*As he clocks 100 days in office
It is like yesterday but it was exactly 100 days in office on Monday June 16, 2014 for debonair Minister of Sports and Chairman, National Sports Commission, NSC, Dr. Tammy W. Danagogo. Some would say that 100 days is too short a time for any minister to make any appreciable impact, but not so for the Rivers State-born administrator who seems to have hit the ground running.
Few days after he was appointed as replacement for Mallam Bolaji Abdullahi, former Sports Commissioner in Bayelsa State, Opukiri Jones-Ere, the minister’s Special Assistant on Marketing and Business Development, announced to the whole world that Dr. Danagogo was going to be a departure from the past, that is focusing attention on football alone, but truly work as a minister of sports.
The minister, a lawyer by profession, is not only living true to his promise but has proved it practically by not only extending recognition to the so-called lesser sports, but participating in their activities and giving them a sense of belonging, with an assurance that “no sport would be regarded as a lesser sport during my time as sports minister and I am going to give all sports equal attention.”
His first port of call was as a Special Guest of the Nigeria Basketball Federation (NBBF) during the first phase of the Zenith Bank Women’s Basketball League which held at the Indoor Hall of the Package B of the Abuja National Stadium in Abuja in April 2014.
He was also on hand to support Nigeria’s U-17 women’s football team during their campaign at the FIFA U-17 tournament in Costa Rica in March where he passed President Goodluck Jonathan’s message to the team. Though the team eventually crashed out of the competition in the quarter finals, Dr. Danagogo reassured the girls of government’s willingness to provide standard facilities across the country for athletes to train with and excel in competitions.
On June 13, 2014, the cricket family were pleasantly surprised when the Honourable minister drove into the Cricket pitch at the Package B of the Abuja National Stadium to grace the occasion of the 1st National Cricket U-15 tournament aimed at catching the talents young and grooming them into future stars.
President of the Nigeria Cricket Federation, Engineer Emeka Onyema commended the minister for being the first ever to attend a junior competition of the federation, stressing that the visit will also leave a lasting impression on the young cricketers who were meeting a government official of the minister’s caliber for the first time.
While responding to the request of the cricket president to allow cricket into the National Sports Festival, Dr. Danagogo reiterated his earlier position that no sport should be labeled lesser sport as they are all avenues for engaging Nigerian youths positively and bringing honour to the country.
Within the 100 days in office the minister, who believes in government as a continuum, ensured that the young athletes who qualified to represent the country at the African Youth Games in Gaborone, Botswana were camped even though at short notice occasioned by late release of funds.
He followed this by visiting them in their various camps to ensure they were getting the desired training and also pass the president’s message of adequate support from the government for their welfare. He equally assured them that he would personally take them to the president for a rousing reception where they would be rewarded for making the country proud. This, in no doubt, boosted the morale of the athletes who promised him they were not going to let the country down.
Judging from the outcome of the first edition of the competition in Morocco in 2010 where Team Nigeria garnered 10 medal comprising 7 gold, 2 silver and 1 bronze, Dr. Danagogo charged the athletes featuring in athletics, taekwondo, judo, karate, swimming, boxing, golf, weightlifting, cycling, volleyball, badminton, football, tennis, table tennis and canoeing to put in their best and double the medals this year.
Signs that the athletes were going to live up to their promise and also meet the minister’s target showed on the first day of competition when Nigeria’s female weightlifter, Joy Chika Amalala won three gold medals from her event and set two new African records in the process.
At the end of competition, Team Nigeria placed third behind perennial rivals Egypt and South Africa but surpassed their 2010 feat by winning a total of 41 medals comprising 19 gold, 10 silver and 12 bronze, four times better than what they did in Morocco.
About 11 of the 115 member contingent to the Games qualified to represent Africa at the Youth Olympics scheduled for China in August this year. And as a continuation of his promise to ensure that our athletes get the best, the minister has promised to ensure that those who qualified for the Youth Olympics are given adequate preparation for them to excel in China.
Dr. Danagogo’s focal point is to follow the President’s Transformation Agenda as it concerns sports, that is using sports as a tool to mobilize Nigerian youths for self actualization and national development. He has continued to stress this by harping that government cannot do it alone, hence the call on the private sector and well-meaning individuals to join hands with the government to take Nigerian sports to the next level.
It is based on this that he commended the Tijjani Umar-led Board of the Nigeria Basketball Federation, NBBF for partnering with the United States-based International Management Group, IMG to seek ways to develop the game in Nigeria and make it a multi-million dollar business for both athletes, administrators and club owners in the country.
“I want to see to it that government pulls out of sports gradually. With what IMG and the Nigerian Basketball Federation are going into, government will no longer need to throw money into basketball as it will become a high income earner for everyone involved. What government will just do is provide the enabling environment for it to thrive and assist in the provision of standard facilities,” he assured a delegation of the NBBF and IMG group who paid him a courtesy visit in Abuja recently and urged other federations to emulate what the NBBF was doing.
He has rightly identified sports as a catalyst for social development and peaceful co-existence and believes that because sports and social development are closely related, they can serve as a developmental platform to tackle specified social issues in the society.
As a result therefore, Dr. Danagogo recently assured the Special Adviser to the President on Special Duties and Social Development, Mrs Sarah Pane that the National Sports Commission would collaborate with her office in its efforts to encourage young and exceptionally talented Nigerian children who want to develop their career in sports.
He maintained that one of the cardinal objectives of the NSC is not only to hunt and discover talents but also to nurture them to podium athletes that will bring glory and honour to Nigeria.
According to him, “sports have the capacity to bring about peace and prevent conflict, thereby strengthening interaction between communities, peoples and culture”. He added that his goal as the sports minister is to make sports a way of life, stressing that sport has been identified as a ‘considerable ingredient of a healthy way of life and keeping fit’.
On facilities, the minister assured that efforts will be made to concession some of the sports facilities like the National Stadium in Lagos to private concerns or even the Lagos State government, if they present a good bid, to ensure they are put back in good working conditions for Nigerians to use.
He equally wants to ensure that the National Institute of Sports gets the right funding to carry out its programme of training coaches and administrators, the technical manpower needed to drive Nigerian sports to the next level.
Most worrisome to the minister however, is the minimal allocation from the annual budget to the sports sector which is hardly enough to cater for the myriad of problems facing the sector. He expressed hope that the private sector would partner with government which should also approve more funds for sports as it not only serves as a major vehicle needed to keep Nigeria as one country but as one which can employ millions of our youths who form a larger percentage of the country’s population.
Mr. Omorodion is the Special Assistant on Media to the Honourable sports minister