Nigerian sports: Business venture, no more recreation

The Federal Ministry of Youth and Sports Development has been rated as one of the most significant ministries dealing with the largest audience, both Nigerians and expatriates. This is essentially attributable to the impetus that the Minister, Sunday Dare has injected into sports administration. As we all know, he has been in the news since assumption of office and has also made the ministry everything about him, around him, within him and with him. All the news has been worthy and credible.

It is noteworthy that the sports.ministry has been reactivated and revitalised within just two years of having an intelligent man at the saddle who knows that with ideas one can rule the world and also by making the vast majority of the sports constituents relevant. 

The youths now have the unfettered privilege of visiting the ministry to check their shortlisted names in the pages of the newspapers and to ascertain their participation in different programmes that are realistic. This has been made possible with the collective efforts of the ministry’s administrators engineered by the minister himself, whom the staff prefer to address as “Grand Father” and the Permanent Secretary Ismaila Abubakar referred to as “Father”.

 In the past, the ministers were focused on the analogue attitude of making fortune only from the federation budgets with little idea of where to go and how to get there. Most of the past leaders were influenced with power and jamboree travels, while flounting official international passports about.. 
But Sunday Dare, a man who is widely read and exposed to pragmatic life and notable personalities, knows that the best thing he can do in the sports sector, is to bequeath legacies that can be recalled to his credit. Lack of workable projects limited the fun in sports to only when there were international events that would involve the National Assembly for release of the N2.5 billion budget being allocated to the sector. 

Incidentally, regarding the budget, sports ministry had to present permanent secretaries and directors during past budget defense sessions which, of course, was worrisome and limited the opportunity for rubbing minds with the high and mighty to achieve the desired results.

Mr Dare’s emergence has totally changed the narrative and he gets the goal. He may not be ‘kind’ with his money but can enrich persons with projects, positions and ideas. The sports ministry had in the past been suffocated among its equals due to shortage of like minds in the administration. Sunday Dare’s first remarkable move was to ensure that the ministry’s  budget was raised to N2.8 billion, having initiated visible and defendable projects.
He is sure a reference point in the ministry even though there have been challenges and victories. The ministry can now be said to be classified among its equals as a first line ministry with her N5.2 billion budget which added value to her functions.

Suffice to say that the ministry’s initiative of  DEEL (Digital Skill Acquisition, Employability, Entrepreneurship and Leadership) is an outstanding project that has led to the discovery of youthful talents, empowered determined minds, set a pace for brains with visions and as well provided both materials and financial strength for beginners. The ministry with collective efforts has made the sector a juicy, amicable and enviable place.

It should be stressed that the federal government, with the consciousness to empower the youths positively and redirect their vision, released the sum of N75 billion last year to be disbursed as Nigerian Youth Investment Fund (NYIF) by the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) and NIRSAL, and with the sports ministry coordinating and ensuring that the right persons benefit as planned. There have been continuous trainings and skill acquisition programmes at Odomu in Osun state headed by the Department of Employment for Youth Development (EYD).
Reflectively, the Bible says, “A good man leaves inheritance for his children”s children” (Proverbs 13:22). Every effort of the ministry and its helmsman is, accordingly, geared towards making these dreamful youths to become champions and chief executive officers in their own right, and to be comparatively equal to their counterparts.

It is no longer news that most of these generational youths are not readily creative or have minds of their own, neither are they dogged in the pursuit of their dreams. But rather, they prefer to lose focus, concentrating on mobile mechanism of China and the outside world. Yet, the ministry is ensuring that interested ones among them, including the National Youth Corps members, are redirected with same modified mobile device called “Digital Youth Nigeria” through the IBM Digital Nation Africa. Part of the glaring projects youths have benefitted is the National Youth Policy (NYP) which gathered youths in the FCT to deliberate on the 1st National Youth Conference. Also, is the Nigeria Youth Employment Action Plan (NIYEAP) which, according to the minister, was developed by the Federal Ministry of Youth and Sports Development (FMYSD) to respond to youth employment in Nigeria. 

Mr Sunday Dare during his defense of these projects at the National Assembly for the Ministerial Press Briefing stated that “his ministry has the mandate to promote the physical, mental and socio-economic development of youths through the advancement and protection of their rights within Nigeria”. This logical defense certainly gave the ministry a loud ovation and re-classified sports from recreation to business thus the approval of N188bn budget for youth and sports development, N60bn and N88bn, respectively.

The Scripture clearly says “two cannot walk together except they agree”. The ministry now has a face of compatibility of the minister, administrative officers and other rankng officers. Although, the permanent secretary, Ismalia Abubakar, is new in the system he has proven to be a quintessential civil servant that believes in continuity and considers staff welfare an utmost priority.

His first landmark performance was to approve for payment of outstanding files. It is on record, however, that the ministry has had four permanent secretaries in four years but the staff union during the 3rd Town Hall Meeting of the minister, management staff and other staff at the velodrome of the Moshood Abiola Stadium recently, pleaded that this present permanent secretary be allowed manage the sector while this administration lasts.

The minister in reviewing the ministry’s performance for the past two years, reaffirmed that he wouldn’t have succeeded alone without the collective efforts and contribution of the staff which enhanced his being given the award of the “The Most Innovative Minister of the Federal Republic of Nigeria”. He commended four Nigerians that just won international postitons in table tennis and assured that Nigerians who desire to succeed or contest any position, internationally, will be duly supported.
Nwokorie is a press officer with the Federal Ministry of Youth and Sports Development,