RE — FOUR YEARS OF DALUNG: BLESSING OR CURSE FOR NIGERIAN SPORTS — Maiwada Dammallam
I read a rather lengthy and deliberately jumbled-to-confuse article titled above by one Chibuike Chukwu. I was so surprised reading such an orgy of periphrasis from a supposed veteran sportswriter with more than required experience to make sense of the modest achievements of Hon. Minister Solomon Dalung earned in the chaotic, disillusioned, ill-motivated and messy sports family he inherited.
Nonetheless, I will clap for the author for his mastery of ability to mix reality with fiction to produce a deadly cocktail of lies that could pass down to the guts tasting like a balanced delicacy.
“Reverse psychology” is a common trick with hatchet writers. They push their gullible readers to the left when they not only want to have them going right but have them going happily. This is achievable by painting flowery pictures of a situation at the beginning of their scurrilous opinions to project an image of fairness and impartiality but deep beneath the flowers, be certain there are poisonous thorns hidden strategically to inflict what could kill in a slow and untraceable way as ricin.
However, karma being what it is, has seen to it that mostly such tricks backfire and the devilish intent of such writers almost always go up in flames by a spark from one lie out of the many, usually deployed for the purpose. Chukwu’s case wasn’t any different. He painted a rosy picture of a Solomon Dalung that managed to achieve in 3 years what 13 Sports Ministers failed to achieve in 20 years. Sure, Dalung deserves a befitting commendation for the conflict of motive guiding Chukwu’s spirit. Let’s look at Chukwu’s flowers and thorns. He wrote:
“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.” Unquote
I thought Chukwu will be decent to introduce Dalung’s success outlined above by juxtaposing it with the rot that was the sports Ministry he inherited doing which will allow discerning minds assess the size of the camel which Dalung pushed through the needle eye — a feat that’s unprecedented in sports history in Nigeria.
I will discount the fact that Dalung’s success was inspite of venomous and distracting writers like Chukwu who were angry with him for stopping the bazaar that was known as ‘government contingent’ which reduced the sports ministry to some sort of a watering hole for some sportswriters on which the basis for success or failure of a Minister is strictly determined. Let me explain a bit more about this ‘watering hole’ albatross.
Whenever there are international sporting events, the sports ministry is turned into a beehive of activities by sportswriters and their godfathers in a frenzy to make the list of the ‘Government Contingent’. In simple terms, it is an all paid luxury holiday ticket or a periodic paycheck that offers sportswriters who know their way around millions annually doing nothing. An incident occurred during the last Rio Olympics when one of the few lucky sportswriters nominated for the event was caught recording the games on his TV in Lagos and relaying same as being recorded in Rio de Janeiro. This is just to give you a fair idea about the Chibuike Chukwus of this world.
After Dalung was appointed Minister, the system changed and rather than nominate an army of fun seekers who usually go missing at the venue of targeted events, he introduced a rigorous method of selection which, expectedly, reduced to the barest minimum beneficiaries of the scheme. Instead, funds meant for that were subsequently channeled towards allowances and welfare of athletes which in turn, enhanced their performances hence, the achievements of Dalung part of which even Chukwu couldn’t suppress despite his skills and desperation.
Perhaps, hostilities between Dalung and some sportswriters could be traced to this laudable action. I can recall a particular incident during the Rio Olympic Games when I was sitting with the Minister in his hotel and I read a story published by a reputable newspaper that Nigerian footballers were at the moment being thrown out from their hotel in Rio de Janeiro for unpaid bills.
Funnily, the players were never anywhere near Rio de Janeiro throughout the Olympics because all their group matches were played in São Paulo and Manaus. At the end, the fictitious story was traced to a regular beneficiary of the ‘Government Contingent’ scheme who was ousted because he failed Dalung’s quality control.
Having said this, let me speculate the motives of Chukwu using his lengthy document. He alleged the sports industry was enmeshed in crisis since Dalung was appointed. He cited cases of the NFF in which he accused Dalung of presenting himself as a biased umpire “when he twisted both the Jos High Court and Appeal Court rulings to favour Chris Giwa” whom he wanted at the NFF secretariat at all cost.
Besides being personally at nearly all the meetings conducted to resolve the impasse, I refuse to see Dalung as powerful enough to twist both the Jos High Court and the Appeal Court that gave the verdicts that he respectfully relied on to act as he did in the case. Especially being a lawyer, Dalung was in a better position to understand the judgements than a confused sportswriter with a grouse to settle with the administration Dalung is serving for its insistence on having things done the right way.
Apparently Chukwu was not even aware that all the judgements that arrived Dalung’s desk came from the office of the Attorney-General and Minister of Justice complete with an advisory for compliance and, if understanding the limitations of a Minister in a presidential system is too much a burden for Chukwu to understand, appreciate and work with, I will say he has no business experimenting with public enlightenment tools or else he will bequeath enough embarrassment for his kids that may last generations. What’s so difficult about understanding the supremacy of Supreme Court judgements as passed in regard to the NFF impasse?
Chukwu’s next dissatisfaction with Dalung was his (Dalung’s) insistence to democratise sports federations. Dalung had more to gain by maintaining the federations as he inherited them. He could simply sit back and continue being the “Emperor of the Federations” with his legitimate 5 slots per federation. He sacrificed that privilege and asked stakeholders to elect people they trusted to supervise their affairs. Elections were conducted under the freest and fairest atmosphere while winners and losers emerged. Rather than condemn the minister or the process, I expect Chukwu (or anybody at that) to condemn the elections by providing proof(s) of wrongdoings or partiality. Actually Chukwu shot himself on the foot when he wrote:
“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.”
Shouldn’t Chukwu explain how a contender with a mandate from an UNRECOGNIZED (read: illegal) elections qualifies for a mention in this case? The Federal Ministry of Youth & Sports conducted an election that passed all legitimate scrutiny and approvals. Tijjani Umar went to Kano with his circle of friends, organised something he called election and declared himself a winner. Shouldn’t Chukwu feel embarrassed if by chance his children read him publicly arguing to validate this foolishness? I thought even stupidity had standards. I’m wrong!
I think Chukwu’s nonsensical vituperation was a continuation of expression of anger by the Sports Federations Losers saga. I was part of the processes that saw to the success of elections. I was there physically at the National Stadium from screening, voting to declaration. I was a member of the committee that conducted the Tennis Federation elections along with other reputable Nigerians that were nominated from the 36 States of the federation to conduct the elections. Is Chukwu saying he’s more comfortable with the childish election Tijjani conducted than this? Please give me a break!
To prove the correctness of Dalung’s decision to infuse competent and committed hands into the federations, I’m sure Chukwu will agree with me that Sports Federations are no longer the conduit pipes through which public funds are siphoned by unprofessional people who somehow find their ways to the top of the federations from where they play rugby with the fate of able and willing sportsmen and women.
When Dalung inaugurated the boards of the 29 sports federations on 22nd July, 2017, he charged them to take seriously the issue of sports development while advising them to explore other means of funding rather than over reliance on government funding. Since then most of the sporting federations have been organising various championships and have attended series of competitions with little or no funding from the Federal Government. Within the period, Nigeria has hosted the African Wrestling Championships for the first time since inception, hosted the U21 African Volleyball championships, Africa Athletics Championships and hosted an International Para Powerlifting championship. In addition, the handball team qualified for the U18 and 20 men’s world championships, the volleyball U21 team also qualified for the world championships amongst others. The Super Eagles qualified for and played in the Russia 2018 World Cup and have also picked a ticket to the Africa Cup of Nations. What more is Chukwu asking for considering the constraints that under the previous order could make this mere wishful thinking. Shouldn’t we thank Dalung for giving the federations respectable boards that could attract funding from the private sector?
Somehow, the author and his sponsors are so blinded by God knows what to notice how far Dalung has taken both sports and youth development in so short a period within which medals won by Nigerian sportsmen and women are too numerous to count.
Just as much, the democratization of the National Youth Parliament and National youth Council which hitherto were embroiled in leadership conflicts with 6 different presidents holding on to the headship on NYC is a laudable achievement that posterity will record on a different column in Chukwu’s “Dalung’s book of sin”.
Same issue with the Nigeria Boys Scout Association which had over 6 splinter groups and were banned by the international body before Dalung invited all the splinter groups and resolved the impasse with wisdom.
I won’t expect Chukwu to see value in the construction of mini stadia in almost all the 36 states of the country or the Youth empowerment and skills acquisition centers that comes complete with seed money for start up in fishery, farming, piggery, phone repairs, soap making, beads, shoes and bag making, hairdressing etc reactivated by Dalung across the country. Equally, it will make little sense to Chukwu that it was Dalung who resurrected the National Sports Festival after it was dead for 6 years with Edo State set to host the 2020 version of the national event. I thought if nothing, the renovation of National Stadium swimming pool Complex in Lagos which was dilapidated for 20 years is enough to tell Chukwu how competent and determined Dalung is to restore the lost glory of sports in Nigeria.