Expectations from Youth and Sports Minister Sunday Dare

Posted by News Express | 4 September 2019 | 683 times

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Currently, I am battling to finish with the arduous task of reading some key books I recently bought.

One of such books is the latest copy from Richard Templar, an award-winning author in the Western world. His The Rules of people is such a fascinating book that tells so much about the different attributes of members of the human race. 

An interesting dimension of this easy-to-dissect book is where the writer factually stated as follows: “Each of us is a unique concoction of our genes, our upbringing, and our experiences. None of these things are things we can change. And together these ingredients make us the extraordinary, unique people we are today.”

The aforementioned evidential affirmation relates exactly to our horizons as Nigerians, just as the narratives perfectly lead us to the conversations that this piece has set out to unleash.

It is a fact that Nigerians are a unique type of persons who are enormously gifted in the different fields of human endeavour. 

However, our collective experiences with the species and character of persons who have held different decision and policy-making positions in government have shaped a disappointing but graphic picture of a nation in serious need of crop of leaders that would match words with action. 

We have had too many of our people in top positions at both the national and bi-national levels whose actions whilst in offices have fundamentally departed from the words they uttered to the hearing of all of us.

But it is not exactly in our gene to always be cursed with a set of leaders that would not be bothered doing exactly what they say they will do in the delivery of the mandates of their respective offices.

A couple of days back, President Muhammadu Buhari picked about 43 Nigerians as ministers to form the executive council of the federation. 

The list has eventually turned out as a unique concoction of the good, the bad and the ugly. It is a mixed bag. 

Some persons who have secured top positions as ministers are known to be persons of questionable characters who have skeletons in their cupboards. 

Sadly, there seems to be a total absence of forensic and background checks to make sure that those who are holding these high positions are men and women who have stood the test of time in their previous jobs. Political calculations outweighed the desire for merit, competence and professionalism, which ought to have determined those to be made ministers. 

Some of these ministers are known suspects of different fraudulent schemes and some have indeed faced detention by the anti-graft agencies. 

But they are sitting pretty tight as cabinet level ministers. 

So I ask: Is it in our gene to reward criminality?

The response to the above poser is the topic for another write-up. 

Suffice it to state that our focus today is on what the new Sports and Youth Minister Sunday Akin Dare ought to do, so as to meet up with the expectations of millions of Nigerians who are waiting to see whether it would be just business-as-usual, as it was in the last four years; which was the first term of the current President who has been returned by Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) for a second and final four-year tenure. The last four years saw a Minister of Youths and Sports that appeared delusional and completely bereft of what constitute quality service delivery. Right now, the person on board - on paper - looks like somebody who may have something positive to offer.  

Incidentally, Mr Dare is a new wine in a new jug or to put it differently, he is one of those in the current federal cabinet that can be said not to have any known skeletons in his cupboard. To the question, if he is a square peg in a square hole: we need to watch out to see how he unfolds his programmes for remaking the sports and youth sector to regain the pride of place and to project our youngsters as creative and talented members of the human race in an increasingly sophisticated and competitive world. 

Dare, 53, is a journalist of Oyo State origin, but a well-known political son of the national leader of the All Progressives Congress (APC), Mr Bola Ahmed Tinubu. As governor of Lagos State, Tinubu, who groomed Dare, was known to have developed sports to some appreciable level.  Understandably, this minister of Youths and Sports started his job on high notes. He began by making some significant oral commitments: 

“I am excited to be here today. I thank the president, Muhammadu Buhari, for appointing me Minister of Youths and Sports Development of our country. The work starts now, so let’s work together as a team,” he charged his staff.

“Youth development is key to the success of any government. We have youths, we have sports. Our mandate area is very clear. We must broaden our horizons, we must deepen the work we do and quality of work we bring to the table.

“I am not unaware of the challenges, controversies and development in this ministry. It’s a ministry that is dear to the hearts of Nigerians. Beyond sports, there are other ways we can develop the youths. We will be thinking outside the box,” he stressed. 

Dare also promised to - in his words - take sports out of the back pages of newspapers to front pages, with positive news.

The brief statements by the newly sworn in youths and sports minister seem to capture the summation of the thematic mandate of the ministry which are:

To empower Nigerian youth to become self-reliant and socially responsible;  provide a sustainable framework for integrated planning and collaboration among stakeholders for the development of policies and programmes, laws and other initiatives that promote and enhance the development of the Nigerian youth   

The protection of their interests; establish a technically efficient institution, equipped with the desired professional manpower, resources, right equipment and well-maintained facilities for sports development and participation, and develop the sports sector to a world-class level, where it would provide continuous improvement of quality of life for the entire citizenry to the extent that Nigeria would be recognised as a leading sporting country in the world.

The minister, therefore, needs to aggressively pursue these goals and in doing so he needs to carry his team in the ministry along and must eschew bitter rivalries, animosities, sycophancy and lack of accountability. He has understandably pledged to partner constructively with the media which, ironically, is his professional terrain. 

For most Nigerians, the key to success as a minister is elimination of nepotism, corruption, lack of accountability and the operation of the ministry in an opaque fashion. He should be ready to answer questions from Nigerians. He must open up the books for critical scrutiny and be ready to defend his investments in the areas of youth development and sports and the people must feel the impact of his performance. 

I must say that, first and foremost, the Minister of Youth Development and sports should hit the ground running by reviving the pursuit and discovery of local sports talents through the restoration of a place of glory for school sports in all parts of Nigeria. He should put on board a transparent reward system for excellence and merit to be recorded by sporting youngsters in the various fields of sports. 

There is the urgency of the now for Mr Dare to partner constructively with the ministries of Youths and Sports in all the states and Abuja, so there is a national momentum that should drive the re-introduction of series of sporting competitions at the grassroots, zonal and national levels. 

The state legislatures must be told to prioritizse sports and youths development even as those who should be involved in the governance of all facets, aspects and segments of sports must be those who are passionate and professionally committed to deliver excellent services for the growth and advancements of local sports, which will inevitably manifest in the emergence of national and international sporting talents. 

The minister needs to explore the developments of both field and track sports, just as there is need for the private sector to be actively involved in the running of sports; because, basically, all around the world, sports have become a multi-billion dollar business.

The minister should work out the transparent strategy for instilling discipline and sanity in the running of all the agencies and bodies that coordinate the organisation of sports in all its ramifications; even as there is the need to eliminate the problem of match-fixing and poor refereeing, which are threatening the future of football at the local levels. Too much of criminality and fraudulent activities have happened in the administration of soccer in Nigeria. 

It is time for all stakeholders to work towards restoring financial discipline in the running of sports in all aspects, so that our sporting talents who are groomed and picked to represent Nigeria at regional or international levels are properly cared for and not treated like orphans.

The Sports and Youth Development minister has promised to look beyond the known routines, and to explore other innovative ways of developing the youths. This is a good step. How to do that is for his office to stop the interferences of the central and state governments in the election of officials into the different youth-led bodies. Right now, those heading the National Council of Youths are mere “house boys” of politicians.

The minister needs to map out strategies for skill and vocational training of Nigerian youths so as to engage them in meaningful activities and keep them away from crimes. The ministry should work constructively with all the relevant social protection agencies in both the private and public sectors to fully develop the youths and keep them away from cybercrimes. He is lucky to have a Director-General in the National Youths Service Corps (NYSC), who is a square peg in a square hole, going by his public pronouncements and actions. The NYSC is a critical factor in the skills empowerment of youths, and the current agenda in the NYSC must be sustained and broadened.  

These are the expectations of most Nigerians. 

Watching the way hundreds of youths embark on risky journeys through the Mediterranean seas to search for greener pastures and to run away from the widespread insecurity in Nigeria, should worry the new minister. 

His job is surely cut out for him. Surely, there is no time for frivolities.

The ball is in his court.

•RIGHTSVIEW appears on Wednesdays and Saturdays, in addition to special appearances. The Columnist, a popular activist (www.huriwanigeria.comwww.emmanuelonwubiko.com), is a former Federal Commissioner of Nigeria’s National Human Rights Commission and presently National Coordinator of Human Rights Writers’ Association of Nigeria (HURIWA).


Source: News Express

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