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Friday, January 06, 2017

Dalung, rebuke 2016

SportReview @ITRealms:
One must frankly confess that there was serious mental battle deciding an apt headline for this story at this inventory-taking season of the year, especially as it relates to sports in Nigeria. Finally, however, I made up my mind to title the review as you see above.

Meanwhile, we have chosen to begin the review exercise from the self-review of the big man himself, the minister of sport Solomon Dalung who has posited that the Nigerian sports recorded significant achievements in the outgoing year and assured that things would get better in 2017. He also hinted that the repositioning of sports in 2017 would start with election of new helmsmen and women with proven love and passion for the different sports to run the federations in 2017.

He even went ahead assuring Nigerians of government non-interference in the process. The Minister who made the statement while appearing live on a television programme recently cited the unprecedented feat of the Nigeria’s Paralympic Team in RIO, the re-launching of Nigeria to the medals Table at the RIO Olympics through the Bronze medals won in Football, the nation’s posting of the best African record performances in Table Tennis and Rowing at the same Olympics and the improvement in the international ranking of its Basket Ball team following the team’s good outing at the Olympics even though they didn’t win a medal.

The Minister who praised the success recorded by the Super Eagles in its effort to pick qualification ticket to Russia 2018 World Cup observed that Nigeria’s victory over Zambia in their backyard was in itself a record; and that the Super Falcons’ ultimate reinforcement of Nigeria’s position as the powerhouse of female soccer in Africa.

Dalung used the occasion to refute the accusation of bias against female national teams compared to their male counterparts and assured of continued support for all sports. The Minister once again debunked the news that the country was not keen in participating in 2018 World Cup; insisting that he was quoted out of contest.

He assured that he and the NFF are on the same page in their determination to secure qualification for the next Mudial; assuring that everything necessary was being done to achieve the set objective the Minister acknowledged some ups and downs in 2016 sports score card but said over all, there are many positives and dropped a hint that a critical assessment of the nation’s performance in the outgoing year is underway.

He also optimised that with the prospect of improved funding in 2017 budget, Nigerian sport would fare better in 2017. What a lofty dream from our ‘honourable’ minister. Meanwhile we are yet to see his denial of his outburst on the “unrewarded’ victory of Super Falcons in which he said that as a matter of fact, the nation and his ministry never anticipated nor prepared for the success posted by the female national team!

Athletes don’t need training to win medals – Dalung
WHILE we as patriotic and sport-loving Nigerians boiled with anger over the poor preparation Team Nigeria athletes had which resulted in their woeful outing at the 2016 Rio Olympic Games in Brazil, Minister of Youth and Sports, Barrister Solomon Dalung further bruised our already injured psyche with his tragic- comedy (though innocently ignorant) claim that athletes don’t need too much preparation to excel in competitions!

Speaking as a personality guest on a sport radio monitored in Lagos while the sterling performances of Team Nigeria athletes were on at the 2016  Paralympic Games in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, the Learned man, whose vast knowledge ideally should not have taken him beyond a front seat at the spectators’ arena of a standard stadium, buttressed his deep ignorance in the area of sport by noting that though the Paralympic athletes also had bad preparations like their able bodied athletes but the former were faring impressively better in Brazil as at the time of the radio chat.

Dalung noted then that “the disabled athletes have shown that all you need is a winning mentality and not too much preparation, they trained under the same condition with their able bodied counterparts but they are winning medals now.”

However, Commonwealth champion, Odunayo Adekuruoye also speaking on the same programme countered the minister, saying that there is no way an athlete who trained for a month or two could do well or think of winning a medal as she apologised to her fans for failing them at the Olympics.

“It is not possible to win a medal with one or two months training. We had looked forward to good training and hoped to do well at the Olympics. I want to apologise to Nigerians who had looked up to me for a medal,” she said. The publicity-seeking sports minister who had kept sealed lips following the poor outing at the Rio Olympics jerked back to his usual self ostensibly because of the performance of the Paralympic athletes who have garnered a total of nine medals consisting six gold, two silver and one bronze.

Given the judgement hammer, I personally strongly feel that Dalungl deserves all the knocks he can ever get for the manner in which he has superintended over the nation’s sport sector and he has been getting a lot of it particularly lately, since the end of the 2016 Olympics Games in Rio where our ill-prepared contingent could only win a face-saving bronze medal in the football event.

Dalung needs a real sober reflection on his innocuous role in reigniting the power tussle in the Nigeria Football Federation (NFF) when Nigerians thought the steam had simmered in the battle between Amaju Pinnick and Chris Giwa for the NFF leadership. Dalung's intrusion only gigered Giwa to become more rebellious, resulting in escalating disruptions to the game, the most recent of which was a purported court order suspending the Nigeria Professional Football League.

 Oga Dalung should also feel at least inwardly sorry over his behaviour towards Coach Samson Siasia and the U23 Olympic football team in the run up to the Rio Games, wherein the minister tactically turned his back on the team during their preparations in Atlanta, USA even as he publicly disowned the coach, only to embark on a face-saving technical embrace of the poor lucky coach when the team started performing well in Brazil.

Mr. Win Berret should also take the blame for whatever circumstance that led to forcing the nation’s athletes to appear in track suits at the opening ceremony in Rio, only for their ceremonial uniforms to arrive three days to the end of Olympics! What a scandal! What an embarrassment! In short, It was a national shame of international altitude.

The foregoing among others, are strong reasons why Dalung is unpopular with most sport-loving Nigerians; thereby deserving the sledge of the hammer should the nation expect any appciaable progress in the area of sport in the in-coming year.

Where are things are done right without the admixture of sentiment, Dalung has committed more than enough punishable offences to have warranted his removal from office but alas! How did he get there in the first instance? (Abi that one na JAMB question? Anyway, we recognize that this is Nigeria where anything goes despite the fact that we claim that such things happen NOT IN OUR COUNTRY.

Though some passion-laden school of thought has insisted that Daung was not responsible for our overall failure at the 2016 Olympics on the ground that he was only appointed in November 2015, less than a year to the games, and he couldn't have performed any magic with our athletes within such a short time. Gladly, however, the same school agreed that surely, the minister could have handled the games management, logistics and athletes welfare much better. Thank God for the honest admittance of this fact.

One kudo we must not fail to give Dalung anyway, is his quick realization of the rot  in the Nigerian sports management structure which prompted him to set up a 13-member Sports Reform Committee led by veteran tennis player and Coach Godwin Kienka in April 2016, five months into his tenure. Dalung saw the need to reform our sport structure even before the failure in Brazil. 

The committee finally submitted its report and recommendations just recently.. Apart from Kienka who is known for his thoroughness, other members of the committee such as Segun Odegbami (football), Sam Ahmedu (basketball) and Mary Onyali (athletics) are credible people with deep knowledge and insight about what Nigerian sport needs to do to rise again. There must be something promising coming from this committee.

We have also agreed to give to  Dalung who has publicly admitted that the scrapping of the National Sports Commission (NSC) during President Buhari's merger of Federal Ministries was a mistake and that the commission is needed to play a pivotal role in our sports development.

The minister also declared a State of Emergency in Nigerian sport in order to arrest the speedy and dangerous decline even as he has promised to review and implement the recommendations of the Godwin Kienka Committee in the process.

Perhaps in the new year at hand, we should be expecting a resuscitated National Sport Commission NSC  that is more empowered and independent of the Ministry of Sport and headed by a sport-learned  Director-General who will professionally run the commission as the Chief Executive Officer (CEO) without fear or favour. 

The sport minister should, ideally, not double as chairman of the NSC as was the case before the NSC was scrapped. The sport minister should remain a political appointee while the DG of the NSC should be an expert in sport and management. The minister will oversee government policies while the DG remains responsible for implementation and performance.

Such an arrangement, we hope, will engender long term planning, proper goal-setting and improved stability in our policy formulation and management which are the basic ingredients that we need to prepare properly for events such as the Olympic Games and other international competitions. 

Dalung is a lawyer by training. If he is able to push the NSC resuscitation agenda through by getting presidential approval, and also securing legislative support and passage, he would have done Nigerian sport a big favour.

Then, we can wish our nation a Happy New Year in sport affair.


Banji Boye/GEE
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