The Sports Minister who Dared to be Different

August 01 20:46 2021

By Tolulope Oguntimehin

Until few years ago,the Nigeria Football Federation (NFF) had two factions just like the Nigeria Basketball Federation (NBBF) and the Athletic Federation of Nigeria (AFN) had just had its President impeached at a time that former Sports minister Solomon Dalung was leaving office.

These were just some of the numerous problems Sunday Dare had to deal with on assumption of office as the Minister of Youth and Sports Development in 2019.

But two years down the line, he has gradually navigated his ways amidst the myriads of problems that keep cropping up, day after day, in a country that sees sports as a recreation not as revenue generating industry.

The first agenda of the soft-spoken sports minister was to find a solution to series of litigation the NFF was facing and which were hampering the growth of football. He also had to stick out his neck on the controversy surrounding the basketball federation for peace to reign for the sports to grow .

And as if that was not enough, another crisis had engulfed the AFN just before he assumed office. It all began during the era of his predecessor, Solomon Dalung following the impeachment of Ibrahim Gusau and Sunday Adeleye by the board members.

These are some of the peculiar challenges every sports minister has had to face before focusing on the financial challenges facing each federation in a country where sports funding is largely done by government.

For the avoidance of doubt,the rot in Nigeria sports did not start today neither was it orchestrated by Sunday Dare. It is something that could be traced back to at least 3 decades with the decline in government support and the appointment/election into office of selfish sports administrators who think more about personal benefits than national interest.

But is there a chance that Dare could solve all these problems in 4years? The answer is no. But has he made efforts to address some of the issues? The answer is yes.

Take for instance the condition of two of Nigeria’s biggest stadiums,the Moshood Abiola stadium in Abuja and the National Stadium Surulere. Since 2012, no major football match has been played at the Abuja Stadium while the National Stadium in Lagos, last hosted a major tournament in 2004.

This was because successive governments have failed to commit fund towards renovating any of the two stadiums and they had gradually been allowed to rot.

However Dare had dared to be different from previous sports ministers by embarking on massive make over of the two edifices through a Public Private Partnership (PPP) through which he has brought two major corporate giants to finance the renovation and in few months the stadium will be ready to host Super Eagles matches.

Preparing athletes for major championships especially Olympics has always been a major problem with a clear lack of commitment from previous governments.

But this time, the minister went all out to seek support through a a very creative Adopt -an- Athlete initiative which saw many corporate organisations keying in to sponsor individuals and teams representing the country but due to Covid-19,some of companies could not fulfill their pledges.

This however did not deter the minister who went all out to get state governments to adopt some of the athletes and for the first time,the Olympic contingent were able to focus on preparation for the games. And even though some of the funds came close to the games,it was still a pointer that Dare knows his onions.

For the first time, I saw a man who is not afraid to thread where many have failed .

Many may refuse to see what he has been doing but posterity will surely judge the sports minister as one who has moved mountains to get Nigerian sports to a greater height.

But this is just the beginning as he is not relenting despite knowing that many obstacles still lie ahead.

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