By John Egbokhan
The Nigerian sports landscape was in celebratory mode Tuesday when President President Muhammadu Buhari sent his long-awaited Ministerial list to the Senate for possible confirmation as Ministers of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.
Of the 43-man list, one name that did not appear was that of Solomon Dalung, the immediate past Minister of Sports. And it was the reason why so many in the sports fraternity were jubilating that at last, he was not returning as a minister, not to talk of returning to the exalted sports seat in the Federal Capital Territory.
Unlike the likes of Babatunde Fashola, Romiti Amaechi, Adamu Adamu, to mention a few, whose names are on the list of ministers sent by President Buhari and who are popular figures in the different sectors, Dalung was a hugely unpopular figure in the sports community, almost seen as the one stoking the fire that was causing confusion like the crisis in the NFF, basketball federation and athletics body.
Fror many, Dalung made many unforced errors, which caused a lot of disruption for our sports. For those who don’t know, an unforced error is a tennis terminology, for a mistake not caused by the brilliant play of an opponent. It happens owing to the player’s own error, often a petulant play or impulsive reaction, like the many that Dalung made during his stint as Sports Minister.
In the days and weeks leading to Tuesday’s big announcement, Dalung had boasted that nobody born of a woman can stop his return fas Sports Minister.\
“No, there is nobody born of a woman that can stop my appointment if God wants it to be. I am not carried away by such sentiments”, Dalung had said during an interview, weeks after the dissolution of the cabinet by President Buhari on May 28, 2019.
Having had an unfettered reign as Sports Minister since 2015, Dalung, who was dogged by countless controversial issues owing to his poor knowledge of sports and its administration, was so upbeat of his chances to bounce back as Sports Minister
His initial appointment as sports minister was greeted with scepticism given the fact that he has little or no background in sports but the sports family offered to give him a helping hand to turnaround the face of sports in the country, which in retrospect, he failed to do in over three and years at the helm of the saddle.
Having assured that he was going to turn Nigerian sports round for the good of all, Dalung failed to walk the talk, rather, creating a huge mess in sports federations, the latest being the Athletics Federation of Nigeria, which is still enmeshed in $150, 000 scandal over grants sent to it by the world athletics body,,IAAF
Dalung was also a torn in the flesh of NFF President, Amaju Melvin Pinnick, who despite being democratically elected by the NFF Congress, never got the blessing of the former sports minister. That Pinnick got elected for a second term as NFF President last year, still confounds his stiffest critics and opponents, who despite all their schemes, were unable to stop the former Delta State Sports Commission Chairman from achieving his target.
One of Dalung’s many shortcomings was his wild comments, like the one he made on the delay in the payment of allowances for |Super Falcons during their participation at last year’s African Women Championship in Ghana.
Dalung had told reporters that, “Don’t forget that nobody even knew the team (Super Falcons) will emerge victoriously. If we were confident they will emerge victoriously, all the federation would have done is to plan for the process of participation and entitlement.”
The Plateau-born lawyer was also guilty of running foul of words during the Rio 2016 Olympics, when the ministry failed to release funds for the soccer team to prepare for the Games.
When asked why he did not quickly release money for the men’s soccer team, who were in dire need of it, Dalung retorted sharply that, “Who took them there? What are they there for? Because they are under 23 and they went to the US. Now they are having problems, does that become our business?”
And it just so happened that the same Dream Team, who Dalung starved of funds, won a bronze medal for Nigeria at the Rio Olympics Games.
Dalung also showed his little understanding of sports when he played down the significance of participating at the 2018 FIFA World Cup in Russia. It occurred in November 2017,, during the international break, while serious nations busied themselves with Russia 2018 World Cup qualifiers, Dalung said, “The cup that we (Nigeria) can win is the Africa Cup of Nations. There is nothing again that will take us to another man’s balcony in the name of the World Cup. We already have the Commonwealth Games and the Olympics. For these, we can attend such meets.”
Dalung would also be remembered for his comments on the place of preparations in the winning of la laurels in international competitions.
While commending the Paralympic team for their impressive performance at the Rio Olympics, Dalung in an interview with Brila FM, said “the disabled athletes have shown that all you need is a winning mentality and not too much preparation.
They trained under the same condition with their able-bodied counterparts but they are winning medals now.”
While still celebrating Dalung’s exit from the sports scene, sports fans hope the incoming Sports Minister would not toe the same line that Dalung toed for the good of all.