Dancing with Dalung

By Ikenna Okonkwo on 29/11/2015

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Before the eventual emergence of the current Sports Minister, Barr Solomon Dalung, most Stakeholders especially sports enthusiasts expected President Mohammadu Buhari to appoint an experienced hand to take over the reins of Nigeria’s sporting sector which has over time witnessed instability.

The major reason why many yearned for a technocrat rather than a mere politician as Sports Minister is not far-fetched. They are of the view that the recent exploits of Nigerian Athlete in both African Games at Congo Brazzaville and other parts of the continent and indeed the world needed to be sustained and improved upon.

Image result for dalung inspects lagos national stadiumDalung

Nigerian Sports without a Minister

 In less than six months, Nigerian sports under a technocrat, Mallam Al Hassan Yakmut as Director General of National Sports Commission, NSC witnessed a new turn. From the first ever continental triumph of D’ Tigers, Nigeria Senior Men Basketball team at the 2015 Afrobasket held in Angola to second finish by Team Nigeria during this year’s African Games, a position which has eluded Africa most populous nation for years was a pointer that when the right things are done, desired result would definitely follow. 

Again, under his close watch, a Nigerian Jighere Wellington for the first time in history became World Scrabble champion few days ago, the same day U-17 Male Football team, Golden Eaglets emerged champions of the world.

With the seeming breath of fresh air gradually permeating into the various sporting activities in Nigeria, most respondents alluded to the fact that only a seasoned Sports Man or Woman should be allowed to continue in that direction.

Notably, General Secretary Nigeria Olympic Committee, NOC Mr. Tunde Popoola was in the past quoted to have supported the continuation of positive strategy towards moving Nigerian sports forward even if it means retaining NSC DG without a minister.

In the same vein, Presidents of various Federations at different times hailed the manner at which things were done even when there was no minister in the past few months.

Their concerns were no doubt collaborated by the way things remained comatose even when Ministers were in charge without any significant difference.

Nigerian sports under previous Ministers

Looking at how Nigeria sports fared from the immediate past administration, the coming of Bolaji Abdullahi after Yusuf Suleiman resigned as Sports Minister to contest governorship position in his home state, not much upward movement was recorded.

Abdullahi so far since the re-introduction of democratic governmental system in 1999 became the longest serving Minister of Sports between 2011 and 2014 before Dr. Tammy Danagogo took over.

It is on record that apart from ministers that served from Nigeria got its independence between 1960 and 1981, no minister has perhaps enjoyed long stay in office as Abdullahi who has been a commissioner in Kwara state.

His three-year reign as Minister was heralded by much controversies surrounding Nigerian football, a situation that branded him ‘Football minister’ by many due to his perceived vested interest in football, thereby neglecting the development of other sports.

Most recently, a fresh revelation has been made on how Abdullahi employed two American Directors Angie Taylor and Eric Campbell to take charge of High performance Centre for the country with little or no result to show for it at the expense of tax payers money.

Image result for dalung inspects lagos national stadiumDalung inspecting National stadium Lagos

NSC DG, Yakmut who disclosed that the about two years contract signed by the two directors amounting to over 140 million naira was only put to use in less than six months.

On the other hand, football crisis continued unabated under the watchful eyes of Dr. Danagogo during his short stay as Minister. His frequent lose touch on issues created continued emptiness with forward and backward movements. 

Dalung after Danagogo

At the moment, stakeholders have continued to wonder how long will the awaited turnarounds in Nigerian Sports show up even as Barr. Dalong takes charge to learn the rope while in office.

Like Danagogo who hails from Rivers state, Dalong, from Plateau State was/is a Legal expert, lecturer, politician without any precedent in sports. When Danagogo took over, he told Nigerians that he had played football at the cadet level, same way Dalong has equally asserted that he is not a novice in sports.

His words, “I am not a novice in sports, I was a former footballer and a good goalkeeper if you must know. I was in the government delegation to the 2002 Nations Cup in Mali and I have followed happenings in the sector keenly for over two decades.

Talking about his mission as Sports minister, the former local government chairman appointed in Plateau declared “There are three very important issues to tackle headlong in sports and the first among the three is corruption. There is the general impression that our administrators are corrupt and I am here to clean up that impression and set the records straight. 

“If there is anyone out there who is corrupt, I think your time is up because we won't tolerate corruption during my tenure as Sports minister. After every World Cup, all you hear is crisis and more crisis. Our administrators have created a very bad impression out there and many think the reason for these infightings is money which still takes us to the issue of corruption.

“A house divided against itself cannot stand and no sector thrives in crisis. We must learn to settle our grievances through dialogue and learn to understand and tolerate each other in whatever we do.”

The new sports and Youths Ministers is not the only one appointed without much antecedent in Sports. In the past, only five or six of 30 sports ministers have claims to sports background. Anthony Ikazoboh led the pack as a former player of the then famed Stationery Stores in the 1960s. Others with claims to sports before assumption to offices as either NSC chairman or Sports minister were Silvanus Akinwunmi, Jim Nwobodo, Stephen Akiga, Sani Ndanusa and Taoheed Adedoja.

New optimism, New hope

Dalung has become the 14th sports minister since the advent of the present democratic dispensation 16 years ago. The import is that the sports ministry is the most unstable and therefore has the highest turnover of ministers. On the average, a minister spends just a little over one year in office before he is shown the exit.

However, many who spoke to Nigerian Pilot are of the view that the sporting ideology of Dalung, a Plateau state-born administrator who has already hit the ground running appear different after he assured of his readiness to give all kinds of sports the desired attention.

A Gymnastic Coach Tony Asuquo said “I think the current Sports Minister will make a difference because he has assured that he is ready to give all sports equal attention. Few days after he was appointed, he visited package B of Abuja National stadium to see the facilities himself.

“If he is not interested in other sports other than football, he wouldn’t have matched his words with action.”

Former Sports minister Sani Ndanusa drew the attention of Dalung to grassroots sports development as a yardstick to achieving sustainable result adding “I expect the new sports minister to focus on grassroots sports development and high performance. These are the only ways to make things work.”

The immediate task before Dalung will be on how to ensure that there is no repeat of 2012 London Olympics failure when 2016 Olympics game gets underway in Rio De Janeiro, Brazil.

Again, putting in place a model sports facilities as well as ensuring timely maintenance of existing ones will no doubt be another top priority of the new boss.

As he continues to embark on inspection of various sporting sites all over the country, the total collapse state of National stadium Lagos in a densely populated area would require urgent attention.


Dalung in an inspection visit to National stadium, Lagos

The Lagos sports arena hosted two final matches of Africa’s premier football competitions in 1980 and 2000. That was an arena that hosted the All Africa Games in 1973 and the 1999 FIFA World Youth Championship, now known as U-20 World Cup. That was an arena that had witnessed more renovation than any other sporting facility in the country having been upgraded for the 1980 African Nations Cup, two botched World Youth Championships in 1991, 1995 and 1999. Since then, it has gone comatose.

 

Source whirlwindnews.com

Posted on November, 29 2015

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