A total misfit, no one person depicts the failure and incompetence of the Muhammadu Buhari administration than the current Minister of Youth and Sports Development, Mr. Solomon Dalung. Shola Oyeyipo writes
At a news conference, sometime ago, an obviously absent-minded Minister of Youth and Sports Development, Mr. Solomon Dalung had erroneously referred to Nigeria as the “United States of Nigeria”. Whatever has preoccupied his mind at that point in time, every attempt to gloss over that Freudian slip was as dumb as the mistake itself. Not a few dwelt for too long on it and perhaps, Dalung didn’t think it was such a big deal. That fizzled out soon after it was dropped.
If you thought, however, that such a slip could be condoned, what with this trending “spended” jargon he just landed on the English lexicon? At his budget defence before the House of Representatives committee, Dalung, while justifying the reason the lawmakers should approve his 2017 budget, tried to explain away how he spent the 2016 vote.
And in a convincing fit, especially when he was faced with the charge of spending beyond the approved limit in 2016, an action considered a grave offence, the minister told the gathering that “The funds spended were properly spended because we got them from intervention funds from Mr. President.”
Whatever Dalung was thinking at that material time, it was certainly to no good but a clear manifestation of his crass incompetence, which accounts for why the ministry is the way it is and why indeed, the ministry may not move forward under him.
Across the world, not only has sports proven to be one factor that unites Nigerians and people generally, it is also a way to annex youth potential and curb their habitual restiveness. But it is becoming obvious that Dalung is not adequately equipped with such tact required to move the ministry forward.
With his incessant incautious utterances, actions and inaction, Dalung has put his incompetence in the public domain and has been getting equal dose of attacks for his apparent naivety.
In one of its publications, a reputable national daily wrote; “Dalung has become anti-Sports Minister”. The same newspaper went further to state that “Dalung is not fit to be Sports Minister” and so many others have called for his sack outright and replaced with someone with requisite knowledge, experience and capacity in sports management.
When politicians are faced with criticism, they conveniently attribute it to the opposition that want them out of office. But in Dalung’s case, he personally unable to evaluate that he is handling a sensitive ministry that Nigerians are quite passionate about.
If he was that thoughtful, he would not have been expected to make such an uncouth statement like Nigeria should not have any business campaigning to qualify for the 2018 FIFA World Cup.
Apparently, he did not know what to say during an interview on the Hausa service of the Voice of America (VOA,) when he contended that since Nigeria is not favoured to win the World Cup, public funds should not be ‘wasted’ on the championship.
It is also unclear whatever he intended to achieve by pinpointing that the process of hosting and winning the world cup was riddled with corruption but that is surely not the aspect that football loving fans are looking out for. Rather, it is pomp, celebration, glamour, tacts and the fun coming with the four-yearly event that attracts over 3bn viewers from all over the world.
Those were carelessly un-evaluated statements that have put Dalung on the wrong side with millions of Nigerian sports lovers because being part of the World Cup is a national pride in itself and it easily resonates the name of the country in global sports and politics. It is a big pride for citizens when their countries participate in such national competitions.
It was equally unacceptable to many young Nigerian sports men and women, who consider international tournaments such as the World Cup, Olympics and others as a way to sell themselves to the global market.
It was due to similar unfavourable attitude to sports that the immediate past administration of Dr. Goodluck Ebele Jonathan, was seriously embarrassed when Team Nigeria returned from the 2012 Olympics in London empty handed because of poor preparation. Then countries not as blessed as Nigeria in sport talents were on the medals table.
Dalung got pounding knocks from commentators, who were unable to rationalise his comments considering that Nigeria’s chances of qualifying for the World Cup is now even brighter. The national team already secured the six maximum points from two qualifier matches.
Since he was appointed by President Muhammadu Buhari in October 2015, Dalung, rather than getting acquainted with his new office, has been more of a revolutionary and activist leader. Watchers of the nation’s sports sector are resolute that the minister is a tragedy because of his perceived lack of understanding of the critical sector and the temperament needed to relate with youths and sports-related issues.
Before his commentary on the World Cup, Dalung’s incompetence in the handling of the sports ministry began to manifest crystal clearly when he was unable to get various sporting bodies to properly prepare for the Rio Olympics.
Some of the reasons for which President Buhari could replace Dalung with a better hand include that knowing full well the Nigerian Football Federation (NFF) is crisis-ridden, he was seen to have fueled that crisis by calling a peace meeting that turned out to be a battle field for the NFF President, Amaju Pinnick and Chris Giwa, who almost engaged each other in fistycuffs over leadership to the same office. The comical denials and counter-denials that characterised the recruitment of foreign coach for the Super Eagle were another issue altogether.
Nigerians and the international community were told that Nigeria had engaged the services of Paul Le Guen to manage the Super Eagles but swiftly, the news was discarded. The minister claimed he wasn’t aware about NFF’s decision and the NFF maintained that the minister was aware and insisted that his denial was a shock. That was yet another national embarrassment.
The totality of the way and manner Dalung has been managing the ministry, particularly the wrong information he once gave the public that the failure to account for money is the reason for the federal government’s refusal to provide funds for the country’s preparation for the 2016 Rio Olympics was another factor to ponder.
Contrary to his position, President Buhari, in May last year approved the budget brought to him by the defunct National Sports Commission (NSC) led by Mallam Alhassan Yakmut.
The president approved the sum of N2.9 billion for Team Nigeria’s participation in the 2015 African Games in Congo and preparation of athletes for the Rio Olympics which is only days away. After the release of the money, Yakmut went to work. Athletes who represented the country at the Games commended his ability to ensure their welfare.
This reflected in the performance of Team Nigeria that placed third behind South Africa and Egypt in Maputo, Mozambique, reclaiming the number two spot in Congo.
Yakmut also claimed that about N640 million was set aside for teams towards preparation for the Rio Games out of the 2.9bn. It was when preparation was about to start in the various camps that Dalung came with mindset that all officials in the sports sector were corrupt.
Shortly after Dalung became minister, Yakmut was redeployed to another ministry, the NSC was scrapped, sports officials were neglected while he operated from the youth sector of the ministry and due to distance, federations began to have problems as communication gap between them and the ministry became widened. So, files relating to team’s camping and training tours in preparation for the Olympics piled at the ministry’s offices and that was the beginning of the trouble for athletes at the Olympics.
That was why players in the sports sector were taken aback when Dalung told Nigerians that the N2.9 billion approved by President Buhari has not been accounted for and that there was no money to prepare Team Nigeria for the Olympic Games.
Following Dalung’s claim that he didn’t know of any money left from the African Games fund, Yakmut replied that the minister instructed him to pay some money from the over N640 million left from the N2.9 billion to the Nigeria Football Federation to prosecute some of their programmes and he never denied that.
The eventual mismanagement of the Rio Olympics which became a national embarrassment is another reason the president cannot continue to keep Dalung.
That the men’s soccer team got stranded in Atlanta after training and arrived in Brazil few hours before their first match against Japan in Manaus, Brazil due to “logistical mix-up” with the operators of their charter aircraft was an evident indication of lack of capacity.
The minister is just getting around an alleged embarrassing statement that the federal government did not anticipate the victory of the Super Falcons but assured the people that government would pay them.
“One thing I always make clear is that the process of request for funds for sporting projects must come earlier to meet the objectives. Don’t forget that nobody even knew the team will emerge victorious but we were confident they will emerge victorious. All the federation would have done is to plan for process of participation and entitlement and when they win, it is already established in sports tradition: when you win, this is what you are entitled to.
Soon, a sit-in protest by the female team had reached seven days at an Abuja hotel before the president ordered their money paid and was done following the presidential intervention. For all it is worth, these hiccups are not good images in sports, let alone the country. The minister has proven to be incapable of effecting any kind of reforms in the ministry and above all, exposed his innate incompetence.
Thus, to continue to keep him means something is also utterly wrong with the leadership of the country if it is unable to fathom that nothing good can actually come out of the sports ministry for as long as Dalung sits as its minister.
Since he was appointed by President Muhammadu Buhari in October 2015, Dalung, rather than getting acquainted to his new office, has been more of a revolutionary and activist leader. Watchers of the nation’s sports sector are resolute that the minister is a tragedy because of his perceived lack of understanding of the critical sector and the temperament needed to relate with youths and sports-related issues