Harnessing Youth Potential Through Sports

Governor Yahaya Bello in a group photograph with the U-21 and U18 handball players who returned home with medals and trophies from a Handball Tournament held in Lagos in 2019.

Harnessing Youth Potential Through Sports

By Hafsat Ibrahim

The population of Nigeria is estimated to be over 200 million, with about 33.6 million (representing 16.8%) as youths.

Youths, world over, are said to be the most productive segment of a nation’s population. They are able-bodied, agile, full of stamina, incredibly enterprising and amazingly creative.

The exploits of Nigerian youths in sports, literature, arts, science, music, and several other human disciplines have attracted global awards for the country, in recent years.

Names like Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, Ayodeji Ibrahim Balogun (Wizkid) David Adeleke (Davido) Ahmed Musa, among several other eminent Nigerian youth icons, ring a bell.

The above trio, together with several others, have won international medals and laurels for themselves, and the nation, with oft-inspiring and breathtaking accomplishments in their individual trades.

Yet, it is the atrocious acts of savagery perpetrated by some ‘misguided’ and rascally youths that are giving the country an awful image.

Talk of kidnapping for ransom, armed banditry, insurgency, drug trafficking, cultism, internet scams aka Yahoo Yahoo, among other heinous crimes, they are absolutely the pastimes of youths in the country.

Addressing the multifarious challenges hindering the potential of Nigerian youths, according to experts, demands a holistic and integrated approach of job creation and provision.

As part of measures geared towards tackling youth restiveness fueled by the crisis of unemployment, the Federal Government, in recent years, launched social investment schemes like the You-WIN, and N-Power, and a host of others, with minimal successes.

But through the avenue of sports, Governor Yahaya Bello, is productively engaging Kogi youths, who are now realizing their true potential, and ultimate destinies in life.

In the last six years, the Governor, through the Kogi State Ministry of Youths and Sport Affairs, has hosted dozen tournaments and competitions of various games, where promising athletes and sporting talents have been discovered.

For them to take Nigeria’s domestic league by storm in no distant future, Governor Bello has been providing both financial and moral support to the State’s soccer teams, battling for honours in the country’s amateur male and female football leagues.

Courtesy of the Kogi State Government, brand new buses have been provided to all Kogi sport’ teams, even as Governor Bello, has remained truly committed to adequately funding their participation in various domestic sporting leagues.

And in repaying the massive investments of the Governor in them, various teams that have represented Kogi State in sport festivals locally and internationally, recently, not only gave their opponents a run for their money, but also carted away the coveted prizes and trophies.

For instance, the Kogi State beach football team won the 2018 Kebbi Beach Soccer Tournament, while its counterparts, the State men basketball and handball teams, had a fantastic outing at various national and international tournaments, last year.

That Kogi is relatively peaceful, safe and secured for business investment and human habitation is because its youths are not idle, and unemployed.

Most of them, especially those with exceptional talents and relevant academic degrees, have since been engaged by the State Government. Hence, they do not find perpetrating violence and crimes of whatever sort, attractive.

In the interim, it is expected that other State Governors and possibly, the Federal Government, too, will experiment the Yahaya Bello’s template, in harnessing the potential of their energetic youths. It is one template that is sure to catalyse the rapid metamorphosis of their own youths, too.

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