On the 21st of August 2019, President Muhammadu Buhari constituted his cabinet for his second tenure with veteran journalist, Chief Sunday Akin Dare, named as the 35th Minister of Youth and Sports Development.
On assumption of office, the multi-media expert pledged to give equal attention to all sports just as he promised to give adequate attention to youth development in the country.
In less than 48 hours, Dare’s tenure will come to an end leaving behind pleasant and not too palatable memories for Nigerians, especially stakeholders in the sports sector.
Trust Sports, therefore, reviews Dare’s stewardship with particular emphasis on some of his laudable initiatives that have reshaped Nigerian sports and also blots in what would have been an outstanding performance.
One of the major problems that have continued to bedevil Nigerian sports is poor funding. The unfortunate development had left athletes with little or no financial support from the Sports Ministry. The consequence had been underwhelming performances at international competitions.
Based on his desire to see athletes make podium finishes, Dare shortly after taking office launched the Adopt-an-athlete initiative which allowed athletes to focus more on their training while their sponsors took care of their welfare.
Therefore, the Sports Ministry under Dare has successfully implemented the laudable imitative which has seen State Governors, corporate organizations and some well-to-do Nigerians adopting elite athletes like Amusan Tobi and a host of others who went on to make Nigeria proud at the 2022 World Athletics Championship and the Commonwealth Games.
Sports Industry Policy
In fulfillment of his promise, Dare showed enthusiasm about moving sports away from being merely a hobby or simple recreational activity to becoming a profitable business as it is in developed countries.
A new Sports Industry Policy (SIP) was formulated that will, in the words of the minister, address four crucial “3 I’s and 1 P” — infrastructure, investment, incentives, and policy — that will propel sports in Nigeria to a higher level.
With the sport policy already adopted, it is left to be seen if it will be implemented to the letter.
Renovation and upgrading of sports facilities
Over the years maintenance of sports facilities has been a major issue. When he assumed office, the out-going Minister pledged to construct new facilities and ensure maintenance of existing ones.
To his credit, his adopt-a-pitch initiative has made it possible for the Moshood Abiola National Stadium in Abuja and the National Stadium in Lagos to undergo varied degrees of renovation. The national edifices were adopted by Alhaji Aliko Dangote and Chief Kessington Adebutu respectively.
According to records obtained from his office, the Sports Ministry under Dare also renovated the Obafemi Awolowo Stadium in Ibadan and the Daura Township Stadium in Katsina State.
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 future upgrades and maintenance.
Under his tenure, the National Institute of Sports Lagos is said to have experienced its fair share of upgrades and maintenance.
Grassroots sports development
In years past, there used to be a secondary school football tournament called the Principals’ Cup. Lagos hosted the tournament for a while with the help of GTBank. However, for inexplicable reasons, it became moribund.
But, the Ministry of Sports under Dare has successfully revived the National Principals’ Cup with the sole aim of identifying budding football talents at the grassroots. The Ministry has also ensured the survival of the National Youth Games as it has signed an MOU with Delta State to host the next four editions of the cadet games.
Successes in Oregon and Birmingham
It is on record that under Dare, Nigeria recorded her best performance at the World Athletics Championship and the Commonwealth Games. Team Nigeria ended their campaign at the 2022 World Athletics Championships in Oregon, the U.S. with an impressive 18th place finish out of a total of 43 countries which participated. Tobi Amusan’s record-breaking performance in the 100 metres hurdles and Ese Brume’s impressive effort in the women’s long jump ensured Nigeria finished on a high note.
Team Nigeria followed up with another historic performance at the Commonwealth Games in Birmingham where Nigerian athletes broke and set new world and games records for a haul of unprecedented 12 gold, nine silver and 14 bronze medals, bringing the numbers to a total of 35 medals. It was Team Nigeria’s best-ever performance at the Commonwealth Games.
D’Tigress and Flamingos’ heroics
In 2021, D’Tigress successfully retained their Afrobasket title as they conquered all opponents to land a historic fifth title after beating Mali to win their third consecutive trophy on the bounce. And in 2022, the female national U-17 team, the Flamingos also won Africa’s second bronze medal at the FIFA World Championship in
Although there is no denying the fact that the out-going Minister is leaving behind enduring legacies, it must not be forgotten that he also recorded failures. Therefore, whoever is taking over from him would have to contend with some of the problems that he left unsolved.
Unresolved squabbles in sports federations
Even before he was appointed sports minister, some sports federations had often been enmeshed in one crisis or the other. Unfortunately, Dare came, saw but failed to completely address some of the lingering issues. Sadly, crises rocked most of the sports federations’ elections which his Ministry supervised. Athletics, basketball, handball and badminton Federations were among those enveloped in crisis. Some even resorted to the law courts for redress. Even though peace appears to have returned to some of the federations, there is still uneasy calm in others like the Athletics Federation and the NBBF.
As a matter of fact, the crisis in the NBBF was responsible for the failure of the women’s senior national team, D’Tigress, to attend the 2022 FIBA World Cup in Australia. After the Federal Government suspended the country’s participation in all international competitions, FIBA immediately replaced D’Tigress with Mali.
The shame at Tokyo Olympics
During Dare’s reign, Nigeria’s journey to the 2020 Olympics in Tokyo was marred by scandals as ten of the 18 athletes were found to be ineligible to compete in the games.
The affected athletes violated Rule 15 according to the Athletics Integrity Unit (AIU), an independent organization established by World Athletics to handle all integrity matters, including doping and non-doping.
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 after Nigerian officials embarrassed themselves by ‘disqualifying’their athletes due to administrative incompetence.
Decline in national football teams’ performances
The tenure of the out-going Minister has also witnessed a sharp decline in the performances of the national football teams as exemplified by the failure of the Super Eagles to qualify for the 2022 World Cup. The male and female national teams also failed to qualify for the 2022 Tokyo Olympics. Only recently, the national U-23 boys team failed to qualify for the forthcoming Olympics in France just as the National U-17 boys team, the Golden Eaglets also failed to qualify for the 2023 FIFA World Championship. But it has not been all gloom as the Super Falcons, who were once African champions, have qualified for the 2023 World Cup, which will be held in New Zealand and Australia.
Bastardisation of National Sports Festival
Dare also has attracted condemnation from some sports stakeholders over his failure to return the National Sports Festival (NSF) to its original form. At its inception, the sports festival was a breeding ground for raw talents at the grassroots but it is now open to all as even professional athletes who are based abroad are allowed to compete. Therefore, States like Delta which have deep pockets have continued to dominate the games because they have the wherewithal to hire mercenaries to represent them. This is one aberration the Minister is said to have encouraged despite the obvious disadvantages.
Failure to bring back NSC
Although the out-going Minister of Sports had raised stakeholders’ hopes when he announced that the bill for the return of the National Sports Commission (NSC) had already passed the second reading at the National Assembly, by the time he leaves office in less than 48 hours, restoration of the NSC won’t be listed among his achievements in office.