By Patrick Omorodion
Nigerians were shocked when news broke out that the national U-23 football team preparing for the Rio Olympics were threatened over lack of fund to cater for their stay in the US where they had gone to train for the Olympics.
Following the cash crunch being suffered by the Nigeria Football Federation, a friend of the team, we gathered, offered to foot the bill of their stay there for a few days until their money is sent to them.
Rather than ask questions about the team’s predicament, the Youth and Sports minister, Barrister Solomon Dalung denied knowledge of the team’s trip to the US, stressing that if anything happens to them, he would not be held responsible. As if that was not shocking enough, he went on to accuse the team officials of engaging in human trafficking.
“I don’t know about the trip to the US and if they are suffering that is the business of those who sponsored them, not my business,” he had said.
This statement has incurred for the minister the ire of football stakeholders, some of who condemned him in their reactions on the social media. Adekunle Salami put his own words this way in his column last week:
The Minister of Sport Solomon Dalung is good enough for a role in the Nigerian movies industry, Nollywood. I wonder what actors like Desmond Elliot, Ramsey Nouah, Chidi Mokeme, Olu Jacobs, Mike Ezunronye, Richard Mofe-Damijo are doing that Dalung cannot do or even better.
From the very beginning, Dalung did not strike me as somebody ready to move sports forward. He came in talking about how he was cheated of his estacode at Mali 2002 Nations Cup where he claimed he was given about $2,000 instead of over $6,000.
After investigations, it was revealed that the highest ranking government official at the competition did not get more than $3,500. One wonders what Dalung was talking about.. .
This minister no doubt is bad news to Nigerian sports. He seems not to have studied the books on his table.. .The minister however shocked the world also on Tuesday with his reaction on the predicament of the national U-23 team currently preparing for the Olympic Games football even in Atlanta, USA.
Dalung said whatever happens to the team was not his business. “I don’t know about the trip to the US and if they are suffering that is the business of those who sponsored them not my business,” he said.
That was very reckless and absurd. The Nigeria Football Federation even despite its internal issues went as far as sending the U-23 team on tour and rather than commend the football body, the minister publicly condemned the federation.
Dalung should simply resign or tell Mr President to assign him to another ministry. He is not worthy of leading Team Nigeria to Rio Olympics. He knows nothing and he is not ready to learn. It is a SHAME.
Hereunder are some of the excerpts from the postings on social media when I commented on Salami’s column:
If the NOC is in charge of athletes, isn’t the NFF in charge of football/footballers? Why is he ‘giving’ athletics “autonomy” but meddling in football? Does he know something the rest of us don’t?
Tonnie Okpara Pat O If only our sports journalists can be as open and voice out the real truth and even unearth issue like you do, honestly, things would have taken shape in our sports
Patrick Omorodion Ben on this matter o, I don’t support Dalung. Yakmut said he left some money, over N640m from the N2.9 billion PMB approved and released for the All Africa Games and Olympics preparation. Dalung ordered some money out of that to be released to the NFF, then Yakmut was removed as DG. And suddenly, the minister is telling Nigerians that Yakmut didn’t give him account on the N2.9 billion. Haba, is he talking to kids? PMB should call Dalung to explain the whereabouts of the money. Yakmut is available for questioning, why has Dalung not invited him? Dalung is hiding something and we must unearth the truth. We owe Nigerians this
Mgbolu Austin Pat, this is a simple administrative matter. The question is did they obtain government approval before proceeding to the USA? If they did, they would automatically be the responsibility of government. In this era of change things are no longer the same. To get funds out is like camel passing through the eye of a needle. Even when federations secure sponsorship, they equally need approval to proceed so that the Honourable Minister can be accountable in the event of any hiccup. That is why the nation’s embassies are there to conveniently step in when you are the responsibility of government. I believe your basketballers were able to navigate the difficult bend because the bulk of your players are based in USA. Coupled with the fact that your president is a technocrat that understands the dynamics of the system. Hence sacrifices were made by your able NBBF exco to see them through. If you check thoroughly they may have obtained approval before proceeding on the trip. Let’s just learn to do things the right way. After all, preparations for this year’s Olympic games is unique in so many ways, chief of which is there is no money hence no training tours. These are challenging times, no doubt.
Bode Ayodele My take on this issue would be what exactly is the role the Ministry of Sports wants to play if it cannot plan or fund training tours ahead of major events? If Buhari does not believe that sports should be funded by the FG, there is no point in appointing a member of his cabinet to supervise Sports! If Sports at the national level will be funded and even executed by individuals and the private sector then wouldn’t it make sense to let the private sector be in-charge and supervise proceedings regarding such? When the Minister said he was not aware about the team’s trip to the US he did not disclose any alternative plan for training the Ministry had or he was aware of for the team ahead of Rio. We all know Sports Ministries have traditionally handled that responsibility in the past!. What we have now can be likened to a scenario where you have a dormant Police Force while actual policing is done by the people they are meant to protect, themselves! Then what are the police (in this case what is the Ministry) paid for?
Benjamin Alaiya Patoo, you and I know that this Minister without holding brief for him is passing through a most difficult period. In fact, this is the period not to be a Sports Minister, so some of his utterances are out of a frustratingly koboless system. Ask Nneka our colleague and you will know what they are going through. I was shocked when Salami who is Nneka’s right hand man threw the bombshell. The same way my friends ridiculed Keshi while he was Eagles coach and I was Media Officer and started praising him and Amodu in death. Journalism does not give us licence to be overtly sentimental without seeing the other side.
Bode Ayodele If the Ministry’s response had been we are supervising- but unfortunately not funding – while execution is the responsibility of the NFF, that would have put everything into context . But to state that the Ministry is not aware without disclosing any alternative plan immediately throws up a lot of puzzling questions!
Osasu Obayiuwana Hmmmmmmmmmmmmm! Naija Oni Baje oooooooooooo! Is this the depth of despair that Nigerian sport has descended to now? I am gobsmacked. The minister really said this?
Alhj Kawu I concur with Mgbolu Austin. Things should be done with due process but sometimes sports cannot wait for Government protocol. I always argue that this current minister of sports doesn’t know what he is doing. Let him pack with his village experience and go back to his lecturing job. It does not mean because he can talk in the media then he can manage sports.
Callistus Ebare And if proven that the ministry got a program of activity and held talks with the head coach, my wish is for the team to win a medal and let’s see where the blame game will go. On my news last night the minister said he believed Nigerian sports men and women do not need to train outside Nigeria to excel. He likened Nigeria to Ethiopia and Kenya but concluded that the challenge is that we do not have the facilities in Nigeria which will be addressed soon. I was left confused
Bode Ayodele In the light of the Minister’s words as stated by Cally it is emerging that it is very obvious Buhari’s leadership style is based on ‘Reverse Psychology’. In other words, he is doing exactly what he is preaching against and looking out to see if the people are bold enough to revolt against him. Or how do you explain, as pointed out by BBC, a President who said he will stop medical tourism, travelling to London shortly after for a mere ‘ear infection (then making so much hullabaloo about it with even his Media Special Adviser granting press interviews to herald his arrival!’?! And now the Sports Minister, saying, Nigerian Sportsmen are not supposed to train abroad for international competitions!? Even the most advanced countries go on training tours! That is where the word ‘acclimatisation’ in sports is derived from. This style of leadership is what is used in the military to train soldiers till they develop a mind of their own, revolt (mentally), and are declared fit enough to execute their briefs and assignments. (Jonathan did virtually the same as well with Boko Haram! )However, to use such tactics to build a nation appears counter-productive as who can afford a revolt on such a massive scale?