Frenzy Over Sports Minister’s ‘Mis-steps’



Development’ has long been both a watchword and a fascination in sporting circles. Surprisingly some sport officials, policy makers, and advocates often have relatively unsophisticated understandings of development and the role of sport therein.

Interestingly, this seems to reared its ugly head again in a recent meeting between the new sports Minister Sunday Dare and Nigeria Football Federation (NFF) Board led by Amaju Pinnick which came up with what its described as a working Communiqué.

The resolutions contained therein portray a worrying case of mis-steps that can result in ineffectiveness and adverse productivity of the sector. 

Drawing on good information and research on the said meeting held on Friday, September 20, 2019, my social response comes with caution as it gears towards imparting clarity about the office and responsibilities of two key officers in the Nigerian sports sector; the Minister of Sports and Youths Development and NFF President.

I dare to question the approach of the new sports Minister towards the development of sports, but first it is pertinent to ask; ‘Who is a Minister?’ In Nigeria, ministries serve as advisory and implementation bodies for the President, which automatically gives the ministers basic dual roles of supervising the ministries and the bodies under them; as well as advising the President on way forward. A Minister stands as a mediator between the bodies under his/her ministry and the Presidency and never as an activist.

We all know that sport essentially reproduces established social relations, and an interventionist approach, in which sport is intended to contribute to more fundamental change and transformation in the nation’s life. A change that is devoid of corruption and kickbacks, a change that is democratic, centered on due process and transparency. Such a change that the present administration has worked hard to achieve and wants to be remembered for.

The event of Friday, September 20, is still surprising to the sporting community and football loving Nigerians who are afraid that our sports may be drifting backwards due to corruption and administrative instability. That Mr Sunday Dare, the New Minister of Youths and Sports development, held a meeting with NFF Board led by its president, who is currently being investigated by Independent Corrupt Practices and Other Related Offences Commission (ICPC) over fraudulent activities in the NFF under his watch, has raised eyebrows among several sport lovers and Nigerians, eagerly awaiting the outcome of such perceived prankish collaboration.

Given details of the meeting as contained in a Communiqué, it has obviously tried to chart a new direction, reposition domestic league, promote youth development, and ensure efficient management of resources among others.

The resolutions are quite interesting, but a cursory look at them reveals that something creepy is setting into the sector, which some stakeholders consider a threat to sports development. The big question is: ‘Why should we be drifting backwards by embracing inept leadership in the sector centered on greed, corruption and clash of interest?’ The recent meeting and events that surround it shows there is a looming threat to sports development and that sadly, corruption in Nigerian football is enjoying a good hand shake.

Beyond that, it seems the New sport Minister is ether being misled or has settled for options that could easily compromise his office as Minister of Sports and Youths Development.

The government of the day prides itself with fighting corruption, abuse of office and clash of interests, so the recent move is clearly against this dream and aspirations to say the least.

Considering the recent Communiqué signed by the Minister and NFF boss, Pinnick, what stands out are misrepresentations and clear breach of protocol. That both personalities signed the document is very strange. Stakeholders conversant with this action are already asking questions that require prompt answers. Firstly, is the Minister unaware of the administrative processes in the ministry?; Has he abandoned his supervisory role and opted for cheap applauses by a section of sports actors and leaders under him?; and secondly, is he by any chance playing out a script that could help negotiate soft-landing for Mr Pinnick and grant him bailout from the current investigation by ICPC?

Indeed, a lot of questions are begging for answers since the communiqué surfaced and it is important to address the anomaly early to rescue our football from persons who want to personalize it and achieve their wishes always.

The eighth resolution in the communiqué is another issue of concern as it urges Mr President to speedily accent to the NFF bill currently with the National Assembly (NASS). One wonders why the charge for such speedy presidential accent. Is it not suspicious that a sitting NFF President, currently under investigation by ICPC, could be making such demands? And for the Minister to jointly sign a federation communiqué could possibly mean he not in tune with legal counsels on handling such administrative processes  Also, is the Minister not duly informed either by lawyers or the Ministry’s officials on bill endorsement by Mr President and the processes?

One can only urged Minister Dare to be conscious that as a leader, all eyes are on him at all times. He must realise that management and leadership are very essential for professional practice in the sports sector and that he is not any particular Federation’s co-manager but a supervisor of all segments under his watch.

It is also needful to point out that managerial leadership combines management and leadership into a coherent integrated concept. “Managers are people who do things right and leaders are people who do the right things and by virtue of their formal role in the sport organizations, sports administrators are responsible for empowering subordinates to establish and achieve set goals.

A Minister’s role is supervisory and as such, he or she should not engage in any campaign that clearely promotes only one sport to the detriment of others in today’s Nigeria. Staying on the side of his oversight functions, policy implementation and direct reportage to the presidency will do the Nigerian sports family a whole lot of good.

I must say that many are disappointed by the Minister’s singular act of subjecting his office to that of a mere co-director that seems to unconsciously join hands with a Federation’s President to make an appeal to his own office that effectively represents the Presidency.

Management is about coping with complexity and leadership is about coping with changes; both management and leadership are needed for a successful management of processes. For sure, good management skills are required to achieve set goals. The extent of one’s leadership skills will largely dictate the outcomes of actions and relationship with subordinates. Mr Minister Sir, your role is to ensure sports managers and directors do their work well. That way, you will not inadvertently play into the hands of mischief makers, parading themselves as stakeholders in the nation’s sports industry.

On the prevailing corruption case against your co-signatory on the communiqué, Sir, well-meaning sports lovers expected that being new on the scene, you should have made in-depth enquires and sought clarifications on issues before even considering such a meeting with the NFF board.

With Mr Pinnick facing alleged corruption charges by ICPC and over 10 of his property reportedly under lock and key at home and abroad, one expected that as a change agent, the Minister should rather have join hands with the Federal Government to ensure sanity prevails in the sector and Pinnick is cleared by ICPC before getting involved in such a contentious meeting.

Mr Minister Sir, the jointly-signed communiqué is not only suspiciously hasty but absolutely questionable and Nigerians are interested in knowing where our sports are heading with such pathetic dance drama decorating the sector.

–  Magnus Oku writes from Abuja

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