pursuing this as a business strategy to a logical conclusion, the President can still appeal to him to at least own a local football club too. Similarly, others like Wale Tinubu, Femi Otedola, Abdulsamad and their counterparts could be convinced to invest substantially in sports
Just take a look at the beauty of Ifeanyi Uba FC slugging it out with Dangote Warriors and Otedola Lions locking horns with Abdulsamad Rangers. This will take our football league to a new height. They have the resources to bring in foreign players. It seems that Ifeanyi Uba has caught this vision on the future of Nigerian League. He is about completing a privately owned stadium for his club. Imagine having stadia for Dangote Warriors in Kano or Katsina, Otedola Lions in Ogun Or Osun, Abdulsamad in Bauchi or Gombe. This is a major intervention the Buhari government can substantially explore to drive this nation positively.
Can we also think the beauty of people buying their tickets for weekend game for family and individual pleasure? Can we think the multiplier effect of getting the nation busy and entertained through sports week in week out? Can we reflect back on the glorious days of inter-house sports and inter-school sports competitions that once provided a veritable platform for picking young talents? We need to return to sport as quickly as possible.
Let me make it abundantly clear, any roadmap for peace in the Northeast without sports playing a critical role will not avail much. It is also not in doubt that the psychological prowess of sport to quickly heal the pains of the people is incomparable. Yes sports has the capacity touch the lives of the traumatised people in Borno, Yobe and Adamawa. It is a common knowledge that sports, especially football has unarguably been a major unifying factor in Nigeria, if not the only factor. In essence, it is in the interest of the federal government to develop a national framework for sports as an intervention for peace, security and stability.
Sports and entertainment are the two biggest things to happen to the West in the 21 century. If you take away these two important Siamese sectors that usually have a meeting point, the Western World will daily live in turmoil. We consequently need to deemphasize the idea of government direct ownership of sports clubs as it is the practice in other climes. Some people have even alleged that it is one area for siphoning money by some government officials. Sports should be made a business concern. Note that no investor or businessman will want to compete with government in any venture. In essence, government has no business in the business of sports.
Believe me, if this is one way the President can best utilize the likes of Uba and the cabals in different sector of the economy to achieve certain fundamental objectives of governance, which first peace and security, much would have been achieved. I sincerely wish the people in the Presidency can put this piece in the context of ‘the wise acting on a word’. There is so much Buhari can achieve with sports. It is never late. The sports sector itself is a change agency.
Ariyo-Dare Atoye, Coordinator, Adopt A Goal for Development Initiatives, contributes this piece from Abuja.


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