▪By Afolabi Gambari
The Federal Ministry of Sports has for decades been reputed as the typical old barber’s chair that rotated non-stop and in which many clients revelled in being taken on a roll. Aside from the ministry being somewhat notorious for the largest turnover of ministers who were soon yanked off the office even before settling down to work, candidates for the office were also often seen as those who must be just allocated a ministry ‘to fulfill righteousness’ after other “serious ministries” had been allocated. It is for this particular reason that the sports sector has continued to be seen as a “recreation centre” rather than the pure business that it should be, with the potential to be a big employer of labour.
But the appointment of Mr. Sunday Akin Dare by President Muhammadu Buhari in December 2015 to oversee the Sports Ministry apparently took cognisance of a Game-changer who had excelled as a Journalist, Academic, Political Strategist and Communications Technocrat. Indeed, Dare changed the game. Although he combines overseeing the sports ministry with youth development, his ability to turn around the sports section has sold him across the world as one Nigerian administrator to look out for in the no-distant future.
While efforts have been launched by Dare for an all-inclusive plan to fashion out a modern sports policy for Nigeria, he has since set sail and is making Great Strides. He reached out to sports heroes who had long been forgotten by the country they served meritoriously, restoring their sense of belonging to the admiration of all. Where the heroes were long departed, he reached out also to their loved ones to shower them with love, care and respect. This particular act is unprecedented in the history of sports in Nigeria, leading many to rest assured of more wholesome packages to come as soon as the sports policy is reinvigorated according to his plans. Not since the days of the inimitable sports administrator, the late Isaac Akioye, has any minister been all-encompassing in administering the sector with hands-on expertise on all the sports. Dare has made a huge difference in just five years.
He has not only doused tension in the perennially volatile football department of the Nigerian sports by making vital interventions with verifiable results, but he has also in an unprecedented manner returned the lost sense of belonging to the senior national team Super Eagles demonstrably. Perhaps, this says so much to the fact that the minister was himself an Excellent Footballer who was nicknamed ‘Bonanza’ for his Dexterity on the round leather back in the day in Jos, Plateau State where he was born and grew up. No task has proved too gargantuan for Dare to access, assess and surmount with his Prodigious energy.
For all the foregoing, it would be only a matter of time for recognition to pour in for Dare. On Tuesday this week, he was a guest of Governor Nyesom Wike in Port Harcourt, Rivers State where he commissioned Real Madrid Football Academy established by the Wike administration in conjunction with the iconic Spanish Club aimed at helping Nigerian kids to hone their talent in an academic environment. On Thursday, the sports minister was also in his native Ogbomoso, Oyo State where he was honoured with the traditional title of Agbaakin of Ogbomosoland.
The befitting Honour was bestowed on Dare by the Soun of Ogbomoso, Oba Jimoh Oyedunni Oyewumi Ajagungbade III, for what the Monarch described as the Honouree’s Sterling Qualities which Distinguished Him as a Prominent Son of the Ancient Town.
Within the last five years, Dare has made Giant Strides in and around Ogbomoso, as attested to by many of the indigenes who are beneficiaries of his Courage and Industry. As well as in Youth Empowerment, he has also made a Valuable Imprint in the provision of Infrastructure for Sports Development, as evident in the renovation of Soun Stadium, Ogbomosho and Training of 40 Coaches in different Sports. In addition, he has donated Computer Laptops to the Ladoke Akintola University of Technology, built a Hospital, Sponsored Vocational Training for more than 200 Youngsters in the Community and facilitated a Take-off Grant for the Federal Polytechnic, Ayede, with the Donation of an 18-Seater bus to the School.
As should be expected of a Go-getter that has earned recognition from his community, it is not impossible for Dare to enter the Political fray of Oyo State in the near future, especially having been a Dependable Ally of a Renowned Political Strategist, Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu, over the years. However, that can only remain a Conjecture until he declares his Intention. At any rate, His Hands are full at the moment working hard to consolidate on his Remarkable Feats in the Nation’s Sports and Youth Development Ministry.
By Afolabi Gambari , A Social Commentator writes from Lagos