Since Nigeria returned to democratic rule in 1999, the country’s sports have been manned by 14 ministers, even as popular opinion points to little or no impact on this important sector spanning over 16 years.
The sports ministers since 1999 include Damishi Sango, late Ishaya Mark Aku, late Steven Ibn Akiga, retired Colonel Musa Mohammed, Saidu Sambawa, Bala Bawa Ka’Oje, Abdulrahman Gimba, Sani Ndanusa, Alhaji Ibrahim Isa Bio, Taoheed Adedoja, Alhaji Yusuf Suleiman, Mallam Bolaji Abdullahi, Tamuno Danagogo and Solomon Dalung.
Starting from 1999, Sango held sway as the first sports minister of the returned democratic setting. He served between 1999 and 2001, within which time, nothing much was achieved by Nigeria in the area of sports, except the FIFA U20 World Cup which the country hosted, but were dumped in the quarter final by Mali.
Then came the late Ishaya Mark Aku, who lasted only one year, superintending Nigeria’s qualification for the 2002 World Cup, even though he was relieved of the position in May, 2002, one month to the kickoff of the Mundial. Under Aku as the sports minister, D’Tigers finished fifth in the FIBA African Championship in Casablanca, Morocco in 2001.
After Aku, the late Stephen Ibn Akiga stepped in in a time that lasted 17 months. He was succeeded by retired Colonel Musa Mohammed. Mohammed stayed in office between 2003 and 2005, the time within which, D’Tigers won both silver and bronze in the FIBA Africa Championship in Alexandria, Egypt, and Algeria respectively. Within that same period in 2004, D’Tigress finished 11th in the Summer Olympic Games in Athens, Greece. That was after they had won the African Championship back-to-back in 2003 and 2005 in Mozambique and Nigeria respectively.
That same period in 2003, Grace Ebor, a retired Nigerian long runner, who specialised in the middle-distance events, won the gold medal in the 800m at the 2003 All-Africa Games, thereby setting a new record in a time of 2:02.04.
After Mohammed, Saidu Samaila Sambawa took over and lasted a year and quit the stage in 2006 before Abdulrahman Gimba took over. Under Gimba, the nation’s men basketball team finished fifth in 2007 and 2009 in FIBA African Championship in Angola and Libya respectively.
That was after D’Tigers finished in the second position in same championship held in 2003 and 2005. Also, under Gimba, the Super Eagles qualified and reached the second round of the 2008 FIFA World Cup in France in 1998.
After Gimba, Sani Ndanusa stayed on the position for a period between December 17, 2008 and March 17, 2010. He oversaw the qualification of Nigeria for the 2010 World Cup in South Africa. The Super Eagles preparations were marred by crisis as a result of the authorities not meeting players’ demands.
Alhaji Ibrahim Isa Bio took over in 2010 and lasted till July 2011. Alhaji Yusuf Suleiman took over then and was relived of the position just after six months in charge before Mallam Bolaji Abdullahi took over in the same 2011. He later paved the way for Tamuno Danagogo, who was on the seat until President Muhammadu Buhari won the 2015 presidential election, where he later appointed Solomon Dalung as the nation’s sports minister.
During Dalung’s time, Nigeria recorded some milestone. The greatest was the national men basketball team breaking the jinx of FIBA African Championship. The D’Tigers won the championship, beating such continental heavyweights like Senegal and Angola on the road to breaking the jinx in the tournament hosted by Tunisia.
Also, within the period of Dalung’s stewardship as the sports minister, D’Tigress, the women national basketball team, finished third and first in AfroBasket Women in 2015 and 2017 and in Cameroon and Mali respectively.
Under Dalung, Nigeria made a return to the Africa Cup of Nations after missing two previous editions, even though the latter miss in 2017 was also under his superintendent. The Super Eagles also qualified for the 2018 World Cup in Russia.
Despite some of the aforementioned cameo successes, the sports sector, recorded under Dalung, observers believe that all these pale into insignificance considering the crises that rocked the nation’s sporting sector since 2015, which he failed to handle appropriately.
First, it was during his tenure that players of the Nigeria Professional Football League (NPFL) had to stay at home for more than six months due to leadership crisis that threatened and still threatening the nation’s football hierarchy.
But in all the past administrations in the sports ministry as listed above, elections into the various sports federations did not witness such drama as those witnessed in the run up to federations’ elections in the past two years, in issues stakeholders blamed the minister for his shady handling of the impasse. In some quarters, he was solely blamed for favouring one candidate at the expense of the other.
For instance, in the Nigeria Football Federation (NFF) election, Dalung presented himself as a biased umpire when he allegedly and reportedly twisted both the Jos High Court and Appeal Court rulings to favour Chris Giwa, whom he wanted at the NFF secretariat at all cost.
His insistence on imposing Giwa on Nigerians even when the Supreme Court order merely directed the gladiators to go back to the root (Jos High Court) to relist the matter of who among the two is the authentic NFF President, almost led to FIFA banning Nigeria from global football matters but for the prompt intervention of Vice President Yemi Osinbajo. This is because FIFA had repeatedly maintained that it recognises Pinnick as the authentic president of the football house.
The matter reportedly set Dalung against the presidency, who viewed the unresolved impasse at the NFF as giving Nigeria a negative image before international community.
Also, Nigerians blamed the minister for allowing the leadership crisis that rocked the Nigerian Basketball Federation (NBBF) to linger for so long a time. Just like what happened at the NFF following the outcome of the two congresses in Lagos and Delta, the basketball crisis crippled the domestic league that was and still is battling to find its form.
Tijani Umar and Musa Ahmadu-Kida were claiming the leadership of Nigerian basketball. While Ahmadu-Kida won the sports ministry and Nigeria Olympic Committee-backed June 13, 2017 NBBF presidential poll in Abuja, Tijjani won an unrecognised June 12, 2017 election in Kano.
Besides the above, Dalung is seen by majority of sports writers as a misfit. The sports journalists, while acknowledging the minister’s intelligence and bravery in some issues, openly noted that he was not the right man to advance Nigeria’s sports.
For instance, the minister obviously goofed after Team Nigeria to the last Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, turned in a very poor result in what could go as the nation’s worst outing in the multi-sport event in recent time. But for the bronze medal recorded by the Mikel Obi-captained U-23 football team, Team Nigeria failed to win a single medal.
He was quoted as saying that athletes do not need too much preparation to climb the podium in major events like the Olympic Games.
According to Dalung, while laying the blame of not winning anything on the doorsteps of the athletes, “the disabled athletes have shown that all you need is a winning mentality and not too much preparation, they trained under the same condition with their able bodied counterparts but they are winning medals now.”
With countries’ preparations for big events like the Olympic Games spanning over 10-years, such statement coming from the main custodian of a country’s sports was most unfortunate and presented him as the wrong person for that position. This is apart from some past utterances of the minister, which did not go down well with major stakeholders in the country.
Despite the above, analysts have averred that perhaps the greatest sin of Dalung remained the scrapping of the National Sports Commission (NSC), making same a directorate in the Ministry of Sports. Some stakeholders are of the view that Dalung scrapped the NSC because he was afraid that the commission was rivaling him and threatening his position.
Some Nigerians, who though thumped up the minister for the action, said that the existence of the NSC amounted to duplication of duty, emphasising that it served the interests of few and was a conduit for syphoning public fund, even as they admitted that the Sports Ministry could handle the jobs of the NSC.
NSC berthed three years after Nigerian gained independent and it was formed to entrench core Nigerian sports culture as against the colonial sports tradition. Late Pa Abraham Ordia was appointed as the pioneer NSC secretary, overseeing the core administration of the commission.
Eagles May Play Home Games In Abuja
Plans are underway to have the Super Eagles move their home games to Abuja after Dangote Group handed over the rehabilitated MoshoodAbiola National Stadium, Abuja to the Ministry of Youth and Sports Development.
Contractors, Aron Nigeria Limited, handed over the rehabilitated stadium to the Minister of Youth and Sports Development, Sunday Dare, on Friday.
The rehabilitation work was carried out on the main bowl pitch and scoreboard.
Tidesports source reports that Dare had clamoured for the return of the Eagles to Abuja on several occasions, stating the need to have a permanent home stadium.
The Eagles last played at the Abuja stadium in 2012
“It is my wish that the Super Eagles and indeed the national teams of Nigeria, like elsewhere, have a permanent venue to play their matches rather than playing from one place to another,” Dare said last month while speaking to State House correspondents.
“There are great benefits for countries’ national teams to have a particular venue where the players understand very well. I believe very soon the Super Eagles will be playing their matches in Abuja or Lagos if the national stadium is fully ready too.”
In the last 10 years, the Eagles have played their home games at the GodswillAkpabio Stadium Uyo, Samuel Ogbemudia Stadium, Benin and AdokiyeAmiesimaka Stadium, Port Harcourt.
They, however, made a return to Lagos after 10 years and for the first time for a competitive match in 20 years when they played Lesotho in the 2022 World Cup qualifier at the TeslimBalogun Stadium on March 30.
They ended up playing their remaining World Cup qualifiers and the 2021 Africa Cup of Nations qualifiers in Lagos.
While the Eagles were hoping to make the TeslimBalogun Stadium their new home, news emerged last week that the Confederation of African Football had banned the stadium from hosting matches.
In a letter dated October 17, which was sent to the Secretary-General of the Nigeria Football Federation, Mohammed Sanusi,CAF said the stadium “lacks the CAF criteria and requirements in order to properly host international competitions”.
The letter signed by CAF Development Director Raul Chipenda said the stadium failed to implement the recommendations addressed to the NFF after the previous inspection.
Court Bars Bash Ali From Defaming Minister
Justice O.C. Agbaza of the High Court of the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) has issued a restraining order, barring Bash Ali from further making or publishing any denigrating or defamatory material against the Minister of Youth and Sports Development, Sunday Dare.
Tidesports source reports that the Minister had far back as June 25, 2021, approached the Federal High Court, Abuja division seeking a restraining order and charging Bash Ali with libel and defamation of character.
The lawyers to the minister from the Keyamo Chambers spent months unable to serve Bash and the judicial workers strike. Upon resumption and with the serial defamation by Bash Ali continuing, the lawyers approached the court. This time, the Keyamo team and Wole Olanipekun team as counsels secured the restraining order.
It would be recalled that sometime in April 2021, Bash Ali had in a letter, which he made available to the public, made several allegations against the Minister.
The Minister denied those allegations and to assert his innocence, the Minister filed Suit No. FCT/HC/CV/1269/2021seeking injunctive reliefs and pecuniary damages from Bash Ali on account of the defamatory publication.
Despite the pendency of this suit, Bash Ali recently published a video on social media in which he repeated those false allegations against the Minister and also issued several threats against the Minister and the Ministry.
Nigeria’s Saidu Elected As Commonwealth Handball Scribe
Nigeria’s Jibril Saidu has been elected the new secretary of the Commonwealth Handball Association.
The election, which took place via zoom on Monday, saw Saidu emerging unopposed but still polled 100 percent of the available votes.
Saidu,a former player became the second Nigerian to be elected as Secretary-General of the Commonwealth Handball Association succeeding General Ishola Williams who held the same position for almost three decades.
Also, Ruth Saunders, former President of South Africa Handball Federation defeated Steve Neilson of Scotland to become the first woman president of the Association.
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