Nigeria has for most of the Fourth Republic had the unenviable experience of having inexperienced persons as ministers of sports. However, it is arguable if a worse experience can be imagined than the present situation with the incumbent Minister of Sports, Mr. Solomon Dalung.
Given its popularity in the country, it is not surprising that Dalung, as with many of his predecessors, has been prompt to take the initiative on matters concerning football from the administrators of the game.
The reason is not farfetched. Besides being the most popular sport in the country with which success in office is gauged, the game is also by far the most financially viable of all the common sports in the country. Sports administrators have through the game harvested illicit gain, often at the expense of the players, the viability of the game in the country and the nation’s collective interest.
Ministers of sports have also taken unusual interest in the game in ways that are devoid of patriotic postures. It is in that frame that we point to recent gestures of Dalung in the House of Football.
His first salvo was to gather stakeholders last January to resolve an imaginary dispute between Mr. Amaju Pinnick, the President of the Nigerian Football Federation, NFF, and one-time contender for the position, Mr. Chris Giwa.
Remarkably, the dispute between the two men had been resolved by the sporting authorities, including the Court of Arbitration for Sports (CAS) in the favour of Pinnick. Pinnick had in fact, gotten into his strides even if to limited results.
Dalung’s quest for that uncalled-for “peace meeting” that they are both from Plateau State. Dalung was roundly tackled by the lovers of football for seemingly aiming to help his fellow Plateau man to get into an office that stakeholders and relevant institutions had denied him through the due processes.
The latest development was the ruling by a High Court in Jos, Plateau State, on April 8 2016, sacking Pinnick as the NFF president and replacing him with Giwa. The judgment has been roundly condemned by stakeholders, especially in the light of the consensus on Pinnick by stakeholders and the authorities.
The court ruling was immediately met with dire threats from the governing body of the game, the International Federation of Football Associations (FIFA), to ban Nigeria.
Remarkably, in the face of the threat, Dalung has been noncommittal but remains resolute in heating uncertainty in the football house
We call on Dalung to put the nation first, failing which President Muhammadu Buhari should strip him of that position to save our football.