Dr Tammy Danagogo...FIFA writes Igbokwe

Ndanusa’s Top 10 Sporting Stride

By Clement Nwankpa Jr

“The world steps aside to let him pass who knows where he is going” – David Jurdan

Engr Sani Muhammad Ndanusa has occupied three key positions in Nigerian sports – Sports Minister, President Nigeria Olympic Committee and President Nigeria Tennis Federation. In each position, he left an indelible mark. Here are the top ten legacies he has left behind in Nigerian sports which should put him in better stead as the next NOC President.

(1) MINI SPORTS CENTERS

This was the signature project of his stint as Sports Minister between 2008 and 2010. The Mini Sports Centres project was aimed at bringing sports development to the door steps of budding athletes, that is taking sports straight to the grassroots.

It was reasoned that the absence of quality sports facilities at the grassroots level was militating against the the discovery of fresh talents hence the dearth of younger athletes to take over from the older ones. The MSCs were therefore initiated to arrest the facilities deficit at the grassroots level across the nation.

The talents churned out by these MSCs should graduate from the local to state, zonal and ultimately, the High Performance Centre in Abuja.

It was aimed at having the Community Sports Centre in every LGA and an MSC at the state level. The pilot MSCs were 17 spread across the six geopolitical zones. By the time he exited office, they were in advanced levels of completion.

(2) ONE SERVICE ONE MEDAL (OSOM)

Arguably, the biggest invention of Ndanusa-led NOC was the OSOM. It was noted that most of Nigeria’s past Olympics medals had come from the military and paramilitary. In fact, the nation’s first Olympic gold was through policewoman, Chioma Ajunwa. Ndanusa’s NOC, therefore, set out to encourage the military and paramilitary to discover more world beaters with OSOM.

The maiden edition of the OSOM Games was held in Kaduna. It featured over 600 athletes from 10 of the 16 services.

(3) ONE VARSITY ONE MEDAL (OVOM)

Following the successful takeoff of OSOM, Ndanusa’s NOC set machinery in motion for the OVOM. It was to involve 10 selected sports-friendly universities.

The project formed by the NOC in collaboration with Sports Ministry and Nigeria University Games Association (NUGA) was geared towards producing high performance athletes that will compete in international sports events. The Directors of Sports in those universities were to form a technical committee that will develop the framework of the OVOM project.

Incidentally, this project couldn’t fully commence before he left office.

(4) DOMESTICATION OF COURT OF ARBITRATION FOR SPORTS

One of the major clogs on the wheels of Nigerian sports, particularly football, is the penchant for aggrieved stakeholders to resort to civil courts. Incidentally, these courts lack jurisdiction to treat such cases hence always pitching Nigerian sports bodies against the statutory global organizations like FIFA. Consequently, such moves hinder sports development.

The standard rule is that sporting matters should be taken to Court of Arbitration for Sports (CAS). But it should also be noted that the cost of taking one’s case to CAS in Lausanne could be a deterrent to such stakeholders.

Ndanusa’s NOC sought the approval of ANOC Congress in Moscow for all NOCs to set up their indigenous CAS. This informed the move by NOC under Ndanusa to domicile CAS in Nigeria. A committee led by Adokiye Amiesimeka, former Nigerian international and Rivers State Attorney-General was set up to work out modalities for CAS in Nigeria. If that was consummated, stakeholders wouldn’t need to take their cases to Lausanne. They would only need to appeal to Lausanne.

Unfortunately, this process was not concluded before Ndanusa exited office and it gradually fizzled out.

(5) HOSTING 2009 FIFA U-17 WORLD CUP AND QUALIFYING FOR 2020 WORLD CUP

His predecessor as Sports Minister had proposed that Nigeria jettisoned the idea of hosting the 2009 FIFA U-17 World Cup as there were no facilities to do so, but the Federal Government felt the tournament would be an avenue for Nigeria to boost her rating in the comity of nations.

So on assumption of office, Ndanusa was saddled with the task of ensuring the facilities available met FIFA standards. Till date, there are still jokes about Ndanusa, the ‘grass planter’ who sat beside the pitch while the groundsmen worked just to make sure that Nigeria beat the deadline to get the facilities ready. He pulled it off and Nigeria hosted a globally acknowledged successful event.

During the same period, Nigeria’s qualification for 2010 World Cup was in jeopardy. Ndanusa came up with the idea of Presidential Task Force (PTF), which enabled the private sector throw its weight behind Nigeria’s qualification. Again, he pulled it off as Nigeria secured the ticket on the last match day.

(6) FOOTPRINTS ON NIGERIAN TENNIS

Prior to Ndanusa’s assumption of office as Nigeria Tennis Federation President in 2001, Nigeria had been suspended by the International Tennis Federation (ITF) for failing to pay affiliation fees amounting to $40,000. After sorting out the bill, Nigeria was readmitted into the Davis Cup and participated in the Euro-Africa Group IV in San Marino in 2002.

In 2004, the Davis Cup team earned promotion to Euro-Africa Group III and in 2006, the team got promoted to Group II. That was the highest the team had attained since the era of Nduka Odizor in the 80s. The Davis Cup exploits were down to the preponderance of tournaments that kept the players busy.

Taking into cognizance the capital intensive nature of professional tennis, Ndanusa’s NTF put measures in place for Nigerian players to earn ATP points without necessarily traveling abroad. This gave rise to Futures tournaments like Lagos Governor’s Cup, the revived Ogbe Hard Court and Heineken Futures. These Futures tournaments brought the ATP and WTA points to the door step of Nigerian players hence availing them the opportunity to be ranked by ATP and WTA.

(7) ULTRA-MODERN 20 COURT FACILITY AT MKO ABIOLA NATIONAL STADIUM ABUJA

As Sports Minister, Ndanusa facilitated the construction of a 20 court National Tennis Centre (NTC) to host the African Junior Tennis Championships and Junior Fed Cup in 2010. The tournaments had in attendance CAT President, Tarak Sheriff and ITF President, Ricci Bicci.

By the time the AJC was held in 2010, he had stepped down as Sports Minister but the facility, then rated the best in Africa, with the highest number of courts in a location, now plays host to many tennis academies hence supplying a rich reservoir of talents for Nigerian tennis.

(8) WHEELCHAIR TENNIS REVOLUTION

It is also on record that Ndanusa singlehandedly introduced wheelchair tennis in Nigeria. He did not just introduce wheelchair tennis in Nigeria, he facilitated its growth in Africa.

As a member of the International Wheelchair Tennis Commission, he was key to the first African Wheelchair Championship in Kenya. He sponsors Puma Engineering Championship, one of the continent’s top wheelchair tennis championships.

(9) THE ‘MIRACLE’ OF ABUJA 2003

One of Ndanusa’s biggest accomplishments at NTF was the performance of the tennis contingent at the All Africa Games held in Abuja in 2003. COJA, the organisers were not keen at including tennis because it was not seen as Nigeria’s area of strength but Ndanusa pulled his weight around the Supreme Council for Sports in Africa (SCSA) and got the game enlisted at the dying minute.

Ultimately, Nigeria placed tops in the tennis medals table with three gold, one silver and one bronze. The medals helped Team Nigeria to narrowly edge past South Africa in the final medals table. At that point, he had drawn attention and respect to the hitherto neglected sport in the country and was nicknamed ‘Mr Tennis’.

(10) THE VISION 20:2020 SPORTS MINISTER

In December 2008, Ndanusa was appointed Sports Minister. He evolved the Vision 20:2020 which meant that by the 2020 Olympics, Nigeria should be in the top 20 of the medals table. It must be pointed out that it was in a bid to actualise this goal that he set up projects like the Mini Sports Centres which should outlive his administration. In his projection, ten years down the line, those centres should produce talents that would take the world by storm at the Olympics.

To aid projects like the MSC, he set up the Tax Rebate Committee. The Committee was to highlight tax incentives that should boost private sector involvement in sports development.

He knew he wouldn’t be Sports Minister till 2020 and that the vision needed long term planning to come to fruition hence most of his policies had futuristic undertones.

About Editor

Check Also

J60 ITF World Tennis Tour Reaches Round Of 16 Stages

  The ongoing International Tennis Federation (ITF) World Tennis Tour Junior J60 in Abuja on …