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Sunday Dare: The successes, failures of Nigeria’s 35th sports minister

Today, August 21st, 2020, makes it 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 industry in line with the cardinal objectives of his administration, the sportsbay.com reports.

Toeing in the same path as public officers would say on the assumption of office, Dare talked tough as he challenged stakeholders in the ministry to brace up for the work ahead.

During his speech when he was welcomed into the sports ministry, Dare who is a journalist and former Executive Commissioner, Stakeholder Management, Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) told staffs of the ministry and parastatals under the ministry to brace up for the tasks ahead.

“The work starts now so let’s get ready, let’s roll up our sleeves and let’s work together as a team. The President’s agenda stands on three legs – security, reviving the economy and fight against corruption. And at the centre of that is lifting 100m Nigerians in 10 years out of poverty,” he said then.

Sunday Dare further said sports cannot be separated from youths and as such, he will be thinking out of the box to develop the youths.

“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 the 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.

“I intend to strengthen intra-ministerial collaboration. We will go to the ministry we can work together with, pull resources together and see what we can do,” Dare said then.

Upon assumption of office, there were preceding issues on the ground which he inherited from the previous occupants of the office such as the then leadership crisis in the Nigeria Football Federation, dilapidating sporting facilities, IAAF ‘missing’ $135,000 funds amongst other issues.

Credit to him, Sunday Dare completed the 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.

It became an international embarrassment for the country and her track and field enthusiasts until Dare offered to refund N23m ($65000)

“IAAF- I have approved the release of funds to refund the IAAF overpayment wrongly credited to the Athletics Federation of Nigeria. In a few days from now, the funds should hit the account of the IAAF baring any interbank delays. With this Nigeria’s reputation is regained,” he tweeted.

In the same August, Dare met with all fifteen 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 pending lingering issues” at the NFF.

He was also able to fully resolve the NFF leadership crisis as well as that of the basketball federation.

Again, Dare who had made a solemn promise to reinvent the nation’s sporting artistry while deepening youth developments has made conscious efforts to see sports as a business venture other than for relaxation.

He launched the ‘adopt an athlete’ campaign aimed at ensuring Nigeria had podium finishes at the Olympics Games which will now hold next year.

Sunday 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.

He again laid bare his leadership skills when he waded into the crisis rocking the Nigeria Para-powerlifting Federation ahead of the 2020 World Para-powerlifting World Cup in Abuja.

The preparation was marred with protests from the athletes and some officials towards the then president, Queen Oboh.

Despite the successes he has achieved in some aspects, he has not been able to record the same in some other aspects.

Prominent among these ‘failures’ is the raging battle between the ministry and Athletics Federation of Nigeria. There had been accusations and counter-accusations from both parties till date of interference from the ministry.

While speaking to journalists in Yenagoa Bayelsa state in 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 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 to play our supervisory role, intervening but not interfering,” the Minister said then.

Also, 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. As at the time of writing this piece, work is yet to commence.

On New Year day via his Twitter handle, Sunday Dare said four football pitches of international standard will be built and completed before the middle of the year.

It will be recalled that shortly after he assumed office, he went on a facility tour of the Ahmadu Bello Stadium and the Murtala Square, Kaduna where he said four stadiums across the country will be upgraded to global standards, using public-private partnership initiatives.

The stadiums to receive upgrading are the National Stadium, Lagos; Ahamdu Bello Stadium, Kaduna; Obafemi Awolowo Stadium, Ibadan and the Nnamdi Azikiwe Stadium, Enugu.

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 stadiums, promising that would be delivered between April and May 2020 but for the coronavirus pandemic.

Sunday Dare, sports minister
Sunday Dare on his assumption of office on August 21, 2019. Photo: Olusola ‘Jide

However, the deficit in sports infrastructure in the country played a vital role in Nigeria failing in its bid to host the U-20 Women World Cup.

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 has not been fulfilled before the league was abruptly suspended

Meanwhile, our correspondent reached out to some stakeholders to get their thoughts on the performance of the minister since his assumption of office.

In a chat with the President of Nigeria Shooting Sport Federation, Brig-Gen Oladeji Adeoye (Rtd) said the present minister is very vibrant and 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 to boost and he promised it would be done. That’s a thing of joy. I commend him for his efforts.

In the same vein, Captain and Power Forward, Plateau Rocks, Gloria Umeh said she rates him better than other sports ministers she knows put together.

“The man is wonderful. Though I have not benefited from him but from what I have been seeing and hearing, he has done more than all the ministers I know.

“Given more time, he will still do more. I don’t see him be pretending. He is genuine in his approaches,” she said.

It is hoped that Nigeria’s sports industry will get the necessary boost and supports from all and sundry where sports will begin to add to the nation’s GDP, create employment opportunities for the youths.

 

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