President Muhammadu Buhari began his second term in office on May 29. There are high expectations in all spheres of Nigerian life that things should generally turn better. The first term recorded some hiccups as most of the ministers appointed by Buhari spent the entire term untouched.
The former Minister of Sports, Solomon Dalung, is one of those who served full term with Mr. President. The question is: How was he able to impact the sport sector? But, the former sports ‘supremo’ gave himself excellent marks for the tenure, which many people in the sports scene believed was almost a disaster.
It was instructive that Dalung mentioned the poor budgetary allocation to sports, which has been a problem also to his predecessors. We want to put it on record that Dalung, who as the longest sports minister in history, recorded so many crises under his watch.
Many of the federations are in crises, including football, while the missing $150,000 of the Athletic Federation of Nigeria (AFN) is still a stain on his tenure. We hereby call on President Buhari to put a round peg in a round hole this time.
The sports sector needs someone who is not new to sports. The new minister of sports should have the background, face and tenacity to drive the ministry and bring in corporate Nigeria to complement government’s efforts to boost sports. A Nigerian with rich sports pedigree from any part of the country can do the job. There are many people who can do the job at the moment, but party affiliation is another issue entirely. We believe sport is a very wide area people overlook as mere recreation or a sector to keep fit and catch fun. We recall sadly that over the years, the Nigerian government has not taken sports sector seriously.
This can be explained in various ways, but the most important one is the leadership of sports. It is very ridiculous that the sports ministry, in most cases, has been given to whoever the president in power wants. Someone with a good background in heath is always named as minister of health, while someone with law background heads the judiciary and a person with sound background on education heads the education ministry. This has not been the case in sports in the past years and not a problem of the Buhari regime.
A former sports minister, the late Solomon Akiga, saw Falilat Ogunkoya, an Olympian and former track and field star, but referred to her as a wrestler. Another former minister saw six-time Olympian, Funke Oshonaike and failed to recognize her.
The case of Chief Alex Akinyele is still very fresh in the memory. When he was named the head of the then National Sports Commission, he engaged about five people, mostly senior journalists, to educate him on sports. It is absurd that those who know little or nothing about sports find their way to head the Ministry of Sports.
This happens often, but not so in other ministries. It shows that government, over the years, do not care about what happens in the sport sector. If a prominent lawyer heads the ministry of justice, a reputable former athlete or noble administrator of sports should head the sports ministry.
This is the right thing to do, but such has not been the case in over two decades. The few exceptions are the appointment of Sani Ndanusa and Bolaji Abdullahi. Ndanusa was a former tennis federation boss before his appointment while Abdullahi has great knowledge of sports.
Ndanusa did not do well and time was not enough for Abdullahi to execute his programmes. We are convinced that there are many great Nigerians who can head the sports ministry and take the country’s sports to the next level. We acknowledge that President Buhari will have to follow the template of the party in the appointment of ministers. The other sectors are always manned by competent people in relevant fields. The next sports minister should be somebody with relevant background good enough to make the numerous talents in Nigeria excel.
We frown at the fact that there is no sports policy in the country for whoever is coming in to work with. We are however aware that there are various committees set up to produce documents in this regard. The next sports minister should be brave enough to implement one of the reports on sports policy so the sector can enjoy a new lease of life. Sports require planning and the next minister must be the one that will get sponsors to boost sports and be ready to plan with a policy template rather than bank on the raw talents of the athletes to attain success.
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