Exclusive: What Buhari Told Sunday Dare

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By Tayo Balogun

It was one of those nights that I wished I had remembered to switch on my phones before allowing myself to drift into my sleep mode. But this particular Sunday was different. I was expecting two calls, one from a place that was nine-hour time zone away and the other has a time difference of five hours. I was determined not to fall asleep. Mercifully, the first of the two calls was prompt. And brief. Do I think government was right about Omoyele Sowore? Was Arsenal going to beat Man United at Old Trafford? How was I coping? These questions were quickly and briefly answered. Then the byes were said. Just one more call then I would drift to sleep and wake up to do some writing…

Oh the phone was ringing!!!

” …Sunday are you asleep?’

Sunday? Was anyone pranking me? Then.

“No sir, just finished watching the on going World Athletics Championship.”

“The VP, sorry, Kyari said you are not doing well.”

“Em…not really sir. The boys have not done well but I hope our girls will do better..,”

“They had better. Everyone says you would use Sports to help my government to become popular and accepted. So far not much has been seen to that effect. The revolution man who was there before you made too much noise but did little….” A pause, …followed by a cough.

Was I dreaming or did I just manage to stumble on a conversation between our President and his Minister of Sports? My heart was pounding and I feared I was going to get into a fit. Should I cut off or continue to scoop a story?

“… the man was fighting everybody. Even that man that wants to put my name in the Guinness Book of boxing records..em em’

“Bash Alli sir?’

“Yes. Five times I wanted to sack him but I always forget. And when I remember, he would send delegations to come and beg me. They say you are better, that you will help me to be popular again using sports. But somehow I am worried.”

“Your Excellency, I will do my best sir. I will…”

“But this World Athletics Championships in Doha that I was watching. I see even India but Nigeria nothing, I know Amaechi says I don’t care but he is not correct. Sunday, you must not disappoint me. Anyway Kyari has helped me to prepare a brief on Sport you will get it tomorrow but because I want you to start now let me give you the highlights, Wait.” Some rustlings, indistinct background sounds.

“Yes, I have it. This Doha thing is gone and I wonder why you can’t prepare enough bouncers to represent Nigeria at the Rugby World Cup. But Olympics next year must be different. I want at least 10 gold medals. You must make sure we continue to do well and even better in football. We must win the next AFCON, we must dominate Basketball, Athletics, Boxing Wrestling and Weightlifting. Kyari will make special arrangements for funds for you. If in one year you have…”

Then another voice took over.

“Daddy, you are snoring! Are you okay?”

I was startled. No, confused is more like it. Guess perplexed would suit my state of suspended animation.

” I will call you back” I managed to mutter.

Was I dreaming or did I just eavesdrop on a telephone conversation between our President and his Sports Minister? Both scenarios appear possible except that I can’t imagine Buhari being awake at that time. And he sort of sounded different. I couldn’t feel the dialectical intrusion associated with his speech. And the sequence and pattern of his speech was unlike him. I could rationalize I was dreaming but …

Whatever, I believe our Minister, who I have come to like (never disliked him except that I am not comfortable with his being a Jagaban man) is gradually finding his feet in the very murky waters of sport administration. One of the things I think he must learn to do is to try to cross check information he is given. I am not sure they told him that at Doha2019 we would have done well if we get into any finals of the events. This is because we have not created any atmosphere for a medal winning performance in Doha. Success in sports is 80% preparation 20% luck.

I am certain we can win 10 gold medals at the Olympics. But this would only happen if we give more attention and support to Wrestling, Weightlifting and other combat sports. We can be more respectable in athletics if AFN is encouraged to sit down and work. And yes we can win the gold in football if we are determined to make things work for the team as soon as we qualify.

I wish Sunday Dare becomes the first minister to supervise our nation win 10 gold medals at the Olympics. I am pained that we could not get into the men and women’s 100metres finals. More pained that official ineptitude was going to deny us the services of two of our best athletes -Blessing Okagbare and Divine Oduduru until IAAF accepted our appeal to allow them run the longer Sprint. By now our not so new Minister would have known his terrain a little more. Our expectations are that he would lead us to greatness in sports. We have been too long away from glory. I have a gut feeling Sunday Dare can make it happen for our country.