As Nigerians wait for President Bola Tinubu to assign portfolio to his newly selected ministers, many stakeholders in sports business are worried over the absence of a sports technocrat on the list.
To them, Tinubu is already toeing the same path laid by past presidents, who appointed ‘outsiders’ to head the sports sector. This, they said, has hindered the country’s sports development since the return of civilian government in 1999.
From the Chief Olusegun Obasanjo’s administration in 1999 till date, 15 politicians have held the portfolio as sports ministers. They are Damishi Sango, late Engr. Mark Aku, Steven Ibn Akiga (also late), Col. Musa Mohammed (rtd), Dr. Saidu Sambawa, Bala Ka’Oje, Abdulrahman Gimba, Sani Ndanusa, Alhaji Ibrahim Isa Bio, Prof. Taoheed Adedoja, Alhaji Yusuf Suleiman, Mallam Bolaji Abdullahi, Tamuno Danagogo, Solomon Dalung and Sunday Dare.
In the good days of Nigerian sports, scores of companies, including Coca-Cola, Cadbury, Pepsi, Chevron, Nigerian Breweries and Elephant Cement fell over themseves in their bid to key into the activities of the various sports federations.
Such sponsorship gave players opportunity to win various prizes, as well as improve on their skills in preparation for major competitions. It also took the pressure of funding off from government. But those good days are gone, leaving behind a dry period for the industry, no thanks to the activities of sports administrators, who capitalise on the ‘windfall’ from government to enrich themselves.
President Tinubu, a sports lover, recently forwarded a list of ministerial nominees to the Senate with no fewer than five former governors. The list has been cleared, with the nominees awaiting their portfolios.
But some stakeholders in sports are uncomfortable with the development. They want President Tinubu to appoint a ‘true sports technocrat’ as his sports minister, to bring back the private sector to sports development.
They also urge Tinubu to consider making one of the educated ex-internationals for the position. The person could be from football, athletics, basketball, volleyball or any other popular sport in Nigeria, they advised.
“To me, it is not too late for President Tinubu to tinker with the names or add a sports technocrat to the list of the ministerial nominees,” one sports analyst, who gave his name as Fagbemi said on a radio programme monitored in Lagos yesterday.
Another fan, Ufuoma said: “In Nigeria, the exalted sports administrative positions have often been handed to non-sports enthusiasts, both at the state and the federal levels. It has created so many problems for us. We need a capable sports personality to seamlessly run sports in the country.”
“If the sports sector is properly managed, it should be able to finance itself in a country like Nigeria. But from the administration of Olusegun Obasanjo to that of Muhammadu Buhari, the sports sector has witnessed mixed fortunes and seen little positive changes.”
“We have watched our facilities, built with billions of naira, rot and decay due to lack of proper management, and this is a result of the fact that Nigeria’s sports sector has yet to reap from the gains of democracy.
“For instance, in the Buhari administration, Solomon Dalung and Sunday Dare served as ministers in the Sports Ministry. While Dalung is a lawyer, lecturer and a politician, Sunday Dare is a journalist (not a sports journalist). They may have tried their best, but I feel things would have been a bit easier and better for the country if they were real sports technocrats or core sports administrators,” Ufuoma stated.
Another sports analyst, Uche, stated that appointing someone who knows nothing about sports will worsen Nigeria’s problem and even cost the country some of the achievements recorded under the past government.
“I saw our First Lady, Mrs. Oluremi Tinubu dancing when the Super Falcons defeated Australia at the ongoing FIFA Women’s World Cup. Which other activity in Nigeria will make her dance if not sports. This is the only industry that unites all Nigerians irrespective of their religion, culture, language and political affiliation. I beg President Tinubu to give us a true sports technocrat as sports minister. We need someone who has been in the system and has connections with the private sector because sports is business,” Uche stated.