By Ben Efe
The direction the Sports Minister, Sunday Dare is taking Nigerian sports came into focus during the week, when he summarily dissolved the boards of Olympics sports federations and others under his supervision. The sports minister’s dissolution of the boards at this moment was largely seen as a political move to settle scores with perceived ‘sports political’ opponents.
A case that readily comes to mind is that of the Athletics Federation of Nigeria, where surprisingly a lingering dispute that could have been tactfully resolved has ended in the files of Nigerian Supreme Court.
“Though the tenure of the sports federation boards will expire in July 2021, the minister seem to have jumped the gun to get at his perceived sports political opponents.”
“The guys in the sports ministry do not run things professionally. Sometimes you have to prompt them to do things they ought to do, to get things moving.
“The mess at the AFN would have been long resolved, if the minister and his lieutenants had foresight and were proactive in their approach,” said former Edo Commissioner for sports and member of the AFN board Brown Ebewele.
Though Mr. Dare has some well thought ideas like the ‘adopt an athlete initiative’ and also supported some of the federations to run pre-Olympic competitions, those initiatives have been seen as a drop in the ocean. There has not been general coordination of the sports going to the Olympics. There was no camping of any sorts, neither was there any communication with the athletes that have qualified. It is only now that the Olympics is in plain sight that feeble attempts are being made to organise the teams.
Nigerian quartets missing the World Athletics Relays last weekend in Poland, perhaps underscores the failure and unpreparedness of those at the helm of Nigerian sports to look beyond their noses.
“We could have been in the World Relays to at least place in the last eight and qualify for the Olympics.
“But the sports ministry was rather interested in taking the athletes to the USA, rather than pursue Polish visas, because the USA was their focus so that they can travel and get estacodes,” said another athletics official.
Luckily football has been spared the snarl served the sporting federations by the sports ministry. This time around the Nigeria Football Federation President, Amaju Pinnick played his game well. Mr. Dare had wanted him to fire Super Eagles coach Gernot Rohr last November. But Pinnick, who must have garnered experience from his long drawn battle with Mr. Dalung navigated his federation out of murky waters.
“I believe that we can have independent sporting federations. We can start with a few and after scale and grow organically,” said former AFN president Dan Ngerem.
“The Sports ministry and honourable ministers are major impediments to our sports and sports business.”
Talking of sports business, Mr. Dare has dealt a cruel blow to some of the investors at the National Stadium Lagos. The Sportscity remains under lock and key for a year plus to allow the Sports Minister pursue a grandiose project, which may not be completed within the remaining days of the present government.
Abandoned for so years, the National Stadium became an attraction for sports men and women, keep fit enthusiasts and sports business owners after investors like Mr. Joseph Odubeatu renovated some sections. But when the Covid’19 hit all commercial activities were grounded as the Minister sent every business owner packing. Jobs have been lost, revenue due to the government gone with the wind and investors are reeling with shock.
It took the intervention of national swimmers like Yellow Yeiyah for the sports minister to reopen the swimming pool complex which was revived after almost 20 years of neglect.
“We don’t know for sure the agenda of the sports minister. These are indeed confusing times,” said one of the affected business owners at the National Stadium Lagos.
“At night the Stadium that was once well lighted courtesy of Ojez who also provided light to some of the sports federation offices, is now dark and a hang out for criminal elements.
“Is this how the government treats people who are interested in keeping the facility busy and secured?”