By Emmanuel Ado
That Nasir Ahmad El-Rufai, the Governor of Kaduna State, dreams big, and is focused, audacious, is gross understatement. Just as the word impossible, has obviously never been a deterrent in the execution of his numerous ambitious programmes and daring unpredictable moves, rather it is the adrenaline rush that propels his strategic actions and the secret behind many of his astounding successes, be it the breathtaking Kaduna, Zaria, Kafanchan urban renewal projects, the 150 million dollars Olams Integrated Feeds and Hatchery or the first ever Kaduna Marathon, that was so effortlessly pulled off. For El-Rufai the word “impossibility”, simply means exploring options, meticulous planning, teamwork and delegation of tasks, all which were on display during the highly successful Kaduna marathon. The huge success of the marathon has created doubts that it is the first time the state has ever hosted an event of such magnitude.
The 2020 Kaduna Marathon,was not a brainwave, it’s part of a comprehensive policy of making Kaduna State, the business investment destination and food basket of Northern Nigeria, as contained in the Kaduna State Development Plan 2016-2020 and the El-Rufai’s administration putting people first agenda, that has “improved quality of lives for Kaduna State citizens”, at its philosophical foundation. The slogan, delivering on jobs, growth and prosperity”, encapsulates the legal and moral obligation of the government, to provide an enabling environment for its citizens to exploit. This explains its foray into the multi-billion dollars marathon industry, the determination to ensure that a slice of the huge money gets to its citizens, a point the governor emphasized during the unveiling of the marathon.
Kenyan Eliud Kipchoge the first runner to break the two – hour barrier in marathon is worth over 2.29 million pounds, from a mouth watering sponsorship deal with Nike worth millions of dollars,in addition to earnings from races. If everything works according to plan, and a Kaduna citizen is able to earn a million dollars, the impact, the multiplier effect can better be imagined.
It’s important to mention,that Kaduna State before the coming of El-Rufai, had lost about 70% of its economic activities, due to a combination of factors, but especially the lack of vision.
The enthusiastic ambition of the Kaduna State Government to put the state and Nigeria invariably on the marathon map, as an annual event like the Boston Marathon, the oldest annual marathon, ahead of early starters like South Africa, Uganda, before the Arabs with their deep pockets, who have already dominated other elite sports like football and golf turn their attention to marathon is clearly understandable. The Kaduna State Government deserves all the accolades that are being heaped on it, for organizing the marathon in what is an extraordinary year of the COVID-19, when much older events couldn’t hold. To further appreciate the Kaduna feat, it’s important to observe that countries like Kenya and Ethiopia, though producers of champions, are conspicuously missing from hosts of the over 800 marathons held yearly throughout the world.
It’s equally very remarkable that the Kaduna Marathon in its very first year, has been listed by the World Athletics Federation as a permanent feature in its sporting calendar, a testament to the power of dreams.
Other states, would have dipped hands into state resources to fund the marathon, but certainly not Kaduna State with its business-minded governor. It’s thus not surprising that the Kaduna Marathon, was wholly sponsored by the private sector and from the registration fees of the over 5,000 athletes that participated. The private sector funding shows the several possibilities that can be achieved when the government and the private sector collaborates in a mutually beneficial manner, the point El-Rufai continues to make that the private sector remains the driver for employment creation.
For the Kaduna state government, the Kaduna Marathon, is not all about races, hence the aggressive marketing of its several tourism sites and events, like the famous Zazzau Durbar, Tuk- Ham celebration, the Matsirga Falls etc, all in a bid to empower the people, who are at the very heart of the El-Rufai government policies. The Kaduna Marathon, like many other El-Rufai’s projects is an integral part of a very comprehensive interrelationships, part of a whole, such that the massive urban renewal projects are built around the marathon, the tourism potentials, same with the shopping malls and new hotels, that will cater for visitors
The newly created Ministry of Sports Development, charged with the mandate of sports revival, discovery and naturing of raw talents that abound in the state into world class athletes, in what clearly signifies El- Rufai’s aspirations to replicate in athletics, the tremendous achievement of the state in football. Kaduna State has produced the likes of Daniel Amokachi, Dahiru Sadi, Garba Lawal, Rashidi Yekeni Ayo Ogunlano , Victor Moses and several other world renowned stars.
In the near future, Kaduna State would definitely be making waves due to its strategy of focusing on sports like hockey, long distance races, handball, volleyball etc that it has comparative advantage, a very pragmatic approach, that is not only realistic, but cost saving and result assured.
The Kaduna State Government has every right to beat its chest for its several accomplishments. According to El- Rufai, “Today’s main 21km race and the 5km and 10km races have helped advance the goals set out for the Kaduna Marathon.Designed as a half-marathon, the Kaduna Marathon is designed as an annual sporting event, creating options for talent development, drawing mass participation, inviting visitors to the state and creating economic benefits. A major objective is to promote social interaction and advance unity in the state”
The expectations for the second edition is exceedingly high, considering how successful the very first edition was. Thankfully Kabir Mato, the Kaduna State Sports Commissioner , whose ministry the responsibility is anchored, understands this fact and has commenced preparations, side by side with the post mortem.