After the return to democratic rule in Nigeria in 1999, there was something that left so much to be desired about the Federal Government’s attitude to sports.
From 1999 to 2015, the government appointed an average of one Sports Minister every 12 months. It was a very poor policy with very devastating effects.
The instability in governance stalled any form of progress and in reality when you are not making progress, do not think you are merely stalling….you are both stalling and regressing at the same time.
The little success made in the short while that a good Sports Minister stayed in office is quickly eroded by the poor one who takes over and at the end of the day it was even difficult to determine who was a good or poor Sports Minister. The basket became full of good, bad, decaying apples and oranges.
However, there was a difference with President Muhammadu Buhari in 2015. For the first time in decades, we had a man in charge for close to 4 years. I will reserve my opinion on how well I think that man, Solomon Dalung, performed for another day.
Nigeria can judge good or bad performances when they see them. It does appear that we may have the same pattern with the present man in charge. Sunday Dare could be on this job for about 4 years, at the least, all things being equal.
On a personal level, I had, and still have, high hopes that Sunday Dare will do a much better job than some of his predecessors. He looks the part…young, intelligent, ambitious, cerebral and energetic. Perhaps his background as an international journalist touched my soft spot.
Now with close to 18 months experience on the job it is about time we challenged the honourable Minister to be more daring in his quest to making a success of his assignment.
Without a doubt, the world is going through a very difficult and challenging time and indeed no aspect of our national life has been spared of this reality but while others seem to be on a steady path to recovery, the sports sector does not appear to know how to bounce back.
I want to see Mr. Sunday Dare walk his talk. He has shown that he is not lacking in bright ideas, but he has to start to put those brilliant ideas to work. Let me dwell a little on some positives.
I applaud Dare’s move to get the Federal Government to take Sports as a business. Very laudable initiative indeed. I remember that some top NFF chieftains got this kind of proposal to the Vice President, Professor Yemi Osinbajo and the Nigeria Governors’ Forum(NGF) some years back asking that Football be taken as a national asset.
I feel Dare’s package is more encompassing. If followed through it could be the turning point for Sports in Nigeria.
I have also been impressed with his attention to the welfare of athletes. Provision of training grants and palliatives for tough times like these encourages and motivates these sports men and women. While appreciating what is done for the families of fallen sports people, I hope there are sustainable ways and structures in place to keep them going.
Another brilliant idea is the decision to get big private companies involved in the renovation of some of our stadiums and national monuments. The level of neglect and decay of these structures has been really embarrassing and so, it is such a relief to see that these national treasures are getting fixed at little or no cost to the government.
The real hard work starts after the fixing. How to ensure that these facilities remain properly maintained and available for the purpose of talent discovery, development and exposure. There should be creative ways to make these facilities profitable sources of revenue for their owners.
However, there are also some worrisome concerns as a fall out of Mr Sunday Dare’s decisions or indecisions.
The most obvious source of worry has to be the National Sports Festival (NSF). I listened to the Minister a few days ago announcing the postponement of the Edo 2020 NSF for the third time and struggled to understand if he knew the implications of what he was doing.
While announcing the second postponement last year, Dare was so sure he would not have to do it again. He beat his chest so confidently but there he was, earlier in the week, eating his words.
To be fair, circumstances can force things to change. Force majeur is a reality in sports. Absolute infallibility is an attribute for only the Divine, but even at that, there can be ridiculous levels of inconsistencies to some issues out of one’s control.
For the Minister to tell us how central the NSF is to sports development in Nigeria, how it is our own version of the Olympics, how athletes have not earned a decent living in about 12 months, how the hosts, Edo State are 100% ready, with all Covid-19 protocols in place plus how all the relevant national and State Health agencies are set and good to go, and still have to announce a shift in date is, to say the least, baffling.
If these games will not hold anymore, Mr. Sports Minister please say it. If it will, be firm about it and let us get it over and done with. Let all dilly dallying stop.
I refuse to team up with some critics who say Sunday Dare is unable to pull his weight and lobby to get the sports sector going at the highest levels of government. This could be a major weakness if true.
Again, I am willing to give him the benefit of the doubt. Let us wait patiently to see what happens next…April is just a few hours away.
I have some other issues to highlight for our beloved Sports Minister but I will keep them for later.
Rest well Segun Ogunjimi and Yisa Shofoluwe.
Every week presents one sad news or the other for those of us in sports.
This week, we were hit with the news of the deaths of Segun Ogunjimi, a colleague, brother and friend, and a top former international Yisa Shofoluwe.
Both are devastating losses. May God comfort their families and rest their souls in peace.
Ogunjimi and Shofoluwe join notable sports personalities like Bala Kaoje, John Obakpolor, Joe Erico and Bereofori George who have left the scene this year.
February 14 No Love Lost Day.
On Sunday, February 14(Lovers’ Day) in Aba, Abia State, there will be no love lost between Enyimba and Rivers United. Both sides will be up in a titanic first leg clash for a place in the group phase of the CAF Confederations Cup. At the end of last season, there was a lot of controversy over which of them finished in the CAF Champions League place alongside Plateau United. Now both will be slugging it out for a place in the lesser CAF tournament, not in the boardroom this time but on the pitch…that is what fate can do.
May the better side win.
Historic NPFL live broadcasts.
It is worth highlighting that on Match Day 9 of this #NPFL21 season, a whopping 5 games were broadcast live. This represents about 50% of the matches played. Indeed, a remarkable feat for a league that could not get a game on any kind of broadcast platform for the past 2-3 seasons. Long may this kind of progress continue.