The role of sports in unifying peoples and cultures cannot be overemphasized. If properly utilized, harnessed and channeled, sports has the capacity to foster unity and bridge gaps of distrust, disharmony and mutual disrespect, this is evidenced in our character of free and open mindedness towards matters relating to sporting activities.
Nigerians celebrates victories and brood loses together as brothers when it comes to sports, regardless of religion, gender or ethnicity. Ours is a society that is sharply divided along boundaries of religion, ethnicity, tribal consideration and politics. The fact that all these considerations which have caused divisions and mutual suspicion among us suddenly disappears during sporting activities is a pointer that sports is key to attaining cohesion, harmony, peace and mutual respect.
Against the backdrop of the fact that the state’s share of Federal allocation has nosedived which is occasioned by the fall in international price of crude oil, being Nigeria’s major revenue earner and the recession that the Nigerian economy is presently enmeshed in, state governments, Kogi inclusive may have a difficult time delivering the promised and much craved dividends of democracy let alone having more to spend in curbing the prevailing youth restiveness and general insecurity in terms of provision of security equipments to enhance the job of security and establishing social programs to gainfully engage the youths and get them employed to prevent them from engaging in crime and negative social ills.
At this economic hard time governments should spend its meager resources on sports development as this would be tantamount to killing two birds with a single stone. Sporting activities curbs youth restiveness and creates employment which is the indicators for crimes and insecurity, and fosters unity, enhances peace and integration among the different tribes and ethnic groups in the state, the state government wouldn’t have to spend much on security and social handout programs.
It is true that successive administrations in the state rather than investing in sports and sports development opted to spending heavily on provision of social handout programs and procurement of security equipments for the security agencies which have achieved little or nothing as the problems of unemployment, youth restiveness and general insecurity keeps reoccurring and has refused to go away despite the huge amounts that has been invested, it will however amount to making the same mistakes over again for this administration to continue in the line of its predecessors in this regard.
Kogi State has a lot in common with Brazil and Jamaica in that we are abundantly blessed with an agile and a healthy youth population, and with Kenya in that some parts of the state is situated at high altitude. Like Brazil and Jamaica are doing we can channel the agility and energy of our youth away from thuggery, criminality and other forms of restiveness by adequately getting them employed and engaged through sports.
Like Kenya we can turn the geographically high altitude of Okene and some parts of Lokoja into a sporting advantage and give the Kenyans, Namibians, Ethiopians and Ugandans a good run for their monies in the 400m, 800m, 1600m and cross country race sport. With the right facilities put in place Kogi State can be the next Brazil in terms of football giving the talents that abounds across the state. Kogi has the capacity to be the pride of Nigeria in sports.
Okene Local Government alone has what it takes to host the entire state giving the facilities available at the Abdul Aziz Atta Memorial College and the Okene Stadium Complex both situated in the Local Government Area. I am aware that other parts of the state like Anyingba, Idah and Kabba equally have ample sporting facilities which if adequately renovated and repaired can be put to good use in effectively engaging the youth and taking their minds off negativities.
In line with the “new direction” mantra of the present administration in the state, It is expected that the current government wouldn’t continue in the ‘old’ wasteful ways of doling out social welfare handouts to the youths and endless procurement of equipment for security agencies which have not had a meaningful or permanent solution. The time for the state government to invest heavily on sports and sporting activities as a way of curbing youth restiveness, generating employment and fostering unity across the state is now, especially that we have a youthful and agile governor at the helm of affairs.
– Hussain Obaro writes from Lokoja.