Transparency and Dalung’s 3 billion World Cup fund
In one of the most iconic lines in cinema, Michael Corleone bemoans, “Just when I think I’m out, they pull me back in!” Just when you think you’ve said all there is to say about the Honourable Minister of Sport, Solomon Dalung, he goes and does something entirely incomprehensible.
Surely, it is all just performance art? Maybe, on some level, he enjoys the reaction. How else to explain his latest shtick: a 2018 World Cup funding committee, with a remit to raise Three billion Naira in order to facilitate Nigeria’s participation in Russia this summer?
It is important to note that, while there have often been challenges surrounding financial obligations in the past, this is the one occasion whereby all monetary concerns have been addressed before the tournament. A landmark agreement, signed by the players and officials late last year, essentially put paid to the issue of match allowances and bonuses at the World Cup.
With FIFA further advancing the participating five African countries the sum of $2 million dollars apiece ahead of the commencement of the tournament, an interesting question arises: what exactly is this committee raising money for?
The Super Eagles have been thronged by sponsors almost incessantly since qualification was secured anyway. In addition, every logistical concern at the World Cup itself, including internal travel and accommodation, will be handled by FIFA’s organising committee. Something does not quite add up.
There is little clarity in the Minister’s stated aims either. “We are equally focused on ensuring that funds mobilised are judiciously used to facilitate and boost the participation of the Super Eagles in the tournament,” said Dalung during the launch, in a porridge of words that mean absolutely nothing at all.This is not, as is often said, one of those situations when it is the thought that counts. In a climate where the medical tourism of the President has called attention, more than ever before, to the gratuitous (mis)use of public funds on private matters, this just feels like fundraising for a “high-powered government delegation” to travel to Russia and have a blast.
Even allowing, for a moment, that the intentions are noble (let us suspend disbelief); it is worth noting that Nigeria does not exactly have a long history of doing well with these grandiose committees set up for major tournaments. Who can forget the Presidential task force put in place in 2009 and headed by then Rivers State governor Rotimi Amaechi, for the purpose of ensuring a hitch-free participation in 2010?
That, of course, preceded Nigeria’s worst performance, to date, at a FIFA World Cup. It was a fitting outcome for a system that glorifies tokenism and grand gestures, however meaningless, over the establishment of strong institutional structures.
The launch reportedly raised ₦80 million Naira (the idea is to raise half of the ₦3 billion estimate, while the Federal Government stumps up the rest), with Dalung calling on the private sector to get involved and give the Federal Government a leg-up. What is rather amusing about it is that, to this day, some of the private concerns he may have been entreating are still in “debt” to the senior national team.
Following a landmark achievement in lifting the Africa Cup of Nations in 2013, such eminent businessmen as Aliko Dangote, the wealthiest black man in the world, and Tony Elumelu, made pledges totalling $1.5 million dollars to the Super Eagles.
Those pledges, to this day, remain unredeemed, with Dangote in particular claiming to have not received an account number to pay into.Whatever the case, there are a number of players who featured back then that are no longer even in the national team fold. Not to mention, of course, the late Stephen Keshi, who coached that triumphant side.As such, it will be interesting to see quite how much of the money Dalung intends to raise.
However, it is impossible not to be a little cynical and say that, with the state governments of Abia, Lagos, Kano and Kebbi reportedly involved, we are set for another edition of state-sponsored tourism.It is, of course, nothing new. However, we might have expected better this time around; maybe not better exactly, simply less brazenness in the effort to divert funds into a meaningless entourage that would only, at the end of the day, service the excesses of government officials in Russia.
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