OPINION: SUNDAY DARE AS A BREATH OF FRESH AIR

Sports Minister, Sunday Dare

We now have a Minister of Youth and Sports who is a striking exception to the rule. Any critical observer will notice that things have taken a turn for the better in this important ministry. His choice as Minister is a masterstroke, a turning point and just a nice moment. Dare has a reputation for thoughtfulness and rectitude bolsters his credentials. This is a man who believes that the largest of things is of no greater importance than the smallest of things. He has extraordinary poise and self confidence and intelligence that come across in a genuine way. A man is bound to make an impact when he has the courage of his convictions.  No wonder, he is putting forth- game-changing ideas. According to Tony Nezianya, Nigeria Olympic Committee’s (NOC) former Public Relations Officer, Dare has the garb of good and effective communication and this will stand him in good stead to impact the lives of sportsmen and women and galvanize it for national development.

To prove that he came in prepared, the Minister outlined four critical areas that will be the focus of his administration. These areas are infrastructural development, the welfare of athletes, Sports as business and grassroots development.  The biggest problem we have in Nigeria today is that our leaders lack empathy and sympathy. That is the reason the Minister’s decision to reach out to the families of outstanding sportsmen and women is highly commendable.  According to Nezianya, “Dare has done well by identifying with the families of some of Nigeria’s late heroes to show that the country has not forgotten their contributions to the National development. This gesture would send a message to athletes that their efforts would always be rewarded by Nigeria. His visits to the families of Okwaraji, Rashidi Yekini and Alli Jeje, among others will motivate the young ones with all their might, knowing that their efforts will not be in vain.”

The ministry of Youth and Sports is quite a complex one. Most Ministers never understood the intricacies of the Youth and Sport ministry. It is not only about football and it is far beyond sporting activities. The British Council said in 2030, Youth not oil, will be the country’s greatest asset.  An informed Minister should look at the business aspect of sports and think of how to create entrepreneurial platforms to empower the youths. He should be able to create educational opportunities for youths especially in this digital age.  He should be able to collaborate with the ministry of Education, the ministry of Labour and Employment and other relevant NGOs in order to sensitize the youths and widen their horizon. In fact, the ministry is about youth empowerment, education, employment and entertainment. It also includes youth involvement in politics and the welfare of youth in Diaspora.

But it is gratifying to note that we have a Minister who is a multi- hyphenated man. He is well equipped for this digital era. He is keen as mustard and he is back up and running. His eye-catching policies include developing appropriate Public-Private Partnership model and delivering on the establishment of a private sector driven sport development fund to invest in various programmes and sports facilities. The Sports Industry Thematic Group, initiated by the Minister, grew out of the ministry’s interactions with the organized private sector using the platform of the Nigerian Economic Summit Group.   The Minister has recently disclosed the great benefit to be derived by the Private Sector partnership with the Public sector. It includes tapping into the business potential of the sport sector and its commercialization. “The proposed policy is a roadmap towards the achievement of national development goals related to healthy living, economic growth and sustainability, promotion of equity and excellence, in addition to creating wealth and employment for the citizenry. This process involves robust national consultations that have identified national development priorities as well as global development trends and best practice models.”

One of the biggest challenges facing the sector is paucity of funds. The budgetary allocation for the ministry is about N1.4 Billion. But the Ministry of Humanitarian Affairs, Disaster Management and Social Development gets about N420 Billion. But the Minister is not discouraged but insists that he has found two words that could solve the funding problem of sports: ‘Disruptive Thinking.’ little wonder he is among the best performing Ministers in the first year of President Buhari’s second term.  According to Transparency Watch, Dare, the Minister of Humanitarian Affairs, Sadiya Farouq and the Minister of Transportation, Rotimi Amaechi were the best achievers.  The report by Transparency Organization’s president, Maxwell Gowon, said the Ministers were graded based on organizational strength, performance of the agencies under their control, the impact on the lives of the people as well as transparency and accountability.

*** Written by Ikechukwu Orji / ikechukwuorji@yahoo.com