Yesterday, August 21, 2020 made it exactly one year President Muhammadu Buhari swore in Hon. Sunday Dare as the 35th Minister of Youth and Sports Development with the clear mandate of repositioning the sports sector in line with the cardinal objectives of his administration.
Expectedly, on his assumption of office, Dare talked tough as he challenged stakeholders in the ministry and the sector as a whole to brace up for the work ahead.
In his inaugural speech, apart from his charge to staff of the ministry to show more dedication and commitment to duty, he said sports cannot be separated from youths and as such, he will be thinking out of the box to develop the youths of the country.
“Youth development is key to the success of any government. We have youths, we have sports. Our mandate area is very clear, we must broaden our horizons, we must deepen the work we do and quality of work we bring to the table.
“I’m not unaware of the challenges, controversies and development in this ministry. It’s a ministry that is dear to the hearts of Nigerians. Beyond sports, there are other ways we can develop the youths. We will be thinking outside the box.
“We will also find a way of taking sports out of the back pages to front pages with positive news. The media is an integral part of the sports and I thank the media for the work they have done. I will be relying on you heavily again as we start this work together,” said Dare.
It is said the office of sports minister in Nigeria is a crown of thorns so he was instantly welcomed by a myriad of problems left unsolved by his predecessor, Barrister Solomon Dalung.
The then leadership crisis in the Nigeria Football Federation and the Basketball Federation, dilapidating sporting facilities and the IAAF ‘missing’ $135,000 funds amongst other issues were some of the problems that confronted him on arrival.
Despite daunting challenges before him, it is said the ministry of sports led by Dare has so far recorded some achievements which stakeholders have commended.
It is an open secret that one of the first things the minister did on arrival was to complete payment of the missing IAAF funds which had put the nation in a very bad light internationally in October 2019.
The money was the overpayment made to the Athletics Federation of Nigeria, AFN, three years ago.
In the same August, Dare met with all 15 members of the NFF board in Abuja for the first time and said the meeting was called in order to chart “a new direction” and resolve “some of the lingering issues” at the NFF.
However, his parley with the NFF helmsmen brought him discomfort as many accused him of romancing the federation top officials who were accused of misappropriating FIFA grants and also charged to court by anti-corruption agencies.
Again, Dare who had made a solemn promise to reinvent the nation’s sports sector while deepening youth developments has made conscious efforts to see sports as a business venture other than for relaxation.
He also launched the ‘adopt an athlete’ campaign aimed at ensuring Nigeria had podium finishes at the Olympics Games which will now be held next year.
In addition, Dare has been able to partner with the private sector such as business moguls and industrialists, the Nigerian Economic Summit Group to partake in rebuilding sports from all directions.
Even if he has not achieved much due to the outbreak of the coronavirus, it is apparent that the minister is passionate and committed to the assignment given to him.
However, it is imperative to note that as much as he has been able to bring some innovations which would impact positively on the sports sectors in years to come, the minister has also recorded failures which can’t be swept under the carpet.
Prominent among these failures is his inability to completely settle the lingering crisis in the Nigerian basketball federation and the Athletics Federation of Nigeria.
It may appear as if there is relative peace in the NBBF, but the crisis in the AFN is getting messier right under his watch. The ministry which is presently in court with the factional president of the AFN, Engineer Ibrahim Gusau is being accused of undue interference.
However, while speaking to journalists in Yenagoa on the sidelines of the Restoration Cup tournament in February, Dare reiterated the ministry’s stand to perform its supervisory role over sporting Federations in the country.
“For the AFN, the position of the Ministry is clear. The government recognizes the Olamide AFN leadership.
“They have been able to provide the ministry with all the processes that have taken place. We stand with the ten members of the AFN board, we don’t stand with the two or three members. We will remain playing our supervisory role, intervening but not interfering,” said the minister
Furthermore, the Minister had on several occasions promised that the newly renamed MKO Abiola National Stadium would get a facelift from Africa’s richest man, Aliko Dangote while Governor Nasir El-Rufai will renovate the Ahmadu Bello Stadium in Kaduna. But as at the time of press, work is yet to commence on either of the facilities.
In addition, he disclosed that the National Stadium, Lagos; Ahmadu Bello Stadium, Kaduna; Obafemi Awolowo Stadium, Ibadan and the Nnamdi Azikiwe Stadium, Enugu would be renovated using public private partnership initiatives.
He promised he would work assiduously on the upgrading, management and maintenance of the sporting facilities across the country, with particular attention on the four stadia as he promised that would be delivered between April and May, 2020. None of these pledges by the minister has been redeemed, maybe due to the coronavirus pandemic.
Unfortunately, the deficit in sports infrastructure in the country played destroyer’s role when Nigeria failed in her bid to host the U-20 women’s World Cup.
It must not be forgotten that in November last year, Dare promised that the Nigeria Women’s Football League, NWFL, would get the needed sponsors to help develop the league but that promise had not been fulfilled before the league was abruptly suspended.
Meanwhile, Trust Sports reached out to some critical stakeholders to get their views on the performance of the Minister since his assumption of office.
The President of Nigeria Shooting Sport Federation, Brigadier General Oladeji Adeoye (rtd) said the present minister is very vibrant saying he keeps the ministry staff on their toes.
“Since he came on board, the directors are trying to get used to his vibrancy to get things done. The policies of this Minister are similar to my policies as shooting federation president.
“He is the first sports minister to ever come to the shooting range at the stadium. We never received a kobo from the ministry to build the range but when he came, he asked what we needed and he promised it would be done. That’s a thing of joy. I commend him for his efforts,” he said.
Speaking in a similar vein, a veteran sports administrator and patron of Nigeria Olympics committee, NOC, Alhaji Ibrahim Galadima said the minister should be commended for some of the initiatives he has introduced.
He said before the arrival of Dare, many Nigerians had lost hope and interest in the sector because of the unpopular actions of his predecessor.
“I think he needs to be praised for his innovations. We e shouldn’t forget the fact that low esteem was evident in the ministry. People were no longer regarding the sports ministry as a serious one.
“Most of the actions of his predecessor were faulted by the people. But since he came in, he has been able to come up with a lot of initiatives and ideas that I think have given the hope that we have somebody who is trying to change the narrative especially when you look at attempts he made in improving the welfare of athletes and improvement in facilities,” he said.
Galadima, however, advised the minister to find solutions to lingering crises in some of the sports federations and also avoid unnecessary interference in affairs of the federations.
He said Dare must not forget to learn from the mistakes that ‘destroyed’ his predecessors adding that sports is dynamic so he should be ready to do more.
“What one would want to see him do is to also try to learn from the past mistakes in terms of elections into the federations. We learnt he has set up a committee which is going to look into the conduct of elections into the federations.
“Some of the federations like basketball and athletics are going through crisis so the minister should try to check interests by some unscrupulous individuals who may be out to manipulate election guidelines. He should ensure people are elected based on their popularity and acceptability to Nigerians.
“He should prevent situations whereby people might feel the ministry has taken sides or is interested in the emergence of some people,” said Galadima.