Nigerian Sports: Die Long For Dalung! | Independent Newspapers Limited
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Nigerian Sports: Die Long For Dalung!

James Onanefe Ibori
Posted: Aug 26, 2016 at 2:00 am   /   by   /   comments (0)

Prior to the announcement by President Muhammadu Buhari on 12th November, 2015,  when his name appeared in the list of the new cabinet ministers, Barrister Solomon Dalung’s influence was largely restricted to two spheres: his Langtang local government council area, where he had served as caretaker chairman, an associate and colleague of late former charter chairman of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Chief Solomon Lar, whom he served as personal assistant when Lar was a presidential special adviser during the first term of Gen. Olusegun Obasanjo (rtd).

This piece won’t have been necessary if I considered Dalung’s performance, to date, as glass half full rather than half empty. Given his scorecard, I have that sinking feeling that Nigerian sports is destined to die long very rapidly if Dalung is allowed to remain in the driver’s seat. Under his watch as minister of sports and youth, the nation’s age group teams were disgracefully bundled out of various African football tournaments by minnows of African football.

Both the U-17 and U-20 teams lost their chances to defend their titles as reigning African and World champions, as the case may be. The Super Eagles is still gasping for breath like ‘Super Chickens.’ His appointment as sports minister has coincided with a resurgence in the fanning of the embers of confusion, instability, acrimony and bitter rivalry in the Nigerian Football Federation (NFF) in a very sinister manner.

But the foregoing pale in comparison to his woeful handling of the nation’s team to the recently concluded Olympic Games in Rio, Brazil. Not only were the nation’s representatives forced to parade on the opening day in track suits rather than traditional outfits, on account of bungled flight arrangements, but none of our athletes won any medal – with the exception of the Men’s Football Team. It was as if our athletes had no business being in Rio.

But when one considers the matter deeply it easily becomes crystal-clear that the reasons for the underperformance can be traced directly to the desks of government officials entrusted with the task of overseeing national sport. Credit must, indeed, go to the abiding resilience and never-say-die spirit of our sport teams whenever they are treated like outcasts and left in the lurch by mindless government officials.

Dalung’s devil-may-care denial of the whereabouts of Olympic U-23 team caused considerable panic among football buffs in the country, especially when it seemed like they would miss the opening match against Japan. The sports minister even ridiculed the coaches and made not-too-subtle insinuations about the possibility of their being engaged in human trafficking!

It was very weird to see Dalung speaking as if the nation was at war with some of her own bona fide citizens – all this because Siasia had the ‘animal boldness’ to take to the social media to rue the ordeal the cash-strapped Dream VI was facing in the training camp in Atlanta – an ‘offence’ a typical Nigerian ‘oga at the top’ frowns upon with all the vitriolic fervour at his or her disposal.

For crying out, are these not Nigerian citizens whose welfare the minister swore an oath to protect and defend at all times regardless of whatever manner they left the country’s shores? So in his determined bid to reciprocate Siasia’s perceived effrontery, the minister threw caution to the winds and didn’t care a hoot that his act of vendetta could snowball into an international embarrassment. Talk of cutting the nose to spite the face. Wonder what these thin-skinned ‘ogas’ would have done if they were in the shoes of Buhari who, merchants of morbid humour and incandescent criticisms, such as Ekiti State Governor, Ayo Fayose, have repeatedly ferociously attacked without so much as a response from the President.

Dalung doesn’t have any requisite experience in sports or sports management prior to his appointment. He has clearly demonstrated a sense of good judgment required to be a minister of the Federal Republic of Nigeria and should be shown the exit door since both elected and appointed high officials have refused to imbibe the international best practice of resigning as a matter of honour.

But if peradventure Buhari there’s an abiding fondness between the President and his sports minister on account of a mutual liking for the late red-bereted, khaki-wearing Marxist Malian president, Thomas Sankara – a fashion statement Dalung has opted to emulate – Buhari is well advised to break-up the Ministry of Information and Culture and make Dalung minister of a newly created Ministry of Culture and Tourism.