Behind the headlines: A critical analysis of Sunday Dare’s tenure as Nigeria’s sports minister

Buhari to honour Nigeria's sports minister Dare on Friday

A veteran journalist, Chief Sunday Dare, was named 35th sports minister by the immediate past Nigerian president, Muhammadu Buhari, on the 21st of August 2019, writes.

As soon as he assumed office, the Jos-born multimedia expert promised to revive the ministries’ fortunes.

In keeping with the second aspect of his ministry, youth development, Dare determined to serve as a minister who would support all of the nation’s sports, not just football.

In the wake of his inauguration, Dare unveiled his four-point plan to revive the struggling sports industry.

Also, he expressed a desire to provide facilities, including reviving abandoned ones and establishing new ones as needed.

As sports are commonly viewed as a pastime in this region of the world, the Minister pledged to reverse the trend and create a clear commercial model for the industry.

Further, Dare promised to establish an athletes’ sustenance fund, which will ensure that Nigerian athletes have access to adequate funding for training and other activities.

Dare had been speaking on his stewardship before his exit, where he praised himself and added that he would leave a good legacy for his successor.

“I have done my best as Sports Minister and I am ready to move on. Sports in Nigeria will no longer be seen as a child’s play when I leave. Instead, sports will be seen as a major business. “One of the high points of my tenure was the reclassification of sports as business and the establishment of the National Sports Industry Policy, both of which were major achievements,” he said.

In addition to the “Adopt-an-Athlete and Adopt-a-Pitch” policy, Dare also cited other “transformative” policies.

Implement a talent initiative

From time immemorial, Nigerian sports have struggled with funding, as athletes receive little to no financial assistance from the sports ministry.

Soon after taking office, Dare launched the Adopt A Talent Initiative, which allowed athletes to focus more on their training while their sponsors looked after their welfare.

As a result of this initiative, Dare was criticized by his predecessor, Solomon Dalung, for stealing the idea from the late Jide Fashikun, a sports journalist.

Helping former athletes

Sunday Eboigbe, Kadiri Ikhana, and Christian Chukwu all received financial assistance when he reintroduced the long-awaited call to help ailing sports heroes and the weak.

His monthly welfare program now covers the families of the late coaches Shuaibu Amodu, Stephen Keshi, and Mudashiru Lawal Manga Muhammed, as well as Rashidi Yekini’s mother, Samuel Okwaraji, and quarter-miler Sunday Bada.

Policy for the sports industry

He showed enthusiasm for moving sports away from being a hobby or a simple recreational activity and toward becoming a business, just as it is in industrialized nations.

Upgrades and maintenance of sporting infrastructure

In Nigeria, constructing and maintaining facilities has been a major issue. The minister pledged upon taking office that new facilities will be constructed in the nation while maintaining the current ones.

To his credit, his adopt-a-pitch strategy has allowed the Moshood Abiola National Stadium in Abuja and the National Stadium in Lagos to undergo varied degrees of renovation. The respective national structures were adopted by Chief Kessington Adebutu and Alhaji Aliko Dangote.

Apart from the main bowl, which is being reconstructed, the large arena, which contains facilities for other sports such as handball, swimming, hockey, boxing, squash, and tennis, among others, remains abandoned and in disrepair. This is the sad state of the national stadium Lagos.

According to records obtained from his office, Dare renovated the Obafemi Awolowo Stadium in Ibadan. The indoor basketball hall, multi-purpose hall, and restoration of power supply through the national grid were undertaken by the federal government.

The ministry also renovated the Ahmadu Bello Stadium, Kaduna which has since been handed over to the Kaduna State government who will be 100 percent responsible for the upgrades and maintenance.

Under his tenure, the National Institute of Sports experienced its fair share of upgrades and maintenance.

Development of grassroots sports

Several years ago, Lagos hosted a secondary school football tournament called the Principals’ Cup with the help of GTBank, but it has since been discontinued. Although efforts were made to revive them, they did not have the same national appeal as they did before.

Currently, the only grassroots sports program that exists is the moribund National Youth Games, which have not been held since the last one in Ilorin in 2021. Delta State was supposed to host the following edition, but it has been postponed several times due to “circumstances beyond our control,” according to ministry officials.

Having a reliance on athletes trained abroad is a perfect example of the lack of sport development in Nigeria that has taken on a terrifying dimension in recent years.

The National Sports Festival has lost its original purpose since it has been opened up to all athletes, thus losing its essence of discovering budding talents as a result of a lack of competitions at both the local and zonal levels.

Federation brawls

It was no different during his tenure that some federations were entangled in a variety of crises before he assumed office.

Dare struggled to avoid getting involved in some of the conflicts during the country’s sports federation elections, but left his footprint in others.

Football in Nigeria dipped

The low point was the Super Eagles’ failure to qualify for the Qatar FIFA World Cup with the best performance of the team under his tenure third place finish in AFCON 2019 after lifting the trophy in 2013.

Dare equally played a huge role in the appointment and disengagement of coaches for the football teams.

The confusion that attended the sacking of Gernot Rohr and the subsequent appointment of Austin Eguavoen, a development which cost Nigeria a 2021 AFCON medal and a World Cup ticket.

Domestic soccer reached its lowest point, and the clubs struggled in CAF inter-club competitions.

Under Dare’s leadership, age-grade teams including the Golden Eaglets, Flying Eagles, and Olympic Eagles have all struggled. The Flying Eagles are currently in Argentina for th FIFA U20 World Cup but the Golden Eaglets failed at the just concluded U17 AFCON.

The Super Falcons, who were once African champions, have also qualified for the World Cup, which will be held in New Zealand and Australia later this year.

At the Tokyo Olympics, there was shame

Ten of Nigeria’s 18 athletes were found ineligible to participate in the 2020 Olympics in Tokyo due to scandals.

Athletics Integrity Unit (AIU), an independent organization established by World Athletics to handle all integrity matters, including doping and non-doping, found that the affected athletes violated Rule 15.

After Nigerian officials embarrassed themselves by disqualifying athletes due to administrative incompetence, Chukwuebuka Enekwechi, a Nigerian athlete who advanced to the Shot-Put final, released a video of himself washing his jersey in preparation for his upcoming competition.

Dare refused to allow Team Nigeria to wear the Puma uniforms because he was unaware of a contract.

At the end of the 2020 Tokyo Games, Nigeria placed 74th and eighth among the 54 African nations. It was Nigeria’s best performance at the Olympics in 13 years.

Commonwealth Games record

The Birmingham 2022 Commonwealth Games was the high point of Sunday Dare’s term. The country’s athletes put up one of her best performances at the Games.

At the end of the Commonwealth Games in Birmingham, Team Nigeria amassed 12 gold, nine silver and 14 bronze medals, bringing the numbers to a total of 35 medals.

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