By Amaechi Agbo
It was Nelson Mandela, the Nobel laureate for peace and former President of South Africa, who said in one of his speeches, “Sport has the power to change the world; It has the power to inspire; It has the power to unite people in a way that little else does; It speaks to youth in a language they understand. Sport can create hope where once there was only despair”.
Without mincing words, sports have always been an integral part of Nasarawa State culture and important aspect of life such that one could say that Nasarawa has a rich sports heritage aside its vast mineral deposit and has resulted in glory of the State in the realms of sports.
It is with this in mind that a group known as Discount Business Bureau, Nigeria Limited, is proposing to establish the first Sports University in Africa in Nasarawa State, located in North-Central Nigeria.
According to the Chairman of the Bureau Board, Dikko Tahir Bala (Sarkin Bai of Keffi), plans and consultations with relevant stakeholders are already in top gear to bring the initiative into fruition.
Dikko who was speaking during a tour to one of the proposed sites in Akwanga stated that the group opted to situate the proposed University in Nasarawa State due to its large young population, strategic location and proximity to the seat of power, F.C.T., Abuja.
“Initially, the idea was to have the University sited in Badagry, Lagos State, or Kwara State.
“But if you look at the map of Nigeria, Nasarawa State is central and is a catchment area. The population, especially the youth category, is growing exponentially, in parts of Lafia, Karu, Keffi and in the FCT, and this is a nucleus to expand our business horizon.
“Also, the State is one of the most friendly States in the country, both in hospitality and business wise, following certain government’s laudable initiatives.”
He explained that his organization is working hand-in-hand with the Nasarawa State Government and other relevant bodies to make the initiative a reality.
Also lending his voice, Chief Executive Officer of Discount Business Bureau, Nigeria Limited, Mohammed Murtala Bashar, said once approved, the University will operate in two phases, namely: Secondary and Tertiary institutions, with Akwanga hosting the Secondary Institute as catchment area using the Sports Academy as take-off ground, while Keffi will accommodate the Tertiary Institution.
He revealed that the University will have the flexibility to open new schools/departments in consonance with the advances and developments in sports science, sports medicine, and allied areas.
Mr. Bashar added that the University, once approved and operational, will promote sports education in the areas of sports sciences, sports technology, sports management, and sports coaching, and will also function as a major training centre for selected sports disciplines by adopting the best international practices by signing Memoranda of Understanding (MoU) with International Universities and Federal Ministry of Youth and Sports Development of Nigeria.
Among other things, the organisation also plans to build world-class sporting facilities like stadium and recreational centres in the state to boost sports tourism and generate revenue.
Speaking earlier, Nasarawa State Commissioner for Youth and Sports Development, Hon. Othman Bala Adam, who led the team to the site in Akwanga, said the initiative is timely and in tandem with Governor Abdullahi Sule’s slogan of “Exceeding All Expectations” and daily calls on investors to take advantage of the state’s myriads opportunities.
He described the visit of the team as a fact-finding one aimed at creating the right avenue for partnership between the State Government and Discount Business Bureau.
“This visit was a fact-finding one to showcase to them what we really have so that they could see, first hand, what manner of investment they are supposed to have here and where they can partner with the State Government to develop
“The investors (Discount Business Bureau) stated that they want to turn Nasarawa State into a hub of sporting activities on the continent of Africa.
“Already, we had gone round some sports facilities in Keffi to show them what we have on ground in line with the business proposal they presented to the Government to see how well they could partner; today, we are here at the Sports Academy in Akwanga to show them another facilities and site.”
The Commissioner, while acknowledging the foresight of the intending investors, thanked the Governor, Engr. Abdullahi Sule, for creating initiatives that are, hitherto, selling the image of the State to the world.
“It is a good thing that the investors are choosing Nasarawa State for this mega project. But this could not have been possible if His Excellency, Engr. Abdullahi Sule had not created the right atmosphere for investors to come in. He has a slogan that is already yielding result, and hopefully, we shall get to the promised land.
“The state stands to benefit more from this project once implemented as majority of the students, athletes, or coaches that will enroll in this institution will be from Nasarawa State because as a Ministry, we are already coming up with various local sporting events and championships aimed at discovering and harnessing talents for podium heights”, he stated.