Dear Sports Minister, Don’t Let Corruption Consume You

Sunday Dare

By Tayo Balogun

Last week I said here that our new Sports Minister, Sunday Dare has answers to all possible problems he may have in administering sports buried in some of the troves in his ministry. If he looked, he would see position papers prepared by experts on almost everything. Like how to get the private sector involved in funding sports. Position papers on reviving school sports, preparing athletes for international competitions, reorganizing and giving full autonomy to the various sports associations, making the National Sports Festivals more effective and efficient are all awaiting some attention.

If you looked you probably could see something on how to become a ‘See Nothing, Do Nothing and Cause katakata Minister’. Your predecessor, Solomon Dalung, probably read this. That is why, despite staying in office for the longest period, he probably would remain the most vilified. And perhaps, most ineffective! What ever be the case as someone generally regarded as intelligent and savvy, I expect you will be able to navigate through the murky water of the sports sector. So, perhaps, you need no ‘Minister Companion’ to make it through office as regards doing what needed to be done.

But one battle our Minister must fight and win is that against corruption. I have been around for quite a while, most times in the outside corridor of sports administration. And basically as a reporter. And some sports ministers have trusted me enough to tell me things. In addition, I have also seen some issues at close quarters that have provided insight into corruption in and around the sports industry.

For instance, a former minister told me how officials in the ministry tried to compromise him by ‘sending him to a ‘must attend’ conference that took him out of the country for almost a month. Apart from his estacode, he was also given extra budgetary allowance ‘befitting’ his status as a Minister. The result was that this made it difficult for him to query humongous expenditures incurred by officials. He was removed before he could adjust to probity.

Another told me that the very first day he assumed duty as a minister, a topmost official of the ministry told him he would want to see him just before close of work that day. When eventually granted audience the official said he has been able to make N12 million available for the Minister’s use from unspent budget. He said the money was to help him meet expectations of him by his immediate constituency as a Minister. He told me he politely declined the offer by informing the official that he had earlier that day declared his assets which indicated that he had only N36,000 cash in his bank account. He said he subsequently decided to investigate the said official and found out he was sitting on slush funds.

With your background in the media, I do not think there’s much I need to tell you about the corruptive influence or tendencies of the media. The hunger in the land has inflicted its toll on our values. Most of us would tell you what you want to hear and would praise you to high heavens if it butters their bread. We are already telling you how your coming made us to come second at the African Games. How your body language motivated the athletes to over perform. The truth, dear Minister is that our problems still remains.

We did not adequately prepare for the Morocco Games. Our athletes are generally under trained, ill-motivated and largely unappreciated. Our teams to Morocco and China were still struggling for funds few days before leaving Nigeria for the African Games and FIBA World Cup respectively. The truth is that we would have done much better if our teams had been better prepared. Little wonder some of them take little pride in singing our national anthem.

I wish you are able to use sports to recreate our nation. I hope for our sake, you succeed in arresting the rot in our sport. I am told you are a man of due process. This should help you here. Some of our associations are in conflict due mainly to impositions and manipulations of the elections that brought some of the board members into offices. You will do well to call a stakeholders meeting with these sport bodies. If we do well in sports under your overall supervision, you would have written your name in gold and would have helped our nation push towards recovery.