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A minister determined to change Nigeria’s sports architecture

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Dare

When President Muhammadu Buhari named the erudite, cosmopolitan, versatile, energetic, youthful, suave and Ivy League-educated Sunday Dare as Youths and Sports Minister six months ago, he was applauded for making the right choice. The excitement generated by Dare’s appointment was hinged on his pedigree as an accomplished international journalist, administrative exposure and experience in public service.

Prior to Dare’s appointment, the belief was that sport was usually the last in the pecking order of merit. Some ex-ministers had laid credence to this with seemingly poor performances and lack of vision that kept Nigerian sports in the archives of past glory and youth development at a crossroads.

Six months down the line, Dare is reinventing the wheels.

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The long years of systemic destruction, failed dreams, poor planning, disillusionment and frustrations have left the terrain comatose and at a crossroads.

Decaying infrastructure, poorly motivated athletes, disgruntled work force, poorly trained coaches, archaic policy and angrily resentful public make the assignment not only herculean, but one that needs ruffling of feathers.

Dare began his assignment by seeking to change the mindset of the workers and the wrong perception of the public that nothing can work in the sector.

For someone from a technologically driven background, Dare had to change the mindset of the ministry staff.
Gradually, in the last six months, the work ethic has changed. With a Permanent Secretary in Gabriel Aduda, who is desirous of breaking away from old tradition, Dare has moved in leaps and bounds. He has restored confidence in the ministry as evidenced in the partnership with the private sector, agencies and international bodies. His first breakthrough was moving away from the narrow scope of being called ‘Football Minister’. Under Dare, Youth and Sports Development have been given a new vista.

He hit the ground running with his Adopt initiative, which has seen corporate organisations, governors and individuals adopting athletes, signing MoUs and paying money directly into their accounts to prepare for the now postponed Tokyo Olympics. This is against the convention where Olympics-bound athletes never had funds to prepare. The ripple effect is that it takes the burden off the athletes, administrators and the coaches.

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This ensures transparency and accountability of funds. The Adopt initiative has also led to infrastructural developments with the rehabilitation of stadiums in Abuja, Kaduna and Ibadan through partnerships. This has restored faith in the sports scene.

Sponsors, individuals and others now feel comfortable investing in sports in the belief that there is proper accountability and due process.

The Adopt-A-Stadium initiative is also paying off with the MKO Abiola Stadium in Abuja to be renovated by Alhaji Aliko Dangote, Daura Township Stadium, Katsina by Chief Kensington Adebutu, and Ahmadu Bello Stadium by Kaduna State Governor Malam Nasir El Rufai. The entire sports spectrum is being revived despite the paucity of funds.

Dare’s master plan is moving sports away from mere recreation to real business anchored on four triggers; infrastructure as catalyst for development, investment, incentives and policy.

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