Tinubu and his running Cabinet (3), by Clem Oluwole
Tinubu and his running Cabinet (3), by Clem Oluwole
Besides the Ministry of Information (and National Orientation) which is my primary constituency as a journalist, the other organ of this administration that is of interest to me is the Ministry of Sports. As a trained journalist who cut his teeth with the Kaduna-based New Nigerian Newspapers, I had just spent two years as a general reporter when I was sucked into The Nigeria Standard Newspaper. My mandate was to set up its sports desk. What exposed me to the Standard was my coverage of the 1972 NUGA hosted by the Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria.
The late Dr. Chris Abashiya, who was the Dean, Students Affairs, provided me with accommodation on the main campus and free meal tickets for the duration of the Games. Sports have been part of my life from kidhood. My favourite game was football. Football helped me to get enrolled prematurely in Primary 1 in Kumasi, Ghana, at the age of four instead of six.
Football also got me a promotion to Primary 5 at Bode Ijaiye Baptist Day School in Abeokuta when I was demoted because of my lousy Yoruba when I was brought from Ghana to Nigeria to continue my education. I had left Ghana in Primary 4, heading for Primary 5. But because I could not speak or read in Yoruba, I was asked to repeat Primary 4. I accepted my fate and joined the school’s First XI. After featuring in the annual Alake Football Competition and helping the school to win the cup for the first time, my exploits as a Ghanaian import became the talk-of-the-town.
Many primary schools came for me with a promise to give me double promotion if I could jump ship. When my school got wind of the temptations, it did not quickly slam me with the promotion but also made me the team captain in my final year.
My trajectory in sports is capped with three-time board membership of the Plateau State Sports Council… first in 1975, then in 2018 and I was reappointed from 2021 to 2023.
Heading Tinubu’s Sports Ministry is Senator John Enoh. I have followed the trajectories of successive sports ministers since the late 70s. The forerunner to the ministry was the National Sports Commission (NSC) with the late Isaac Akioye as its pioneer Director-General. A consummate technocrat, Akioye was sucked out of the Department of Physical and Health Education of the then University of Ife, now Obafemi Awolowo University, where he was a Senior Lecturer to establish the new commission.
Nigeria’s sports grew exponentially during Akioye’s tenure that spanned close to eight or so years. He was instrumental to the introduction of the National Sports Festival in 1975 that featured the U-13, Intermediate and Senior categories before age falsification syndrome caught up with the arrangement, leading to the scrapping of the first two categories after the Oluyole ‘79 Fiesta.
Petty politics led to the scrapping of the NSC. Its existence has been at the whims of successive ministers. Following the dismal outing of Nigeria at the 2000 Sydney Olympic Games, the Obasanjo administration set up a body to look into the fiasco. One of its recommendations was the return of the NSC. The commission was scrapped again after the Rio Olympics in 2016 when Solomon Dalung was at the helm.
The commission is the implementation arm of the Sports Ministry. The latter formulated policies for the former to implement. The NSC has been on and off because there is no law supporting its existence in the ministry. The bill to establish the commission is still languishing in the National Assembly till today. This should be Enoh’s priority.
Another priority area is the High-Altitude Training Centre in Kuru, near Jos. The centre is the brainchild of Isaac Akioye. He paid a million naira compensation to the locals and fenced off the site way back in the mid-70s. The centre was to train middle and long distance runners, taking advantage of the salubrious weather suitable for endurance races. I have bombarded successive sports ministers with tons of words on the need to actualise the project. But it seems they were all bombproof! Will Enoh be different?
Enoh actually hit the turf running… in the direction his predecessors had gone immediately upon assuming duties. He has visited some major stadia like the National Stadium, Lagos, and the MKO Abiola Stadium, Abuja, where some of the facilities are in a state of desuetude. The sports sector is a big industry that can take most of our youths off the unemployment market and the devil’s workshop.
The solution to the myriad of problems besetting the sector leading to woeful performances at the international sporting engagements as evidenced by our outings at the 2012 and 2016 Olympics, is to set up a Sports Trust Fund (STF). I have been in the vanguard of the setting up of the STF since 2012 when Nigeria returned from the 2012 London Olympics empty handed. STF would serve our sports the way TETFUND has turned around that sector of our education. In fact, my blueprint on Nigerian sports is currently gathering dust in my library!
Another position of interest is the Ministry of Justice headed by a fellow Kwaran, Lateef Fagbemi (SAN). I am a fierce advocate of the formation of state police. And I am not alone. Prominent Nigerians like the former Military President Ibrahim Babangida, former Governor of Plateau state, Da Jonah Jang, and immediate past Vice President Yemi Osinbajo have been on the same page with me. I think President Bola Ahmed Tinubu is also breathing the same air with me, at least before he got to the Aso Rock Villa. The National Conference set up by former President Goodluck Jonathan in 2014 endorsed my position.
There is no doubt that Nigeria of 200m people is under-secured with one patina of police system. So, there is a dire need for state police that are well-trained, well-paid and well-equipped with state-of-the-art equipment to tackle the massive security challenges bedeviling the country. Those who thought that criminal activities would abate with the coming of the Tinubu administration must be having a rethink. It has been business as usual as far as kidnappers, bandits, insurgents and allied criminals are concerned.
Another area the Attorney-General and Justice Minister should look into is the setting up of special anti-corruption courts. I have been sounding like a broken record over this advocacy since the Goodluck Jonathan era. The special courts will ventilate our regular courts now being asphyxiated by regular cases. Such special courts will also accelerate dispensation of justice in a system that performs like a vehicle without an accelerator. It tends to move at its own pace.
Another critical position is manned by the Minister of Steel Development, Shuaibu Abubakar Audu. First established under the administration of Shehu Shagari, the ministry took charge of the Ajaokuta Steel Complex and its auxiliaries scattered all over the country. The Complex could not reach its potential before it began to nosedive to the nether region. Today, the sprawling complex has become moribund.
Shuaibu Audu is now saddled with an albatross. He must be a miracle worker with a nerve of steel to bring the sector back to life. The sector is the bedrock of Nigeria’s industrial revolution long stalled by leadership failures. This is a difficult wing for the young player to man and he will need all the encouragement and support from his principal to succeed.