One of the attractive features of democracy is the undying culture of people marking the milestones of their leaders — like first year, two-year anniversary, and a lot more. Members of the public, particularly the media, take the opportunity to benchmark administrations against the past, as well as set an agenda for the future. It is on this premise, SALIFU USMAN, dissects Sunday Dare’s two years’ scorecard.
Just like the medical doctors always want one of their own to be appointed Health Minister, stakeholders in the sports industry often make a case for one of their own to be saddled with the responsibility of running Nigeria’s sports sector.
Therefore, it was not surprising that there were discordant tunes that greeted Sunday Dare, a journalist and erstwhile executive commissioner, Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC), appointment as the minister of youth and sports development by President Muhammadu Buhari in August 2019.
Though Dare may not be a former athlete or possess best certificate in sports management, what has in his impressive curriculum vitae has guided him in charting a new course for Nigeria sports amidst the harsh economic realities.
Despite paucity of funds, Dare has jealously repositioned the Ministry of Youth and Sports with laudable projects and sports development imprints. Since assuming office, Dare’s tenacity of purpose, energy, initiative, vision and huge networks has resulted in landmark achievements.
While admitting that there are unprecedented potentials in the sector, the journalist turned politician, now sports administrator, set the ball rolling with some innovations and policy thrust that has changed the youth and sports landscape. The policy driven vision of the vastly travelled accomplished politician has seen some laudable project crystallize into results.
On assuming office two years ago, Dare rolled out a four-point agenda he would deploy to revive the ailing sports sector. Among these was grassroots development with states governors and educational institutions all anticipated to play key roles.
He declared his desire for the provision of facilities, which include resuscitating the moribund ones and adding new ones, where necessary. With sports often seen as a recreational activity in this part of the world, he promised to change the drift and make a clear business model for the sector as it is the case in developed climes.
The well-informed minister of youth and sports also assured that he would institute an Athletes’ Sustenance Fund, which will ensure that Nigerian athletes are always well-funded for training and other activities in and out of competitions. He also promised innovations that would improve the well-being of the Nigerian youth.
Though the advent of coronavirus pandemic has slowed down the speed at which he intended to resuscitate the country’s sports and give it a befitting status, Nigerian sports is undergoing tangible reforms to the chagrin of his critics.
The journey of last two years in office has seen the reclassification of sports as a business instead of recreation, creation of N75 billion Nigeria Youth Investment Fund (NYIF), commencement the Work Experience Programme (WEP) aimed at connecting 42,000 young Nigerians with internship opportunities, resuscitation of the Nigeria Sports Hall Of Fame to celebrate the country’s sporting heroes, revival of Principal’s Cup, restoration of the moribund long-distance races in Pankshin and the Mambilla Plateau and conceptualized and developed the Talent Hunt Programme; a platform for the discovery of new sporting talents.
These new sporting talents across various sports include the budding athletes Sekinat (sensational boxer), Aiden (swimmer), Ineh Oritsemeyiwa, Oiza and Nene Yakubu (the Yakubu sister tennis stars), just to mention a few.
The United Nations Department for Economic and Social Affairs (UNDESA) and the Ministry of Youth and Sports recently conducted the Nigeria Youth Employment Action Plan Survey to get the view of the Nigerian Youth on employment prospects and inform the government about the policy directions and approaches to be pursued.
Dare, within the two year of his administration, has proved that he has better ideas of getting things to work than most of his predecessors. His ‘Adopt-a-Pitch’ initiative, was able to get high end corporate organisations and individuals to take up the rehabilitation of strategic sporting infrastructure and facilities in the country. Such timely intervention secured the commitments of business moguls Aliko Dangote and Kensington Adebutu (Baba Ijebu) for the renovation of the Moshood Abiola National Stadium, Abuja and Surulere National Stadium in Lagos.
He also initiated ‘Adopt-an -Athlete initiative, which saw 33 athletes being adopted for sponsors to the Tokyo 2020 Olympics to the tune of 200 million. The local athletes get 10,000 USD while their foreign counterparts get 20,000 USD which is quite huge for athletes to get cash even before the Olympics starts.
He also initiated the Athlete Relieve Fund. This fund was disbursed to 200 athletes to cushion the effect of COVID19 pandemic on their professional careers. This lofty idea has eventually turned to a project where the athletes will be given funds every year to sustain and develop their skills for championship and events.
Another one is Athlete Welfare Scheme was an idea the Minister brought in to assist the family of fallen hero like late Rashidi Yekini, Late Samuel Okwaraji, Late Sunday Bada with host others and living legends in the Sports industry so that the families can have sense of love and affections from the country they represented well. This scheme gives them the benefit where the federal government pays the family salary.
Team Nigeria’s performance at the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games may have come short of expectation of some Nigerians – vis-à-vis – the mishap resulting in 10 athletes being ruled ineligible to compete for missing their mandatory Out of Competition Test. However, the athletes of Team Nigeria did their nation proud at the global showpiece in Tokyo. Many of them reached the finals of their respective sports and, competing with all they had, were in contention for medals until the final moment. Anyone who saw their efforts would have nothing but the utmost respect for them, their coaches and all the technical staff that made Tokyo possible.
Team Nigeria excelled in many areas that engender hope for greater success in the future. The team had five Olympic finalists in 100 meters Hurdles Women, Short Put, Long jump, Wrestling and 100 meters’ men, broke the 13-year-old jinx of no medal in long jump and 25 years of no finalist in the men’s 100 meters, and secured a medal in wrestling for the very first time. Overall, Team Nigeria performance was good and more importantly it is headed in the right direction.
The major breakthrough witnessed at the just concluded World Athletics U20 championships in Nairobi, Kenya, is attestation of the potentials of Nigeria as a dominant force in track and field. The attendant crisis that rocked the Athletics’ Federation of Nigeria almost marred the Olympics games, but there is light at the end of the tunnel. The management of a sector considered as volatile and crisis prone has really brought to the fore the administrative sagacity of Dare. Although he has operated under a tight budget due to the global effect of the pandemic, Dare is not relenting on not only improving the sports sector, but empowerment of the youth who constitute the large part of the Nigerian population.