The ministry of Youths and Sports Development is a critical ministry which was created for the continued co-existence of the nation and has over the years played pivotal and major roles in seeing that the nation as a whole remains united.
One major core value of the ministry is to ensure that youths who are seen as the ‘future leaders of tomorrow’ are developed, positively engaged to secure the nation.
The tasks has been played by 34 different personalities and with Sunday Dare being the 35th man in charge of the ministry will be inheriting ‘the good, the bad and the ugly’ of the ministry.
Under his immediate predecessor well known for wearing his red beret, Solomon Dalung, the ministry recorded successes, failures and in some cases, embarrassments.
Prior to his departure as sports minister, Dalung revealed that he led the country to win over 700 medals in different sports within three and half year of his stewardship.
He was able to revive the then comatose National Sports Festival and has put in measures to see that the Games is hosted by states every two years. Under his tenure, the Super Falcons’ achieved Africa Women Nations Cup back-to-back wins in Cameroon in 2016 and Ghana in 2018.
However, despite these achievements alongside many other, certain events may have marred them and how they were handled defined his tenure.
With the baton now in the hands of Sunday Dare, how these issues are handled will also determine how his tenure will be rated.
NFF Leadership Crisis
The Nigeria Football Federation is generally seen as the cash cow of Nigeria sports as almost every Nigerian pays keen attention to the round leather game.
The leadership crisis in the NFF predates the current administration of President Muhammadu Buhari.
It all started in August 26, 2014 when the chairman of the Mighty Jets Football Club of Jos, Chris Giwa won an election to become the NFF president.
Only 29 of 44 members voted as he defeated former NFF VP Mike Umeh in a poll supported by former sports minister Tammy Danagogo.
It was gathered that the then-NFF president Aminu Maigari and his Secretary General Musa Amadu were not involved in the election as they were under were detained by the Department of State Security (DSS).
A month later, another election was held in Warri brought up Amaju Pinnick as president of the NFF, a choice supported by former Fifa president Sepp Blatter who voided Giwa’s elections.
With FIFA not recognizing and voiding his election, Giwa went to court to try and stop the September 2014 election which had been arranged after his own.
The Court of Arbitration for Sports turned down his request twice before a Jos High Court order upheld his petition challenging the validity of the election.
Despite the court granting Giwa an injunction which barred the election, voting still went on which Pinnick won, taking 32 of the 44 delegates’ votes in the second round of voting.
FIFA had also threatened a ban prompted by the court order that granted Giwa an injunction to void the Pinnick’s election.
The then President of Nigeria Goodluck Jonathan quickly stepped in and ordered Giwa and his associates to withdraw their cases against the NFF.
The crisis resurfaced again in January 2016 after Dalungsought to reconcile both parties but the meeting ended in chaos as a fight broke out.
Giwa wanted the position of the vice-president of the NFF and also the authority to run the Nigeria Professional Football League.
Giwa then returned to court to continue his fight which led to his five-year ban from football activities and his club Giwa FC thrown out of the league although the Pinnick-led NFF have continued to insist that was a separate issue.
Backed by the Federal High Court order that declared him the winner of the NFF elections in 2014 and with Dalung on his side, Giwa took over the office of the NFF on Monday, July 2.
FIFA threatened ban again and just like Jonathan did in 2014, the Presidency under the Acting President, Yemi Osinbajo stepped in again to help Nigeria avoid the ban.
Giwa was sacked again from office with the help of the Directorate of State Security Services and Pinnick was returned back to office.
It was believed that Dalung was pro-Giwa and sought out different ways to change the NFF leadership which he was unable to achieve till he left office.
With the crisis not fully resolved and swept under the rug, there are fears that it will rear his head and Dare will feel the heat, nationally and internationally.
Dilapidated sporting facilities
It is no surprise Dare has embarked on an inspection tour sporting facilities across the nation. He has visited the MKO Abiola National stadium and Ahmadu Bello stadium in Abuja and Kaduna respectively.
During the visit to the both stadia, the new sports minister said urgent attention will be paid to maintain and upgrade the stadia.
“We are going to be innovative to see how we can get extra funding, and how we can privatize the football pitch.
“I don’t want to put a timeline, but it’s sufficient to say that is right at the top of our agenda, because we know it taking sometime and Nigerians are interested to see Super Eagles play in Abuja, the stadium will be ready soon.
“I’m going to be a minister for youth development and sports development. I understand that soccer is loved by most Nigerians, but in the same breath badminton cycling, Tennis and other sports will all get equal attention.
“We will find a way to make sure that beyond football we will also get others sports up to speed.
This assertion is very similar to what Dalung said when he resumed office in 2015 as Nigeria’s 34th sports minister.
He boasted to reawaken ‘the dry bones’ in the sporting facilities owned by the Federal Government while promising to revive the stadiums and put them to use.
Sadly, however, things have remained as they were and even degenerated.
From Liberty Stadium in Ibadan to National Stadium in Lagos to the Abuja Stadium, it’s the same old-story of rot and decline.
IAAF ‘missing’ $135,000 funds
The defining moment towards the end of Dalung’s tenure was the story of the International Athletics Associations Federation mistakenly transferring $135,000 to the Athletics Federation of Nigeria in 2017.
Despite the IAAF informing the AFN of a wrongful transaction, officials have failed to repay the money and end the embarrassment. Rather, they have resorted to blame games along with Dalung on the missing money.
The IAAF gave a two-week deadline to Nigeria to refund monies overpaid its affiliate body in the country, the Athletics Federation of Nigeria (AFN), two years ago or be banned.
Dalung initially reneged on the promise to pay 50 per cent of the money in order to stop the ban after shockingly accusing the world athletics body of blackmail.
He declared that the IAAF had no right to ban Nigeria while also faulting why it took almost two months before the athletics body came out to say they made a mistake in a transaction they had confirmed.
However, few hours to his departure, Dalung returned some parts of the missing N54m after a phone call with the IAAF’s president, Sebastian Coe.
In separate chats with top officials of the Athletics Federation of Nigeria (AFN) in May, it was confirmed Dalung had paid the money which is 50% of the entire money.
With Dare in the saddle, it is certain IAAF will approach Nigeria again to retrieve the balance of the money.
Musa, Tijani basketball leadership tussle
Crisis in the Nigeria Basketball Federation (NBBF) began in 2017 when two factional leaders, Musa Kida and Tijani Umar, emerged as president from two separate elections.
Government recognises the Kida board which emerged in Abuja after the June 13-government organised elections.
Dalung in a February 2018 meeting with a three-man FIBA delegation said there was no crisis in NBBF and that Tijani Umar was a government nominee for 8 years and never complained of government interference until government decided to have democratically elected federations devoid of government nominees.
Tijani had accused FIBA of complicity in the leadership crisis rocking Nigeria’s basketball.
According to Umar, Africa’s office of FIBA is hobnobbing with the other faction in the lingering NBBF crisis to decimate the real owners of Nigeria’s basketball.
According to a letter signed by FIBA’s Secretary General, Patrick Bauman, and addressed to the NBBF secretary, Chimezie Asiegbu, Musa Kida, Tijani Umar and the Nigeria Olympic Committee, FIBA noted that both elections in Kano and Abuja respectively failed to meet the general statutes of the global body.
The letter stated that the election held in Kano on the 12th of June, 2017 which ushered Umar as President did not comply with the article 9.3 of the FIBA statutes.
While the election in Abuja that saw Kida take over the reins failed to adhere to article 9.7 of the FIBA statutes.
With each board claiming legitimacy and FIBA not recognizing both boards, the body has called for fresh elections which are yet to hold, Dare has yet another to resolve within the shortest time possible.
Scrapping of National Sports Commission
Dalung in 2016 stirred the hornets’ nest when he said now proscribed National Sports Commission (NSC) was a stranger to the laws of the land.
The former sports minister scrapped the NSC in March 2016 and caused its Director General, Alhassan Yakmut, to be deployed, said the NSC which came onto being in 1971 via a decree, technically ceased to exist when it was never updated as a parastatal by the law reform of 2004.
According to him, the President gave the directive for the merger of the NSC with the Ministry of Youth and Sports Development.
Several sports administrator have been clamouring for the return of the NSC back to its former position. This will also define Dare’s tenure as he will have to work within the legal framework available.
In summary, Dare’s sporting sojourn will be determined by the footprints he will leave on the sands of time whenever the curtain will fall on his tenure as Nigeria’s 35th sports minister.