Nigerians interested in sports want the best candidate to lead the ministry when President Bola Tinubu releases his choice of ministers.
There have been requests for the President, who has not yet unveiled his cabinet, to consider the advice of ex-internationals, who may be chosen from Nigerian popular sports like basketball, volleyball, athletics, or any other.
At both the state and federal levels in Nigeria, prestigious sports administrative jobs are frequently given to non-sports aficionados.
Nigeria, however, may take pride in having competent personnel to manage the nation’s sporting activities with ease.
Many fans of sports feel that, with good management, the sports industry in a nation like Nigeria should be able to support itself.
But from the administration of Olusegun Obasanjo to that of Muhammadu Buhari, the sports sector has witnessed mixed fortunes and seen little positive changes.
Nigerians have watched facilities built with billions of naira rot and decay due to a lack of proper management, fueling the belief that the country’s sports sector has yet to reap from the gains of democracy.
For instance, in the Buhari administration, Solomon Dalung and Sunday Dare served as ministers in the Federal Ministry of Sports and Youth Development. While Dalung is a lawyer, lecturer and a politician, Mr. Dare is a journalist [not a sports journalist] and formerly the Executive Commissioner, Stakeholder Management, Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC).
These men might have tried as they could to deliver the best, but analysts believe that it would have been an easier task for them if they were core sports administrators.
“Appointing someone who knows nothing about sports will worsen our problem and even make us lose some of the achievements recorded under the past government,” Victor Baribote, a former Chairman of the Nigerian Premier League, NPL, recently told newsmen.
He said appointing “just anybody” to head the sports ministry would be like employing a carpenter to attend to patients in a hospital.
Wazobia FM’s sports analyst, Abiola Shodiya, said the President should appoint a young Nigerian with good knowledge of sports administration, management and some level of knowledge in politics.
“For me, I think Sports is a big business…I don’t think the President should appoint just anyone, it has to be someone with a sports background. Not just a sports background, it has to be someone who has knowledge of sports,” Shodiya said.
He insisted that it does not necessarily have to be an ex-player, adding that being an ex-international in any of the sports alone is not enough to make a good sports minister since it is an administrative position.
“So, it should be sports professionals,” he maintained.
Explaining further, he said, “There are sports professionals who if you go to the universities you’ll see them. They’ve learnt the theoretical aspect, the practical and the administrative aspects and also have the managerial skills as well.
“I believe that managerial skill is quite important in the business of sports. Also it is good for that person to have some political knowledge as well because there will be a lot of politicking as well.
“But more importantly, it should be someone who has experience in sports management, sports administration. I’ll personally prefer someone who has global knowledge on sports administration and management.
“A person who has taken up courses in sports so that we can really move sports to the next level in Nigeria and move away from all the administrative bureaucracy and dichotomy to create and bring in investments and every other thing… to get the youths involved and create business paths, employment and of course entertainment… Sports alone actually dictate the mood of the country.
“The happiness of Nigerians might be directly connected to some of the things that affect them, such as the price of food, the economy but what gives them the relief is the performance of our athletes at different sports events and they can serve as a succour and the tonic for many people.
“We expect someone young and maybe he wants to split the ministry into two. That also is a good idea because sports is huge. Maybe [we’ll have] a minister of sport and a minister of youth even though they would work concurrently. The Ministry of sports is a huge responsibility which should be taken seriously.”
Also speaking on the subject matter, Andrew Randa, a football analyst who works with the Communication department of the Nigeria Football Federation, NFF, shared a totally different opinion.
Asked if the President should be looking at the direction of ex-internationals in his appointment of a sports minister, Randa said, “absolutely not.”
He said the President should appoint a “Technocrat. Someone who’s been in the system and has connections with the private sector,” adding he does not “trust the ex-internationals” to do the job since most of them “don’t have the reach.
“Sports is business. They can be something else within the system in technical areas but not the administrative part.”