Why would a governor, considering many problems facing his people, go to watch a football match in London? This question sums up the queries of concerned Nigerians after it was announced that Governor Abubakar Sani Bello of Niger state would visit Stamford Bridge to watch the match between Chelsea and Arsenal on Saturday.

Many people have received individual responses from government clearing up their misunderstanding of the visit. However, the matter merits another response for the consumption of the general public.

Chelsea player, John Mikel Ob,i and Niger state governor Sani Bello

Chelsea player, John Mikel Ob,i and Niger state governor Sani Bello

Why Mikel Obi?

John Mikel Obi, through his agents and company JOMIKEL, approached the Niger state government to partner with it towards sports development in the state. Mikel Obi also initiated the moves to locate a football academy there. And at this time, when the state government focuses on improving the economy of the state by encouraging and facilitating private investment and participation, it would be foolish to turn back an investor who is willing to invest his own money in our state.

This was clearly spelt out in the statement that was released before the event:

“Governor Abubakar Sani Bello of Niger state will be a guest at Stamford Bridge in London, home to the Chelsea football club, on Saturday, on the invitation of John Mikel Obi, a Chelsea player who is planning to collaborate with the state government towards sports development – including starting a football academy in Minna. 

“The governor will watch the home game between Chelsea and Arsenal scheduled to start at 12.45pm.

“In the evening after the game, Governor Bello will have dinner with Mikel Obi to further the discussion on sports development in Niger State – a conversation which was initiated by Mikel’s agents in Minna and Abuja.”

Why is Mikel investing in Niger, and not Mikel’s own Plateau state?

Why did the chicken cross the road?

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Why do many accomplished businessmen choose other cities or other nations to invest instead of their own hometowns? The answer to these questions is simple: to maximize their utility. Which means these are economic questions best answered by the investor who must do all he can to maximize returns on investment – including choosing a location that would minimize risks.

But why visit London to have a meeting with Mikel?

The governor was in Europe a week before that match. As stated above, Mikel’s agents have been having discussions with the state government. Governor Bello’s visit to Stamford Bridge was part of that conversation. Actually, the governor was going to Europe and later to America to undertake many assignments including being part of the president’s team and also as a co-chair of a panel to discuss sustainable development during 70th Session of the UN General Assembly. He was also in the UK to meet other international development partners, including JOMIKEL. Therefore, it was resolved by all parties that the governor would tee up a meeting with Mikel while in the UK. It happened that there was a match and Mikel invited the governor as a guest of honour. Many have, rightly, commended Mikel for initiating the project and many also appreciate the Niger state government for encouraging him and also attracting investment to the state.

Is this our priority?

Yes. The Niger state government has prioritized four areas upon which to focus in the next four years: health, education, agriculture and empowerment. The last on the list is what concerns us now. Youth and women make up about two-thirds of Nigeria’s population. Therefore, the Niger state government wants to focus its attention on this demographic. Sports development, properly organized, empowers the youth and cockles economic activities in the state.

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The state is not going to focus only on football. Our basketball team used to be very good. The Flickers, our hockey team, has just won a tournament in Kaduna. Therefore, the government will focus on these and many other areas.

How many were in the governor’s encourage?

One. The governor travelled alone. Although the chief of staff travelled later to join him, and the ADC will also join him later. So, including the governor himself, only three government officials travelled. Governor Bello doesn’t waste money on a large entourage.

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