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The bells toll for Dalung

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By Osasu Obayiuwana
There is just no other way to put this, other than, yes, point blank – we are saddled with a cabinet minister, Solomon Dalung, who clearly lacks the knowledge and skills required to tackle the intractable problems bedevilling Nigerian sport and chart a new course that will take us out of very troubled waters.

It is about time that Dalung gives up or gets the sack from Mr President – who, ironically, likes him, I am reliably told – because the sports community has waited, long enough, for him to prove that he is worthy of the position.

As it was for Nebuchadnezzar, the Babylonian King, who saw the oft-quoted ‘handwriting on the wall’, the Aramaic word ‘Tekel’ (You have been weighed on the scales and found wanting), certainly applies to Dalung.

Readers might recall that the Saturday Vanguard Poll, published on page 5 of the October 22nd edition, said the “majority wanted the sports minister removed.”

Dalung has failed, unequivocally, over the one year he has been in his position, as Minister for Sport, to show us that he is capable of altering the perilous course on which we have been sailing, for years – long before he was made a minister, to be fair to him – which is gradually taking us to a point of no return.

When it has come to a point that Nigerian Olympians, like Regina George, are so desperate, that they resort to crowd funding, on the Internet, to raise money to purchase an air ticket, to fly to the Rio Olympics, one cannot but face the unvarnished truth – we are in a terrible state.

I do not come to my conclusion about the Sports Minister lightly. It is made after a careful study of his pronouncements and behaviour, over the last one year.

My first – and only – personal interaction with Dalung was in February this year, in Abuja, at the request of an influential friend in government, who insisted that I meet him.

My friend went as far as asking Dalung to pay a visit to his office, so that he could have a chat with me, which the minister kindly obliged.

We had a chat about various issues concerning sport and I told him, very clearly, about the need to ensure that the Nigerian Court of Arbitration for Sport is set up, without delay, to ensure that there is a proper way to resolve governance problems amongst the various sports codes.

I told him that Enitan Oshodi – the incumbent president of the Nigerian Table Tennis Federation (NTTF) – and Adokiye Amiesimaka, the 1980 Africa Cup of Nations champion, all qualified lawyers, like myself, had been part of a group that had, since March 2012, painstakingly completed the legal framework and roadmap for the setting-up of this body, at the request of the Nigeria Olympic Committee (NOC).

Dalung asked for the submission to the NOC, which I subsequently emailed to him. But beyond a one-line acknowledgement of receipt, in an email onMarch 5th, there has been no further word from him.

The stupid battle between Chris Giwa and the current Nigeria Football Federation (NFF) president and board, which has done immense damage to football, serves as a telling reminder that a proper system of sports justice must be set up for the country. But Dalung does not seem to care.

But what really shocked me about the minister was the manner in which he described Samson Siasia, the coach of the bronze-medal winning 2016 Olympic football team, as a “human trafficker,” because he took the Under-23 to the US, to prepare for Rio. Being a lawyer himself, he should know that slanderous remark was bang out of order.

Dalung’s subsequent statement, that the team could have prepared for Rio, without travelling out of Nigeria, left me gobsmacked.

Is the minister so badly advised by his aides that he is completely unaware of the shambolic state of our facilities?

Is he also ignorant of the fact that the practice pitches – not to talk about the main bowl turf – at the $500m Abuja stadium are far from being in tip-top shape?

Let’s not talk about the National Stadium in Surulere, Lagos, the real home of Nigerian sport and football, which has been criminally neglected, by successive governments, for years.

But it is Dalung’s October 30th statement, about his wish for a “rival football league” to be set up in Nigeria, that has brought me to the conclusion that he has completely lost the plot.

“If you want to come and set up another league, you’re welcome. Since we, as government, are interested in it, WE WILL BUY SHARES AND BECOME SHAREHOLDERS (emphasis mine),” Dalung told Otunba Femmy Carrena, the CEO/President of Arabella 21st Century, who purportedly made a proposal to invest $1.5b in the Nigerian league.

And yet, in the very same statement, Dalung said the government will no longer invest in elite sports development. What does he think the league is? ‘Score and Keep’ football? My word!

Dalung should be educated to know that the Nigeria Football Federation has the exclusive right, under FIFA statutes, to organize a league.

What on earth is he going to come up with next?

Dalung’s comedy of errors has gone on long enough. I am – or we are – completely fed up with him.

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