By Steve Alabi
One of the most remarkable things in life is that people invested with authority to make things happen go into position to do exactly the opposite. This is more evident in politics, governance, leadership and management. It is almost a norm in our clime that public duty is done to the benefit of the office holder and to the detriment of the people. Expectations of good performance easily crash in the face of abandonment or distortion of public duty. Most unfortunately, we find this too often in sports.
Many of those who find themselves in positions of authority in Nigerian sports have little or no business superintending over sports. Some are total strangers to the games they govern or run. Others are just there doing more disservice than good to the responsibilities entrusted to them. Some others owe their positions more to connections than capabilities. The worst are those who equate their personal interests to the corporate goals. Such do not care about the health and wellness of the sports they are put in charge of. Instead of growing the game, they bring it down. Instead of giving success, they deliver failure. They ruin the game and make it worse than they met it. The irony of it all is that it is such people who do not want to relinquish position even when it is obvious that their continued stay in position is killing the game.
I concede that we all have the freedom to deceive ourselves that we are doing our best in the positions we occupy. But what cannot be accepted is to use the personal barometer of the office holder to measure public performance. To do that will be to reduce public duty to the level of deceit and mediocrity. There have always been minimum standards of performance in public positions. It is these that must guide assessment of those invested with duty to make things happen. It is these that we must use to measure how well Ondo State is doing in sports in recent times.
The history of sports in the Sunshine State is replete with identifiable successes. Indeed, it is brimming with stories of great efforts and heartlifting triumphs. We remember with nostalgia the early days when, without the required facilities and equipment, the state glowed and shone brightly in national competitions. We recall the days when the state was a feared foe to its competitors. We recollect when the state was a veritable supplier of talent to national camps.
Those who superintend over our sports in the Sunshine State today have reduced us to the lower rungs of the ladder. It is as if our sports is a ghost town. What they have inherited is what remains visible. I am at a loss as to what value they have added to the rich history the state has. Sports is not to be done like any job. It is a passion. It envelopes you. It takes every fibre of your being to do. It is absolutely engaging. It sucks your blood. If you are not ready to die for it, you have no business superintending over it. I do not see this passion in our current superintendents. What I see is more like occupying space. I am convinced that passion and charisma drive sports more than routine working of the system. Do our current superintendents have these? The answer is in the air.
More challenging for me is the state of the most overt sports initiative we have, our Sunshine Stars. Those of us who created the club did so to help galvanise the totality of our sports to higher levels, and it played this role admirably. But in recent times, the club has become a shadow of its old self, reeling under the combined weight of incompetent management, needless infighting and technical inefficiency. The result is a perpetual state of chaos that keeps the club from doing well. Today, it is a story of daggers drawn at the top of the club. Tomorrow, it is that of technical incompetence and imposed or compromised crew. The next day, it is a tale of flight of talent and influenced recruitment. The following day, it is a cocktail of allegations of fraud and misappropriation.
Since the current management took charge, our Sunshine Stars have not given one single moment of success and joy to the proprietor and the people of Ondo State. More energy has been expended in settling unending disputes among the officials than on creating triumphs. A team in perpetual bickering cannot focus on its mandate, let alone achieve success. If we have not been vigilant, they would have succeeded in reducing the barometer of success for the club to escaping from relegation and being also-rans.
I was once forced to remark that, “It is tragic that the current management of Sunshine Stars have not learnt the dynamics of running a winning club despite the huge support they have been receiving from the Akeredolu administration. To whom much is given, much is expected. We must remind them of the rich history of our club. We are not a team that escapes relegation. We are not a team that is easily bundled out of competitions. We are not also-rans. We are a team that fights for top honours every season. We are one of the biggest clubs, not only in Nigeria, but also in the Black Continent. Anyone who thinks otherwise has no business running our club. We have gone beyond dreaming successes. Peep into the past and see where we are coming from.”
Is it profitable to keep people who have not once given us anything to celebrate? Their continued stay in position is more of a burden to Ondo State sports than a blessing. Their gem, if ever they had one, has not sparkled at all. Expecting them to give us success is a mirage. We have reached the limit of our endurance with their poverty of delivery. It is time to separate these poor performers from our sports.