BY SALIFU USMAN
Handball Federation of Nigerian (HFN) presidential hopeful, Jibrin Sheidu Ojih has said the game of handball in the country is nose-diving because of lack of constant competitions both at the grassroots and national level. He said the only way out is immediate return to competitions at the grassroots and his administration will bring back the good old days. He spoke to SALIFU USMAN
What is your background in handball?
My background in handball dates back to 1980. I started playing handball from the basis; the under- 12 in Kano, and then proceeded to senior category before playing at senior level. If you look at how I started playing handball, I can boldly say, I am one of the most successful handballer in Nigeria because most of us who played this game together are no more playing it. While some have retired, many others are no more alive. But we that are alive, we give God the glory.
Did you play handball professionally, outside Nigeria’s shore?
No, my education didn’t allow me to play outside the shore of the country as a professional. I had an ambition of obtaining certificate as a professional quantity surveyor, so I concentrated on my education. Notwithstanding, handball is part of my life because I got scholarship through handball and all my education were strictly sponsored by the Sokoto State Government because of the laurels I won within and outside the country for the State.
Are you satisfied with the development of handball in Nigeria and how do you intend to revamp the game in the country?
The fortune of Handball has completely dwindled in Nigeria. In fact, it is far below where I expect it to be. And, it is a sad thing that even today you find out that we are still recycling players using people who are supposed to be coaches and administrators. I think one of the very serious challenges is the absence of technical know-how of the game in the country.
I believe strongly that the kinds of coaches that are in charge of the game now are largely responsible for the poor standing of the game. Many of them are not current with events locally and internationally. Unfortunately, you can only offer what you have. So the level of input to the players is quite poor and so it is garbage in garbage out. It is like the computer.
The shopping ground for players is naturally the schools. I believe that the absence of constant competitions for institutions of learning, that is secondary schools and higher institutions of learning is responsible for non-discovery of talents. My administration will focus on reviving School sports and encourage state associations to organise youth competition in their various domain, no matter how small. At the national level, the federation will organise national competitions and by so doing, there will be constant tournaments that will keep players and coaches busy all through.
Also, I will focus on build a united handball family devoid of rancor. When we were playing, handball was one united family, but today we have factions everywhere. The coaches are spilt into factions, referees are not united, and the board is in disarray. Everything about handball is in disarray and the way to bring handball back on tract is to bring everybody together, irrespective of our differences and work as a nucleus family and that is why I am in the race for the Presidency of Handball.
Most of us that played before got so much from the game. There is nothing we have not seen in handball industry because of the privileges and the opportunity we had. We want to replicate the same opportunities for younger generation of handballers. I believe that will go a long way in eliciting more interest in the game of handball.
Presently, we are working on raise the younger generation of footballer. If you wish to know, there is a scholarship programme we are running for the young ones. We pay their school fees, provide kits and balls to some states in order to encouraged handball and I think that is the way forward to advance the cause of handball in Nigeria.
What is the main objective of Mega Veterans?
The idea of having veteran clubs across the country was to bring together former players, coaches and referees to help advance the cause of handball development. Mega veterans are for success and not for negativity as some selfish people perceive it to be. Once in a while, we come together for the good of the game. The idea is for us, former players to have a forum where we can come together and give support to present handball players. We give support to the handball federation financially and otherwise, using all the connections and relationships we have as individuals. Some of us occupy key positions in government, some of us are big players in the banking sector and we can render useful assistance to advance the game.
So, our intention is that, the federation would benefit from the existence of such clubs and we have contributed immensely to the development of handball, since we came together, like I said earlier.
What legacies would you want to leave in handball?
During our time, clubs from all over the country were always moving round the country for competitions and the national teams were never out of championships. I want to bring back the good old days.
My administration will be a new dawn for handball in Nigeria. There will be unprecedented transparency. I will carry along all the stakeholders, including the coaches, current and former players, clubs owners and administrators. Everybody will work together as member of one family.
More importantly, I would like to leave a legacy of robust technical and sound youth handball development and professionals would be brought in to drive the marketing of our marketable brands. Most of handball players and coaches have lost their job due lack of constant handball competitions, and today CAHB and IHF are crying that Nigeria is nowhere seen in handball.
Thank God I am privilege to be a member of CAHB and that is an opportunity for us to quickly rediscover our rightful place in African handball and the world in general. I am not going to look out for government to develop handball. The spirit of dependence on government patronage is out of me. We sponsored national team to Niger without government support and if we can do that from our personal pockets, getting sponsors wouldn’t be difficult for me and my team.
And all the relevant stakeholders in Nigerian handball will be carried along at all times. If you want to pay evil for evil, you will not succeed. Even the outgoing president, I wouldn’t throw him out, if I emerged the president of handball federation because I believe knowledge are with those who have tested it.
How will you address the challenge of sponsorship?
No sponsor will want to invest his or her money where there is crisis, no matter how buoyant that sponsor is. The first thing to do is to sanitize the system. We are not going there to look out for government funds; rather we are going there, believing in ourselves, that we can do it. The spirit of government sponsorship is out of us.
We sponsor national team to Niger without government support and if we can do that from our own personal pocket, getting sponsors wouldn’t be difficult for us. By the time we start getting primary and secondary school students together, Milo, Indomie and other food beverages will come to our aids because they would want to market their products.
How much do you know the electorates?
Electorates, to my understanding are supposed to be neutral arbiters and I believe as aspirants we should not associate with them closely at the time like this. Irrespective of the Nigerian factors, I believe our concept should guide or judge us. I believe in a level playing ground and I don’t think I should know electorates before contest for an election.
I have a vision and an agenda to develop handball in Nigeria and based on my antecedents as handball player and promoter, they should join hands with me to move the game forward. I am not looking for money or power to enrich myself. I am fighting for the future of handball in Nigeria and the future of our youths who depend on this game for survival.