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Dare To Do! Four Years of Sunday Dare Leading the Charge in Youth and Sports Development

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Every journey a man embarks on, has a destination, which is usually the terminal point of that journey. Long journies, especially in our terrain, are rough, tough and sapping.

As Sunday Dare counts down to the end of his tenure as Nigeria’s minister for Youth and Sports Development, the astute administrator has discharged his duties along this journey with vigour, dedication, guts, finesse, and unquestionable commitment, over the last four years. Dare emerged at a time when sports needed a repositioning, with public and stakeholder confidence at its lowest ebb. Not only was his job cut out, he also faced an uphill task to prove his mettle to critics and silence the dissenting voices in the crowd. There is no gain saying in a terrain such as public service, there will always be discordant voices and cacophonies of opposing views, no matter how impressive the subject of a mission appears.

With the benefit of hindsight, Dare can be said to have successfully silenced the ciritics with the transformations he led in the last four years. The ministry he looked after has always been a tricky one, as more often than not, people forget it combines both sports and youth development. These two areas, however related, are also distinct in their needs, there are not water tight compartments. Usually, the Sports arm of the ministry has always enjoyed patronage and support, while youth development arm has endured neglect.

One of Dare’s cardinal principles upon assumption of office was to resuscitate, reinvigorate and reenergized a key part of the ministry, that holds significance to the future of the country. He committed himself to youth development, empowerment, addressing youth leadership gaps, boosting the creative industry and tech, and other niches where youth thrive and beam the light.

The ministry under Dare’s stewardship initiated the Digital Skill Enterpreneurship Employability Leadership (DEEL), where over 320,000 young Nigerians were trained in 11 different digital skills. These included contemporary skills in robotics, Artificial Intelligence, cybersecurity, coding, etc. Dare had rightfully stated that 65% of Nigeria’s population are people aged 18-35 and thus, this demography represents the strength and future of the country. Hence, fixing this population was as good as fixing the country itself.

Aside the numerous training programmes in leadership and employability, his administration also provided soft loans for MSMEs, SMEs and start ups, under th National Youth Investment Fund, with 75 billion Naira invested to
supprots start ups by youth.

For the first time in a long while, the Youth Department of the ministry became a beehive of activities that were productively geared towards providing young Nigerians with the necessary trainings and platform they needed to thrive. The minister led the review of the National Youth Policy (NYP), which was launched in 2019 and made available via pocketsize and mobile app. Nigeria hosted its first ever National Youth Conference, themed “Youth inclusiveness: Governance, Secrurity and Employment. It had over 800 delegates from the 36 states and the FCT, including over 2 million online participants.

On the flip side of the coin, it is a no brainer that sports have thrived massively under Dare’s reign. With President Muhammadu Buhari declaring that sports must become a business with manifesting dividends in employment, manufacturing and investments, Dare instituted various initiatives and projects to propagate that mandate. Adopt-an-athlete initiative saw over 45 home and foreign based athletes provided funding for training, with over $500,000 invested. The result of this was manifested in Team Nigeria’s unprecedented records of success at the World Youth Championships, African Youth Championships, commonwealth Games, etc.
Adopt-a-Pitch initiative has revived the Moshood Abiola National Stadium, Abuja, Daura Township Stadium, Katsina, with work ongoing at the National Stadium, Surulere, Obafemi Awolowo Stadium, Ibadan, etc.

Various initiatives such as working on the National Sports Commission Bill, Sports Hall of Fame, Talent Hunt Programme, Athlete Welfare Scheme, Student Athlete’s’ Scholarship have all helped sports to thrive.

Sunday Dare presented the National Sports Industry Policy to the president, with sports reclassified as a business, to drive growth in a sustainable ecosystem.

It comes with little surprise, how the country has excelled in various international championships, given the strong foundation laid for success by the minister and his team. It came with little surprise that the Federal Government approved 2.5Billion Naira for the establishment of a National High Performance Centre in Abuja, as this will further bolster sports development in the country.

As this administration gradually winds down, the big question on the lips of stakeholders is, who will fill the gigantic shoes Dare will leave behind? how will the strides and development be sustained? How do we progress and avoid retrogressing? It only takes a meticulous process of appointing someone whose head fits the cap. A tink-tank, who understands what has been done and can strategically maintain and further the good work done in the last four years. Where the pendulum swings, remains to be seen, but as for Sunday Dare, his mark will remain indelible in the history of sports.

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NIGERIA BRIMS WITH HIGH HOPES AT OLYMPICS

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Following a brilliant and acclaimed performance of Team Nigeria at the recently held All African Games, Nigeria and its Sports Administration can raise their heads high to savour the refreshing moment, and thereafter reappraise their modes of operation, and their athletes’ performances, with the view to tightening up any loose ends. A review of their chart or calendar of sporting activities and events do indeed collaborate the fact that this year is actually an eventful year in the world calendar of sports.

Nigeria, actually as all other nations in the Olympic family, is focusing on that global fiesta so as to have an emphatic outing and to secure prominent position on the Medals Table of Honour. In the history of Nigeria’s participation in the Olympics, relay has always been one of the nation’s strongest Medal hopefuls. For the first time in history of relay, the Sports Ministry has five male athletes running 45 sec in 400m and three females running 51 secs. While in 100m, two athletes are running 9.99 secs. That is very interesting and exciting.

However, the relay event is highly technical and very advantageous to the country. It is thus the major reason that athletes are allowed to participate in all relay qualifications, including the World Relays which was held in Bahamas this May 2024, where the representation of Nigeria was very high and hopeful. So far, the Ministry is desiring success with great expectation in other sporting events with training in the academic areas, proper placement of professional staff and restructuring of all areas. Undoubtedly this lofty ambition comes with huge commitment, devotion and huge financial involvement.

The much anticipated 34th edition of African Cup Of Nations ( AFCON) which marked the beginning of 2024 sporting events, brought back the lost confidence of sports loving Nigerians especially football fans whom, among other options in the entertaining industry, would prefer to have a better evening relaxation watching football and the natural gift of nature where boys rule the world with their toes.

The Honorable Minister of Sports Development, Senator John Owan Enoh and the Permanent Secretary, Mrs Watti Tunike might have had some constraints when they assumed duty as the 2023 budget was drawn by their predecessors but in their own wisdom, they are intensifying efforts to ensure that the system is not hampered and the country’s sporting events which have the eyes of the world, are positively nudged forward.

It is a resounding tribute to the Hon. Minister that he doggedly fought for the release of N12 billion that was appropriated to enable the Super Eagles’ participation at the AFCON Games. It could be rightly said that his major concentration during the AFCON fiesta, was to rejuvenate the dwindling interest of football fans to what it used to be, which cut across all strata of the nation, state governments and Presidency not being left out. On that score it was a great success.

Now over to athletics. Unarguably, Nigerian athletes represented the country creditably during the recently concluded 13th African Games held in Ghana. It is on record that Nigerian Athletes dominated the podium performance table especially in athletics. New records were also, broken in men’s events, notably Long Jump, 400m and relays. Our athletes’ meritorious participation made them the best in the performance index in Africa. Twenty one medals, which comprised of eleven Gold, six Silver and four Bronze medals in athletics alone, was historic in that event.

Tobi Amusan successfully defended her 100 meters hurdles title to become the first high Hurdler to win three strong gold medals in the history of the Games. Ese Brume is also, the second woman to defend a long jump title after Modupe Oshikoya. Chidi Okezie was also, an admired figure to win 400 Meters Gold after 37 years when Innocent Egbunike ran a 44.23 seconds in 1987. Chukwuebuka Enekwechi proved his sincerity of purpose as the first Nigerian to retain a shot put Gold medal at the Games. Ruth Usoro refused to be denied a Gold medal as she jumped 13.80 meters in her first appearance at the festival.

While Pamela Obiageri Amaechi collected her own gold medal, Chinecherem Nnamdi made a name for himself as champion for the first time in 29 years, as he set 82.80m national record.
The Nigerian women 4X400m relay team maintained their historic 10th straight gold medal while the men relay team, after 21 years got back their gold medal. Nigeria achieved her best ever performance in 1995 when the team, led by Mary Onyali, won a record of 15 gold medals.

Onyali and her team ended the Games with 32 medals, comprising 15 gold, 9 silver and 8 bronze medals to better the feat achieved in 1987 in Nairobi Kenya where the team of Innocent Egbunike won 14 Gold, 7 Silver, and 6 Bronze medals. The country’s athletics team won 13 gold medals in 1991,1999, and 2003. Team Nigeria topped the medal tables for the 11th time in 13 appearances. Record have it that the team topped the table in 1965, 1978, 1987, 1991, 1999, 2003, 2007, 2011, 2015 and now 2024.

A question that is being stirred presently in the minds of Nigerians is “What is our next stage?” The country’s last best performance and dominance could be said to be in 2015. The country’s strength in field and track events is domineering, especially in relay events, hence the reason the Ministry prepared for the athletes to participate at the World relay events held in the Bahamas in this month of May. All of the world’s athletes desire to participate and qualify for proper representation of their countries and as well to merit a place in the sports Hall of Fame as due credit to their career progression.

The Honorable Minister has maintained his assurances of the country’s readiness for the Olympic Games. Although clothing his actions in cautiousness, he is steady in his observations and delivery, having taught different category of pupils that are technically gifted. Senator Enoh is careful not to misinterprete each individual’s placement but wants to manage every capability of men, including his immediate staff for optimum results.

Athletes should not be expected to be perfect nor to continue to deliver at all times as age naturally takes a toll on them, and every man has his time and season. Stars are born from different locations and have their God given time to excel in life. The two major sporting events just concluded were heavily financially involving but were also, properly managed. In a hallmark of good leadership, both the Minister and his Permanent Secretary were fully on ground to ensure that all logistics, kits, accommodation and allowances of the athletes were duly paid. Nigeria emerged victorious with clean participation in this year’s events.

The Honorable Minister being a withness to the two major events in sports, must obviously be reevaluating and sharpening his plans, along with his formidable managers to x-ray the important areas that need priority in sporting events. Before the African Games, rumors had it that the country’s flag will not fly in Ghana due to WADA’S compliance but the sleepless efforts of the Anti-Doping Department, most importantly the Director in charge Ms Fadeke, who while others were away for the games was fully on ground monitoring and ensuring the compliance of WADA prescription of clean participation. With the sensitivity of the Department and daily supervision of the athletes anti-doping records, it will be necessary and needful to equip the Department with more computer gadgets to upload and save data for reference purposes.

The threshold where the Sports Ministry and its Sports Administration stand now is that of “Great Expectations.” That the new managers of Sport say No to Jamboree, should be seen as a sterling virtue most desired for credible efforts and crystal results. As late Sony Okosun in his rhetorical question asked “where do we go from here? I make bold to say that we are going to the Games to harvest the laurels we have laboured for, to the pride and glory of our nation. Bravo, Team Nigeria.

FELICIA MAMMAH NWOKORIE
PRESS OFFICER
FEDERAL MINISTRY OF SPORTS DEVELOPMENT

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