Rowing and Canoeing is definitely not a popular sport in Nigeria, but at the just concluded 12th African Games in Rabat, Morocco, Nigeria won gold medals in the event, same for Gymnastics and Badminton, which are considered lesser sports in Nigeria.
Nigeria’s new Minister of Youth and Sports, Mr Sunday Dare was at the Bou Regreg River arena in Rabat to inspire the Canoeing team to four gold medals in his first foreign assignment.
Nigeria is always the undisputed giant of Africa in Sports but has since been overtaken by the likes of Egypt and South Africa due to administrative ineptitude.
Dare who assumed office on Aug. 21 as Nigeria’s 35th minister of Youth and Sports since Nigeria’s Independence in 1960, immediately made it clear that it’s not going to be business as usual.
He also emphasised that he was not going to be minister of football but give adequate attention to the so called lesser sports.
Prior to his appointment, Dare, the ninth person from the south-western region of the country to occupy the office of number one sports person in the country, has never held an administrative position in sports.
However, no one can question the choice of the 53-year-old in terms of his educational background as well as his involvement and achievements in the media and communications sector.
In fact, President of the Senate Ahmad Lawan eulogised his crisp delivery during his screening, maintaining he was one of the shining lights that could fast track the transition to the next level in whatever portfolio he will be assigned.
Affirming his readiness on assumption of duty, Dare said “I think we are going to see a total reorientation in sports.
“We will settle down, have conversations when necessary, some will be crucial and some will be confrontational but eventually we will come up with plans that will work for our country, youth and our sports development.
The Ogbomoso-born veteran journalist acknowledges the enormous responsibility he is saddled with and that he is aware that the ministry stands on two legs which are youth development and sports development.
“We are going to have necessary conversation and engagement with all stakeholders when necessary to be able to empower not just the youth but also to develop sports to bring it at par with the global 21st Century sport.
“So, we go to work from today and it can be done because we have the resources, we have the personnel and we have the expertise,’’ he says.
Dare is a well-decorated professional with many awards and recognition, identified as one of the 50 Leading Nigerians in North America.
He won Voice of America Meritorious Honor Award; and he is a member of the International Committee to Protect Journalists Citation in New York.
However, Nigeria’s chequered Sports scene takes more than being intelligent to succeed; it takes a potpourri of thinking out of the box, planning, coordination, teamwork, funding and flawless execution to paddle onshore.
It will take the youthful minister the tenacity of a rugby player, accuracy of a shooter, swag of a basketball MVP, quick thinker of a scrabble genius and team work of a football team to make head way in the task ahead.
The Crown Football Club of Ogbomosho ambassador has however dared to take the bull by the horn with the dexterity of a matador in a Spanish-styled bull fight.
He has pledged to sanitise and take Sports to the next level in line with international best practice.
“The work starts now, so let’s get ready, let’s roll up our sleeves and let’s work together as a team.
“We must broaden our horizons, we must deepen the work we do and quality of work we bring to the table.
“I’m not unaware of the challenges, controversies and development in this ministry. It’s a ministry that is dear to the hearts of Nigerians.
“Beyond sports, there are other ways we can develop the youths. We will be thinking outside the box.
“We will also find a way of taking sports out of the back pages to front pages with positive news.
The minister has also emphasised the need to rehabilitate and maintain the major stadia across the country begging for attention while beaming the search light on grassroots sports development.
Sports enthusiasts, nonetheless, observes that sport administration in Nigeria needs someone who is grounded and can think outside the box in gliding and skiing off the slippery slopes and rocky challenges in the sector.
Stakeholders in the sports sector, including his immediate predecessor, Solomon Dalung, have lauded his appointment as a breath of fresh air capable of giving the desired oxygen to sports in Nigeria.
They, however, note that the next four years will tell whether or not the new minister can weather the scorching sporting heatwave.