Promoting Sports Elevates Human Rights

Promoting Sports Elevates Human Rights

“Champions aren’t made in the gyms. Champions are made from something they have deep inside them — a desire, a dream, a vision.” -Muhammad Ali (World Heavy Weight Champion Boxer).

Currently, the Nigerian senior male football team known as the Super Eagles is participating in the African Confederation Cup (AFCON) which is happening in Ivory Coast.

Somehow, the team which parades an array of skilful players assembled from some of the topmost football clubs in Europe, has managed to fumble and wobbled into the final 16 teams and will slug it out in the elimination game with Cameroon: another important football powerhouse in Africa just like Nigeria.

President Bola Ahmed Tinubu has already made his opinion known that he isn’t really impressed by the lacklustre approaches to their games by the present crop of senior players.

Tinubu’s sentiment enjoys popular wave amongst sports lovers in the Country.

But does President Bola Ahmed Tinubu value sports development that much? If he does, why is the budget for sports development so small compared to what the National Assembly has cornered for less than 600 Nigerian legislators in Abuja? Bola Ahmed Tinubu should match his anger in the lacklustre performance of Super Eagles in the ongoing AFCON with a significant budget line for development of sports especially school sports whereby sporting talents are caught in their youth.

Significantly, former African tennis champion, Dr Sadiq Abdullahi, has described the Federal Government’s N31.24 billion budget for sports as a sign that the country is not ready to develop the sector into big business.

The Federal Government awarded N31.24 billion for the ministry’s headquarters and agencies, including the Nigeria Football Federation (NFF) and the Nigeria Institute for Sports (NIS).

According to details, N3.24 billion is proposed for personnel costs, N7.91 billion for overheads and N20 billion is for capital expenditure. This small budget is not even up to $1 billion dollars that AFCON host country which is Ivory Coast has invested in organising the ongoing soccer tournament.

However, the unproductive National Assembly has raised its 2024 budgetary allocation by 74.23 per cent to N344.85 billion.

This will be the highest-ever budgetary allocation to the National Assembly whose initial allocation in the 2024 budget proposal was pegged at N197.93 billion.

The increase in allocation to the Senate and House of Representatives is happening amidst a cost-of-living crisis in the country, with the government telling citizens at various fora that the country is facing tough times.

But this is not my reason of coming up with this reflection. The single reason for this piece is to establish the nexus between sports development and promotion of the fundamental human rights of the citizens.

What then is humsn right? Human rights are those inalienable rights that inherently belong to a human being by the mere fact that he is human. These include right to life, right to health, right to freedom of information, right to freedom from discrimination, right to freedom of religion, freedom of expression, freedom of association and right to the dignity of the human persons. Sporting development is integral to the promotion of these noble ideas.

Where to start is to answer the most important interrogatory: what are the 7 values that are promoted through sport? Secondly, how are these values promoted through sports.

The values are: team spirit:- Learn to work together towards a Common goal: fair play:- Learn the importance of rules and being fair to others; Citizenship:- Being involved in the local community through sport; Tolerance:- Developing an understanding of other people, countries and cultures through sport.

Going through these values, one is convinced beyond the shadows of doubts, that sports development is integral to promoting and protecting human rights and the earlier this integral nexus is explored by policy makers in the justice and sports development sectors in Nigeria, the best for everyone in Nigeria.

So what exactly has been happening with sports development since the current administration came on board few months back? I have no hesitation to announce that so much have happened in the area of sports development with the appointment of Senator John Owan Enoh as the Minister of Sports Development. Many more innovative ideas are however been expected to evolve as time goes so that sports can become the source of revenue generation and for the massive injection of employment slots for the youngsters of Nigeria.

In a deliberate move to fortify and enhance the sports landscape in Nigeria, sports development minister, Senator John Owan Enoh started his work by revealing a six-point agenda known as ‘W.A.I.F.A.R’ to drive Nigeria’s sports development.

The minister unveiled his six-point agenda while meeting with the permanent secretary and all directors of the Ministry to commemorate his 100 days in office, saying the strategic framework will guide sports development from next year.

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According to him, the objective of the agenda is to rejuvenate and restore sports to its lost glory, consolidating its significance within Nigeria’s cultural and competitive landscape.

“This agenda is meticulously designed to bolster growth and excellence within the country’s sports sector,” the Minister said.

“We must key into President Bola Ahmed Tinubu’s Renewed Hope agenda and strive to propel the sports industry to newer heights. President Tinubu’s genuine enthusiasm for sports underscores his unwavering commitment to fostering an environment where the sports sector not only flourishes but also reaches unparalleled success.”

The Cross Rivers state-born technocrat and politician of repute then charged all departments within the Ministry to work towards actualizing all aspects of the agenda, with renewed vigor and passion.

Senator Enoh, who also highlighted some notable achievements accomplished within his first 100 days, described his six-points agenda – ‘W.A.I.F.A.R’ – as a pivotal step towards transforming the sports industry, heralding a new era of innovation, empowerment, and sustained excellence.

W- Welfare: activating and enabling a welfare system that caters to serving and retired athletes as well as an annual recognition platform.

R- Reorganization of sports federations for impact. Sports governance and effectiveness of sports federations.

A- Activation of grassroots sports development; early age (under 18) sports and revitalization of school sports.

I – Infrastructure, development. Investment in building and revamping stadiums, as well as focus on grassroots sports facilities.

F- Funding for sports development. Exploring collaborative funding models between the government and the private sector

A- Activation of grassroots sports development; early age (under 18) sports and revitalization of school sports.

R- Reorganization of sports federations for impact. Sports governance and effectiveness of sports federations.

Now, let us read a little presentation on innovative education for development and then we will establish the nexus between sports development and promotion of Human Rights.

Education in the 21st century, says some writers, increasingly recognizes the role of values and social skills in tackling global challenges, such as inactivity, obesity, unemployment, and conflict. This approach is at the core of the Sustainable Development Goal 4 on quality education, which advocates for inclusive lifelong learning opportunities and innovative content delivery.

Dynamic forms of values-based education using sport, accordingly, can be introduced in schools to support teachers deliver curricula actively and cooperatively.

What are sport values? The writers then proceeded to affirm that Sport can teach values such as fairness, teambuilding, equality, discipline, inclusion, perseverance and respect.

Sport has the power to provide a universal framework for learning values, thus contributing to the development of soft skills needed for responsible citizenship, they asserted.

Then comes the profoundly philosophical poser which demands to ascertain what Values Education through Sport offer? And then responded by stating that values Education through Sport (VETS) programmes support active learning, complement cognitive skills and give students increasing amounts of responsibility, and enhance their level of concentration and participation.

VETS programmes are flexible and have a strong cross-curricular potential: they can reinforce existing curricula and can be streamed across different subjects, including physical education, civic and moral education, nutrition, biology, and arts.

Ultimately, these programmes help students to transfer and put values into action outside the school environment, by getting engaged in their communities, making informed decisions, being sensitive and respecting the others and the environment. VETS contributes to the development of self-confidence, active and healthy lifestyle choices, and an understanding of rights, supporting the delicate transition to the independence of adulthood.

We understand that an agency of the United Nations system: UNESCO has joined forces with the International Council of Sport Science and Physical Education (ICSSPE), the International Fair Play Committee (IFPC), the International Olympic Committee (IOC), the International Paralympic Committee (IPC), and the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA).

This Education Partnership, it is understood aims to embed sports values across school-based curricula.

In the context of this Partnership, a “Sport values in every classroom: teaching respect, equity and inclusion to 8-12 year-old students” toolkit for teachers was developed.

Its mission is to assist teachers in their work to instil in children the values of respect, equity and inclusion through engaging activities. But the question to ask is how far has Nigeria gone with achieving improved integration into the schools curriculum of these vital areas of values Education vis-a-vis the engagement in sports development from the perspective of promoting human rights.

The first thing to consider here is that amongst the 6 parts agenda of sports development encapsulated in the presentation made by the honourable minister of sports development during a high-powered dialogue sessions with senior management team of the sports industry in Nigeria to mark his first 100 days in office.

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Twenty four hours ago, the Honourable Minister of Sports Development Senator John Owan Enoh canvased for improved areas of cooperation and collaboration between Nigeria and Turkey in the areas of sports promotion and development for the mutual benefit of both countries.

Receiving Hidayet Bayraktar, the Turkish ambassador to Nigeria and Imdat Karakoc the Deputy Head of Mission in the audience during a courtesy visit to his office in Abuja, the minister observed that Nigeria and Turkey have enjoyed cordial bilateral relations spanning several years. He stressed that both countries share a lot of things in common, especially in the area of football and looked forward to greater collaborations between both countries in this regard.

Senator John Enoh stated that both countries should explore and expand more frontiers in order to create opportunities for the teaming youth for self-development.

Earlier in his remarks, the Turkish ambassador who lauded the new energy injected into the Nigerian sports ecosystem by Senator John Owan Enoh formally invited the minister to attend the 6th Ethno Sports Forum slated to take place in Turkey next month.

Hidayet BayRaktar stated that Nigeria and Turkey have a shared interest in ethno sports, especially in archery and other ethno sports adding that there are several sports that both countries can collaborate in for mutual benefits.

The ambassador noted that Nigerian internationals Emmanuel Emenike, Joseph Yobo and Austin J.J. Okocha made their marks in Turkey. He expressed the hope that the sports ministry under the leadership of Senator Owan Enoh will usher in a new era of unprecedented cooperation between both countries.

The Honourable Minister of Sports referenced the notable presence of Nigerian athletes at the Winter Youth Olympic Games in Gangwon South Korea, where Nigeria emerged as the only African Nation to qualify and participate, which is an indication of Nigerian athletes breaking new grounds in sports and a show of other great possibilities in the future. Diana-Mary Tiku Nsan the Special Assistant, Media to the Honourable Minister of Sports Development, endorsed a media statement narrating this constructive encounter between Nigeria and Turkey. Certainly, sports development deserves better budgeting and the enabling environment for private sector sponsorship.

We recommend that the Nigerian State needs to double up on the budgetary allocation to the development of sports. The government must demonstrably show that it is concerned about transforming sports to become an economic powerhouse in such a way that the latent talents of millions of Nigerian youths are harnessed for economic productivity.



Emmanuel Onwubiko is the head of the Human Rights Writers Association Of Nigeria and was National Commissioner of the National Human Rights Commission of Nigeria.




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