|Sani Ndanusa, Bolaji Abdullahi. |
Who is likely to be the worst sports
minister Nigeria can ever have?
It is evident that Nigeria is blessed with abundant latent talents in various sports. The critical challenge has always been how to identify, groom and expose the talented to attain their full potential in the global setting where the real big cash is.
These requires good technocrats in coaching, sports science, management, funding, as well as, a deep commitment to effectively transform the country’s huge potentials into sports development.
Recently, Mallam Bolaji Abdullahi stated that majority of staffers in his ministry are not fit to be there. So, by eduction, the future remains bleak if sports development will be in the hands of that Ministry and its current staffers.
Again, he massively goofed when he threw the National Sports festival open. Then, went on to create an U-17 national championship. It is either the minister is running his own shows or his advisers are suffering from cerebral malaria. We shall come back to that. Let’s review the PDP and sports since 1999.
Sports ministers as problems: Since 1999 when Nigeria’s political firmament took the democratic toga, getting a very good, clued-up sports minister has been a major problem. From the tenure of former president, Olusegun Obasanjo, through Umar Musa Yar’Adua and now Goodluck Jonathan who all came to power on the platform of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), sports has been on the back seat in the polity, in spite of the good image sports has continued to give the country, especially outside Nigeria. Two clear-cut exceptions include late Engineer Ishaya Mark-Aku and probably, controversial and combative Abdulrahman Gimba.
Government and those who fashion our sports remains unscientific, local and not producing results. They run sports, a science, like voodoo economics.
|President Jonathan...where is the Fresh Air |
you promised our sports?
Unfulfilled promises: According to the former senior special assistant to the President on Research and Documentation, Oronto Douglas, (now Minister of Power) in a chat with sporting media before the presidential election, “President Goodluck Jonathan has plans to revolutionise sports in Nigeria if elected”. Can we ask again, where is the promised revolution? Rather, his administration has critically injured the fragile health of sports. With Abdullahi’s latest goof, it is buried. The Jonathan campaign was hooked on “fresh air” but the air we have, especially in sports, is putrid.
Said Oronto then, “If you look at his track records as deputy governor, governor and vice president, it has been a track record of support for the sporting industry. Remember that Bayelsa had two teams in the Nigeria Premier League when he was the governor of the state. This did not just happen. It was a deliberate policy pursued by his administration to develop sports and provide legitimate government when the president was there at the helm of policy making.
“To have a small state like Bayelsa having two teams in the Premiership is no mean feat. Also, it is on record that any Bayelsan that is interested in sports was always supported during his term in the state; whether it is Daniel Igali, Taribo West or Samson Siasia, his government supported. I can go on and on to give you a catalogue of things that he achieved in sports when he was governor of the state,” he said.
Sports budget: The Federal Government’s annual budget for the sports sector is grossly inadequate for any meaningful development to take place. The 2011 budget of sports is N11.8billion with the recurrent expenditure having the lion share of about N10.6billion of the total budget, leaving a paltry N1.1billion for capital projects.
Out of the N11.8billion budget, the illegal Nigeria Football Federation (NFF) had N2.9billion to prosecute all its 2011 programmes which they did and for the first time in our national history never qualified for a single international event the following year.
Of that amount, N.6billion went to the National Institute for Sports (NIS) for implementation of its policies and programmes, while the remaining N7.2billion is for recurrent and capital expenditures of the National Sports Commission. This is about the trend in the 2012 budget. Nothing will change in the 2013 budget.
From 1999 till date, people who know nothing about sports miraculously find their away to the highest level of sports administration, as minister and chairman, National Sports Commission (NSC) and even headships of the various sports federations.
Instead of hitting the ground running and initiating programmes that will have direct bearing on sports, they usually spend time learning the process to get themselves familiarised with various sports in the country, and by the time they begin to understand the policy and terrain of Nigeria’s sports, they are redeployed to other ministries or removed completely from the cabinet.
For the past 13 years of the PDP-led government, no minister of Sports and chairman, National Sports Commission (NSC) has spent two years in office! Between 1999 and 2012, Nigeria has produced 12 ministers of sports. Bolaji Abdullahi is the third helmsman at the ministry in the space of one year!
|Late Ishaya Aku...best from the |
PDP Sports ministers
From the beginning... Mr. Damishi Sango, who was named Sports Minister in June 1999 when former President Olusegun Obasanjo came into office, famously confessed to lacking the expertise to run the ministry. Gracefully, however, Sango was dropped about six months later and the late Ishaya Mark Aku, a Water Engineer, assumed the mantle.
Although, Aku spent a little over a year during his tenure as minister, he was regarded by many as a radical who sought to sanitise sports in Nigeria and had genuine interest to correct the ills that bedeviled her growth and development.
His revolutionary moves were evident as he made it clear he was determined to restructure the ministry. However, he died in a plane crash on 4th May, 2002 while he was on his way to be guest of honour at a pre-World Cup friendly match between Nigeria and Kenya in Kano.
The mantle fell on the late Chief Stephen Akiga who was former minister in the Industry and Police Affairs ministries. He reigned from May 2002 to May 2003.
Then, came the odourless and colourless Colonel Musa Mohammed (rtd) who held the reins from July 2003 to July 2005, making him one of the longest serving sports ministers since 1999. He oversaw Nigeria's leadership of the continent at the 2003 All Africa Games hosted by Abuja.
Alhaji Samaila Sambawa became the next minister and took charge till July 2006 when another colourless Engineer Bala Kaoje took over. Exactly one year later, Mr. Abdulrahman Gimba, a lawyer, took over and lasted till October 2008 when a cabinet reshuffle eased him out of office.
Sports watchers heaved a sigh of relief when Sani Ndanusa, another Water Engineer was appointed in December 2008. Not a few had believed that Ndanusa's familiarity with the sports terrain where he was President of the Nigeria Tennis Federation (NTF) since 2001 would serve him well.
Ironically, however, his tenure not only witnessed a steady downturn in Nigerian tennis, but it was also tainted by quality controversy, with regard to the cost-inflated hosting of the 2009 FIFA U-17 World Cup and reports of over-age saga that hovered over the squad.
Not even Nigeria's silver-winning feat at the competition could rescue the country from the age controversy. Ndanusa left office in March 2010 when then Acting President Goodluck Jonathan dissolved his cabinet and was succeeded by Isa Ibrahim Bio, a pharmacist, who was before then minister of transport.
Although, Bio demonstrated passion on the job, the murky waters of sports politics proved his albatross until he left the office voluntarily in December 2010 to contest governorship election in Kwara State.
Going by his credentials, his successor, Taoheed Adedoja, a professor of physical education with specialisation in Sports Administration would have been looked upon as a suitable candidate to lead sports to the promised land. But he failed woefully to make a mark.
As he eased off with his high quality of failure came former Transport minister, Yusuf Suleiman. One historical mark he did was setting up the Dominic Oneya committee to resolve the issues in Nigerian football. He received the report on the eve of leaving to contest the gubernatorial election in Sokoto state. He was replaced by Bolaji Abdullahi. Abdullahi dumped the Oneya report and we are back in the trenches. He led Nigeria to the London 2012 Olympics and returned empty handed with no medal.
His administration organised a controversial Presidential sports retreat. He wants N7b to produce magical athletes that will win five gold medals in Rio! The sustenance of the urchin-type of controversies in the football community remains a major achievement of his administration with a most corrupt League Board with a minister-initiated audit report that nailed the Board. The Board is in place and may remain for only how long.
He has also led the nation to continue to swaddle in the murky waters of football wars and battles. Rather than be thinking of what to do with the issues of development of the sector, we had another Sports Summit in Delta state where talks as cheap as they come was the cynosure. As it is so far, it is obvious that the minister shall run the mill like his predecessors. All hail the cyclic track of poverty of ideas in Nigeria’s sports administratoon courtesy the PDP.