‘The state of sports in Nigeria is heartbreaking’-Sowore

Sowore says in 2023 which is the next political election year, all the presidential candidates should be forced to run a 5km race and see who is alive afterwards.

‘The state of sports in Nigeria is heartbreaking’-Sowore

Like other sectors, Nigerians are not fulfilling their potential as global leaders in sports because of inept and clueless rulers. For presidential aspirant Omoyele Sowore, this is disturbing OLUKAYODE THOMAS reports


Like few visionary leaders among us, presidential aspirant Omoyele Sowore; realized long before now that education, entertainment, and sports are three vehicles that can easily take our youths out of poverty.

Ironically, these three industries where Nigerians have the potential to be the best in the world are in comatose. 

Public primary and secondary schools are in terrible shape, the private ones are like an expensive gown that does not cover the body. As of today, lecturers of government-owned Universities are on strike, our entertainment industry is neither here nor there. There are a couple of successful artists but the majority are struggling. 

The sports industry is the worst. Nigeria is probably the only country renowned for football worldwide yet we don’t have a football league. Athletics, boxing, basketball, tennis, and other sports that has the potential to take our kids out of poverty are dead.

State of sports in Nigeria

For Sowore a keen follower of sports in Nigeria, the state of sports in Nigeria,

“I follow Nigeria's sports and I'm disappointed Nigeria is not fulfilling its potential in sports. There's football, swimming, cycling, running, rowing, and every sport that is within the Olympic sphere in Nigeria can participate and excel. I once went for a Nigerian marathon race. 

“The organisers couldn't even run a mile! I'm not discriminating but if you cannot run 5km you should not be organising a marathon. We always put square pegs in round holes. Recently I went to ginger the Super Eagles during their last training before they travelled to Cameroon for the African Cup of Nations (AFCON) and I couldn't believe that the Chief Security Officer wouldn't let me shake hands with the Super Eagles.


“Of course, I understood why, "because you're a rebellious anti-government guy, and if we let you take pictures with the Super Eagles we would get into trouble". 

“But this shouldn't be the case because sports should know no barriers. I think we are losing a lot because we are not achieving or living up to the expectations of our sporting potential in Nigeria. 

“I don't know in which sports in Nigeria that we shouldn't be participants or be excelling, and that's heartbreaking. 

“And that's why I think Nigerians should think about leaders who understand the ability to take over sports, technology, education, agriculture, and several other opportunities that are out there for countries to excel; because it feels like in every sector that is doing well in the world today, 

“You have about 100,000 Nigerians willing to be at the top but the opportunities are not there, because the people leading Nigerians don't understand how to take the Nigerian nation and youths to the height that they ought to be. 

“That is the problem, but I understand why people keep putting or encouraging these sets of people to be in charge of their affairs. It's very sad. ‘’

In the last few years, there has been a surge in the number of marathons and road races but for Sowore the number of races we have today is insignificant for a country of 200 million people.

“I actually think there should be a road race in every town, city, and state in Nigeria. We are about 200 million people. I was told that Abuja is setting up a half marathon which comes up in February. 

“Apart from that only Lagos has a full marathon. I think there's somewhere in Edo State where they have a 10k race. We need every city to have that. 

‘The US does have that. Where I live in the US which is New Jersey, I go from town to town to attend running events every weekend, and it could do a lot for young people. It is a money-spinner, it is a great health-spinner for everyone and just makes you feel good and makes you feel like it is something you can brag about like "Hey I'm 50, I can run 5km, 10km". 

“In my case, I can do a marathon anytime I'm called upon. In fact, I have plans to run from here (his house) to the airport anytime from now, which is like 37km, which is a few kilometers short of a marathon, just so that I can showcase my ability and expand my capacity to do the impossible. 

“I should say this. In 2023 which is the next political election year, I think we should force all the presidential candidates to a 5km race and see who is alive afterwards. If you survive, you are eligible to run. “

Next elections and the need for a coalition

“I get asked this question all the time and I give them a very simple response: I never stopped running since 2019; I never stopped. I spent time in jail, and I've been in and out of detention. “As we speak to the issues that are important, I don't want to assign any response to what most people expect, like "oh here I am; I'm going to be the next president of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.' Instead let me just sound a little bit religious and say "Here I am, send me.'”

Serious-minded Nigerians have talked about the fact that in the elections, it will be good to have some sort of coalition if we want to overturn the fortunes of any of the big parties. Do you think it is necessary, and do you see yourself doing anything like that?

“It is necessary, but you should not believe in coalitions to the point that you become paralyzed by coalition politics, because so many of the political parties I've seen are appendages of the system we are all fighting against, so if I coalesce with them, they will put you on one end when it's time to stage their allegiance to the old system. The coalition we need is the coalition of the oppressed, and they may not necessarily be political party formations or formats.”

 We are not fair to our youths

Muhammadu Buhari called our youths lazy youth, Sowore who has been involved in the fight for a better Nigeria right from his university days has a very different opinion about our youth. Infect he believes we are not fair to them.

“I used to be a victim of those who blame the young people for being responsible to fix every problem, but it's not the job of the youth to pay salaries, to make sure that the medical situation in the country is fixed, to send children to school...they themselves are struggling and so I'm not involved in any way in youth blaming. 

“None! I just wish that young people understand the power they have to say 'No, we can't continue like this and fix their country. In every country that I've been to it is not the role of the youth to fix their environment. 

“Young people are just there to gallivant around, have fun, and hope that everything will be alright. It's somehow burdensome to place on the shoulders of young people the duty to do the job of adults and people who are experienced so to speak, but whenever we lose track of the conscience of the adult, we look forward to anybody who could help us, whether it is young people, women, and even little kids.

“ But there is a hierarchy of responsibility and when you look at young people, they are not even supposed to be number 2 or 3 in the hierarchy, but when adults fail, when elders fail, when men and women of conscience fail, then we look for anybody, so I'm careful not to blame the youth for the condition that we're in but I'm also not oblivious to the fact that young people could make a lot of difference and when they don't, of course they will suffer the consequences right around the corner.

PULL QUOTE: In 2023 which is the next political election year, I think we should force all the presidential candidates to a 5km race and see who is alive afterward. If you survive, you are eligible to run. 

 PULL QUOTE: “Of course I understood why, "because you're a rebellious anti-government guy, and if we let you take pictures with the Super Eagles we would get into trouble".