REMARKS BY HIS EXCELLENCY, PRESIDENT GOODLUCK EBELE JONATHAN, GCFR, AT THE PRESIDENTIAL RETREAT OF THE SPORTS SECTOR, ABUJA, OCTOBER 22, 2012
* It is with great expectation that I welcome you to this retreat, designed to chart a new course for sports in our country. Our goal is to brainstorm and strategize on how we can reclaim our past sporting glory and restore happiness and dignity to our country in sporting events.
* There is no gain saying that apart from its obvious benefits in bringing joy to our citizens, especially when our teams do well, no other sector of our national life has a greater force for mobilizing and uniting our people around a common purpose, than sports.
* We would always remember the 1996 Atlanta Olympics for good. We would always remember the tears, the tears of joy Chioma Ajunwa brought to our eyes. She jumped above every expectation to claim the gold medal in the women’s long jump event. She gave us our first gold medal ever at the Olympics, displaying the never-say-die Nigerian spirit, the spirit that can never be defeated no matter the situation and circumstances. She brought smiles to our faces and filled our hearts with joy.
* The celebration was yet to die down when the football team, led by Kanu Nwankwo, added an icing to the cake by winning the gold medal. The Dream Team, as they were called, lived up to the Nigerian dream, beating our old nemesis, Brazil, on the way to beating another football powerhouse, Argentina, in the final of the football event.
* In a matter of days, we had written our name in gold twice at a very difficult period of our nationhood. Nigerians of all classes, religions and ethnic groups poured into the streets in celebration, despite the political tension in the land. Such is the joy that sports bring into the land.
* No nation can afford to overlook the relevance of sports to national development and national well- being. As a powerful socio-economic tool for youth development, nation building and instilling core values of social justice, sports remains at the heart of our National Transformation Agenda.
* This Retreat is timely, given the recent disappointing performance of Team Nigeria at the 2012 Summer Olympics in London and our recent lows in football competitions among others. This unacceptable trend points to systemic failures that urgently call for a drastic and holistic review of our sport policies.
* Let me make this clear: We are not here to apportion blame or to point accusing fingers. We are not here to lament. We are here to find solutions and put in place a framework for achieving national sporting excellence.
* Amidst the lows, we have also had successes with our Paralympians in the London Olympics as a tonic for our thirst for greater honour.
* Distinguished ladies and gentlemen, I requested that we bring together, to a retreat, major stakeholders in the sporting industry, including State Governors, key officials of this Administration, those who have participated in our sports development over the years, members of the organized private sector, men and women of experience as we embark on a major turning point in our sporting journey.
* Our gathering here today must lead to our coming up with workable solutions to the most critical issues underpinning sports development in our nation. One of the vital questions facing this retreat is: 'why do some countries excel in sports and others do not?' Providing answers to this question is an important responsibility we must all discharge.
* Whether we are going to turn the situation around or not, depends largely on what we collectively agree here as Federal; State; and Local Governments, as well as private businesses and as athletes and managers.
* Make no mistake: Our commitment is to become the best sporting nation in Africa, be among the top 4 sporting nations in the Commonwealth and ultimately rule the world. This vision is not only realistic, it is also achievable with hard work, greater sense of purpose, and dedication.
* Without doubt, our sports industry has developed rapidly, with good prospects for sustained growth. We can only tap this latent potential through adequate investment and proper governance structure. Today, our financing channel for sports is singular, the investment channel is narrow, and the source is unsustainable.
* The medals table of the last few Olympics is a strong indicator that Sports is now a major tool for demonstrating economic and social strength by countries. Sports must therefore remain a major element of our vision for national rebirth. It must constitute a driving force and indicator of our progress towards becoming one of the leading 20 economies of the world by the year 2020.
* If we must achieve excellence and meet the objective requirements for the rapid development of our sports industry, then we must broaden the financing base of the industry and create the right conditions for private sector funding and investment in sport.
* Adequate funding of sports is very crucial to this endeavor but efficient and transparent management of resources is key. This is why I have set up a committee under the Minister of Finance and the Coordinating Minister for the Economy, to work out a strategy for sustainable management of funding of the sports sector.
* The Federal Government will continue to do all that is necessary to improve our sporting fortunes. I believe that the State Governments are also doing the same. The private sector should now do more by investing in the sector. If you do business in Nigeria, your number one brand identity is Nigeria.
* It is my hope that at the end of this retreat, we would have come out with a clear practical and measurable action plan that will pave the way for greater sporting glory for our dear country.
* Distinguished ladies and gentlemen, it is now my honour to declare this retreat open.
* I thank you.