Posted by News Express | 13 October 2020 | 848 times
Mike Adamu is a sports administrator and sports entrepreneur. He is the Chief Executive Officer of Reform Sports West Africa Limited, one of the frontline sports facility companies in Africa. Adamu, a sports enthusiast and lover of Nigerian Professional Football League, speaks on a number of issues regarding sports development, sports facility and administration. He also shared his knowledge on the need for the Federal Government to invest in sports in order to address the challenges of disunity, division and hate in the country caused by ethnicity and religion. No doubt the COVID-19 pandemic has dealt a big blow on the sports sector. Adamu also speaks on the lessons learnt from the effect of COVID-19 pandemic and what needs to be done, especially as the NPFL will commence in no distant time.
QUESTION: What is your name and tell us a little bit of your background?
Mike Adamu: My Name is Mike Adamu. I am from Kebbi State, North West Nigeria. To the glory of God, I’m the CEO of Reform Sports West Africa. We are into sports facility construction and development as well as other sports-related construction work available in the field.
What is Reform Sports West Africa all about?
Reform Sports in an indigenous sports company which has been in Nigeria and in existence since early 2000. And by the grace of God we’ve worked and partnered with some states and about seven universities across the country to deliver sports facilities for them. In Oyo State, we worked in Adamasingba Stadium to give them their track and field turf. In Enugu, we have three sites there. We worked at Nnamdi Azikiwe Stadium prior to the Under-17 FIFA World Cup in 2009. UNEC and Rangers camp. Also we have worked in Lafia Township Stadium in Nasarawa State, Abubakar Tafawa Balewa Stadium in Bauchi State, Akure and Ondo Township Stadium in Ondo State. Furthermore we provided flood lights at Sapele Stadium in Delta State. Currently, we are working at Dan Anyiam Stadium in Owerri, Imo State to upgrade the stadium. What we are doing in Dan Anyiam Stadium is mind blowing. We are putting natural grass field and I believe it will be one of the best in Nigeria when the league starts.
Why did you venture into sports facility development?
As a boy, I loved to play football and I grew up in the family of sports. With that background and love for sports, my knowledge in sports grew and at a point, I noticed that there are lack of basic sports facilities and lack of infrastructure in Nigeria’s sports sector. The same thing that is applicable to the health care sector in Nigeria, road infrastructure and education. With inadequate sports facilities, we try to contribute our own quota to find a solution to this challenge. And that was one of the reasons we introduced artificial grass tuff in Nigeria. When we brought up that initiative, a lot of people did not welcome the idea because they have never seen it before, but now if you look at it, we have over 500 of those type of field in Europe. You may ask me why those field? They are legacy fields because when you fix a field it can give you five, eight, 10 years depending on the type of grass you are putting compared to the natural grass. Just like Nigerians will always say that we lack maintenance culture, this is just a solution to it. This one doesn’t need maintenance and they are almost maintenance free. And that is why we ventured into it. By the Grace of God, we appreciate the state that have worked with us. During the World Cup, we were able to deliver Enugu in record time. The job was given to us 60 days to the World Cup and we were able to deliver and they have a wonderful field. Recently when I went to Enugu, I was still proud to see the field. Other states are actually doing it right now. I'm happy because what we thought we should have the trial in Nigeria. It is now a solution and people are buying into it right now.
What makes your company different from others that are into facilities development?
OK, let me give you this analogy: see, if you get an architect to build a hospital for you and the architect that has never seen a CT scan or MRI machine before, they wouldn’t know the level of the headroom. How do you expect him to know how the hospital functions? Just like I told you, I love football. I love to play football. I watch football. It’s my passion. And with that, we put passion into what we do. That’s part of why we are different from all other companies out there. A construction company is not a sport facility company because they don’t use these facilities. So they can’t give you the feel on how it should be. I will give you a funny scenario. There are some states we went to work and when we try to align their goal post, it was not aligning and funny enough they were playing league matches on this pitch. And there are pitches we will go to also, while you are digging, you will see charms inside. That’s their different beliefs. So we work with passion and we try to deliver the best. Our works speak for us.
You have worked in several states like you said. Can you tell us the specific things you have done for them and what impact it has on their sports?
Like I said earlier, if you go Ibadan in Oyo State right now, in Adamasingba Stadium, we delivered their tuff about eight or 10 years ago, 2009 or 2010. We gave them a tuff that lived up to this moment that we're talking. The tuff is still okay, but I think now they are planning to upgrade their stadium. If you go to Enugu State, they hosted the World Cup in 2009. I believe their grass is still there. It is a legacy thing. It even outlived the then Governor that did two tenures. This is a tuff they use daily, morning and night. And it's still there after many years. It’s still green as it is from the first day. Also, if you go to Akure, our field is there. You go to Nassawara State, where Nassarawa United play, it’s our tuff. Wikki Tourists also play on it. It’s a this a thing of joy when I'm watching Nigerian football league and I see Rangers playing, playing on our tuff or Wikki Tourists or Nasarawa United or you see 3SC and they are playing on our tuff. For example, I don't wear any foreign jersey, I wear the jersey of teams that I have worked with it. And I think with the luck associated with our tuff, some of the teams that we've worked for have also gone to continental competition. That’s to show you that yes when you have a good facility, it actually brings out the good in you.
You’re the son of a renowned Sports Administrator, Dr. Amos Adamu. Has this any influence on your business?
Well, you know, that is a very emotional thing when you want to talk about him. He’s a very good friend and a very good man. I would say it has definitely. Definitely. I can’t deny that. He has been in Nigeria for the good part of the good success of Nigerian sports. Dr. Adamu has been there from the 90s. It wasn’t long he came on board in the Nigeria Football Association when for the first time ever we qualified to go to the World Cup in 1994. We won medals in Barcelona in 92, won Olympics in 1996. The reason isn’t farfetched. It’s mainly because a professional is at the helm of affairs and that was Dr. Amos Adamu. So I believe his goodwill is always opening the doors and it will continue opening more doors.
What has been the problem with sports facilities in Nigeria compared to a place like Europe?
As a nation, those are part of things that I think needs to be addressed and looked into. We talk so much about youth restiveness. The question is where do these youths actually channel their energies? It’s a known fact that everywhere in the world, sport business is not a cheap business. And here in the country, we still run sports as if it's a charity or social responsibility. Normal sports are a big business. Sport is bigger than oil, but we still don’t see it that way. I’ll give you some instances. If you go to Emirate Stadium, the field you see every day and you watch every weekend during league matches is not the same field the players use for training. There is a natural grass there and you can find out how much the budget of that natural grass is. You can also find out how much they pay people working and maintaining it daily. There are people called the grounds men. These grounds men, you can’t compare what they pay them with the minimum wage in Nigeria. There's constant water. There’s constant electricity. These clubs rake in millions of dollars weekly for both the management of the clubs and their government. For their facilities, they have options: a match field functions only as match field, while a training pitch functions majorly as a training pitch. But what we have here is different. When you go to some States in Nigeria, the same pitch where the league is played, is the same pitch for the youth club, its same pitch for their female team, their under-20 team play there, even their hockey team play there. So how do you expect the tuff to be maintained and last for a long time. Secondly, majority of these sport facilities are owned by government. A Governor that is having challenges with bandits or having challenges in the health sector or education sector, it will be hard for some of them to see investment in sports facilities as priority. But the truth be told, Nigeria must see sports as a big business because if you put money into sports, you will always get a lot of money back. But first things first: you must invest in these facilities and when you invest in them, it will be more. The issue of sport facilities in Nigeria is really a serious thing that needs to be addressed as a matter of urgency. Without that, Nigeria will keep losing more and more talents in sports. Honestly, if we actually sit down and look into the issue holistically and make sport a big business, I think things will change. For example, if Nigeria can take a cue from South Africa and ensure that some percentage of revenues made from all these sports betting companies are invested in sports development, it will go a long way to change the face of sports in the country. It's also the same thing happening in the UK. I don't know what is happening with us. However with what the Honourable Minister of Sports is doing right now by trying to get influential and rich people to actually take these sports facilities off government, it’s a welcome development. Also, if investors can get a tax rebate, which is also in the law of Nigeria, it will really change things.
How do you think sports can address the issue of disunity in the country? How do you also think it can address unemployment amongst youths?
Okay. You see, I’m not a politician, but I watch some things on TV and sometimes read the newspaper where politicians gather people and pay them to attend campaigns or pay them to solicit for support. But on the contrary, in football, for example, if there’s a match between Enyimba and Rangers, I believe people will go and pay to watch them. Why? Because part of them tells them that you have to appreciate the actors of this thing, which are the players. Remember in USA ’94 when Nigeria was playing in the World Cup, because of Nigerians’ love for sports and the unifying spirit in sports, nobody ever differentiated between Hausa, Igbo or Yoruba amongst the players. So I think what to continue to preach to Nigerians is to imbibe the sporting culture. For example when former Nigerian Super Eagles Kanu Nwankwo is playing, a Fulani man is shouting Papilo, Papilo, not minding his ethnicity or religion. Irrespective of where you come from, sports unite everybody. Nobody cares if the goalkeeper is Hausa or Yoruba. What Nigerians want at that time is for him to prevent goals. But outside sports is different. Everything Nigerians do is always along ethnic or religious lines. The reality is that if we can take our part of our lives the way we take sports, I can guarantee you that issue of insecurity, disunity and all forms of polarisation along ethnic or religious lines will be addressed. We need to spend more time on sports education. Education is a basic thing that gives you a leveller anywhere. For example, some primary or secondary schools don't have a playing ground. But they have Physical Education as a subject. All these things must be addressed because all these go a long way in reaching out to the grassroots to locate talents, which no doubt will help unemployment. If you read about the history of Mike Tyson, where did he start from? He came from the slum and rose to fame. We can do the same thing in Nigeria. In Ajegunle (Lagos State), we have so many talents and other places like that across the country. And we need to provide an avenue where these youths can channel their energies.
How will you assess sports in Nigeria in the last 60 years as the country celebrates its 60th independence anniversary?
Well, I think in Africa, we have won the Nations Cup how many times? In which other sector of the country have we succeeded like sports? None! Even with our population. Majority of the successes recorded in the country on international space is through sports. So I can say we have done well. But the issue is sustenance, consistency and continuity. When the athletes are hungry, they cannot run. As I am today, you can do your research yourself, how many running tracks do we have in Nigeria? Find out when last was a stadium built from the scratch to the population of what we have in this country? So what will I say? Let’s even leave the normal thing. Look at our paramilitary schools. How many of them can you go to their formations and see a proper training school, gym facility? Sixty years so far. In sports, Nigeria has done well because they try to do everything. We have 44 associations and some of them have won laurels in various sporting activities they’ve participated, but if you look at it in another way, can we do better? We can and I believe it is just for us to start seeing sports differently.
So how do we improve sports facilities in Nigeria?
The tax rebate that I spoke about earlier, people should be able to access it. Some people are ready to invest in football. If they know that when they do it and it can be taken out of their tax, I believe they will be able to do that. Then the Nigerian Government should also legalise and domesticate remitting of some percentage of profit from lottery commission and sports betting companies into sports development. And also I think if private people can invest in the Nigerian local league, if individuals with good facility get involved, I think it will trigger a lot of sensation and there will be a lot of improvement. Because really, if you check the Federal Government’s yearly budgets, the budget for National Sports Commission on capital projects is nothing to write home about.
How prepared do you think clubs are ahead of resumption of the league after several months of closure due to the COVID-19 pandemic?
I know a lot of clubs are eager to go back and I know some state governments have actually started engaging people to help them put their facility right. I’m aware during the thick of the COVID-19 pandemic because of lockdown and ban on social gathering, which prevented the players from training together, they only just to go to their personnel gyms and try to keep fit. So the major thing the state governments need to do is to get these facilities ready. Hopefully, LMC will soon come out with the guidelines on what facilities that will be used or the teams that will not be able to play at home next season because their facilities are terribly bad. So, I think with all those laws coming out early enough from LMC, to actually state all these things will quickly enhance some of these States to start working and those that their facilities are intact I think the teams wouldn't have a problem. We will know clubs that will not play continental or home this season because their facility is bad. So what’s the fun of playing without your home fans? Which means all your home matches will be played outside your state, just as if you playing away. Secondly, we are talking about sports as a big business. It’s important to also note that if the government and private sector invest more in sports, when teams play either home or away, it will boost the economy, through hotel lodging, restaurants, markets, pubs and tourist sites will have benefit. I think LMC needs to come out early with their guidelines too for these States so that they know who is playing at home or who has the capability to make all these things up before the league starts.
As CEO of Reform Sports West Africa Limited, where do you see your company in the nearest future and what do you want the world of sports to remember your company for?
By God’s grace we are already planning to commence manufacturing of some of these products we get in Europe in Nigeria. We are already thinking towards that aspect. So I believe if you want something real and genuine and with delivery in record time, Reforms Sports will be able to deliver that. We’ve done that with a number of States. And I believe there’s none of our partners and clients that has had any reason to complain about our services. Gradually, Reform Sports West Africa is becoming a household name in the sports facility industry to the glory of God. There are some schools you go and you see something of ours there. Presently, we’re building a 5,000-seater capacity stadium at Adeleke University in Osun State. Definitely, the university will be there for a very long time, and as long as the University exists, the stadium will also exist. So by the special grace of God, very soon if we start to produce these things in Nigeria, people will patronise us more and we will continue to change the face of sorts in the country and Africa by extension.
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