Like the biblical saying ‘ a prophet has no honour in his own country’ so also is the case of Sunday Akinlabi Dare. Could it be that he has raised the bar too high and the volume of expectations has skyrocketed to a new high. But one thing that one can’t take away from him is what he has done within the short space of time he has spent in office.
He has set a foundation for the growth of Nigerian sports in just two years, generated more pre-event funding for the country’s contingent than has ever been done before in the history of this country and at the height of a covid-19 pandemic.
The implication was that many athletes across the world had a shortage of fund due to lack of competitions but undeterred by the challenges, Sports Minister Dare did the unthinkable by seeking for fund from the private sector to ensure that members of the Nigerian were prepared for the Tokyo Games.
In spite of this, he was trolled on so many social media platforms because he dared to be different and faced series of criticisms from naysayers and people with ulterior motive.
The detractors had in the middle of the Olympics gone to town to literally cry wolf over Nigeria’s performance especially with disqualification of 10 athletes but beyond all these,the question is,has Dare set a foundation that must be worked for the next all African games and Paris 2024? The answer is yes! Should he throw in the towel because of the criticism over the country’s performance at the games?
Candidly speaking, I don’t think now is the time for that. I think it is time to consolidate on the foundation that has been laid through ‘the adopt-an- athlete programme’ as well as the support for local athletes with grants and most importantly ensuring that the next federation election produces technocrats and business minded individuals who see sports as a business not as means of siphoning public fund or who would prefer to go, cap in hand, begging for funds from government at every opportunity.
Truth is, Sports is a product that must be sold, the sales men must know the rules of the game and how to take the product to the right customer. But this can hardly be done by politicians or government officials.
Dare must be able to navigate this hurdle and ensure that people in power don’t influence the election and to a certain extent, pitching should be encouraged.
This should allow everybody who wants to run for any position in the 36 sports federations to present and defend a blue print of what they want to do and how they hope to achieve it. And this would certainly give the ministry the idea of the kind of people who wants to run for office.
it is too late for Dare to go back now. He must finish what he has started and lay a solid foundation for Nigerian sports to thrive.
Penned by Tolulope Oguntimehin, a sports enthusiast.