Why Dalung’s national sports reform must succeed

*Surgery is needed to heal the tumour in our sports

From Sadiq Abdullahi

Since the colossal failure of the Nigerian contingent at the 1988 Olympics, the Federal government realized that a tumour was growing in the sports sector and the tumour must be checked. But by the 2016 Olympics, the tumour has grown and a surgery was urgently needed. On 13th April, 2017, Chief Surgeon Minister of Sports Solomon Dalung performed a successful surgery, forcing his critics to applaud his gallant effort with caution.

Solomon Dalung and Engineer Habu Gumel...leading forces against each
Solomon Dalung and Engineer Habu Gumel…leading forces against each

Former Presidents Obasanjo and Jonathan may have lacked the political, philosophical and spiritual will to reform a sector marred in corruption and ineptitude. The current President Mohammed Buhari, with the “Change Begin with You” mantra has found will to turn the sector around.

On 13th June, 2017, the election to the positions federations presidents and vice-president will be conducted in Abuja. The six zonal representatives and the seven or eight stakeholder groups will determine who will provide the leadership for the respective boards for the next four years. The inauguration slated for 9th July, 2017 will begin the implementation of the “manifesto detailing the vision and plan as well as the strategies for the attainment of such plan towards the uplifting and advancement of the sport.”

Dalung’s courageous and strategic move took many people, including his harsh critics, by surprise as he unveiled new guidelines for the national sports federations elections slated for May/June, 2017, signaling a turning point in the history of the sports sector. This action is unprecedented and every effort should be made the new “blood” to begin a genuine sports reform. But the work to reform the sport sector will be long and bumpy. Sports stakeholders and corporate Nigeria should seize the opportunity as they restore confidence in the sector to begin investing in the sector.

Sadiq Abdullahi...pontificates why Solomon Dalung's reform must not fail
Sadiq Abdullahi…pontificates why Solomon Dalung’s reform must not fail

There will be the need to set up a body that would oversee or manage, regulate and provide timely moral and financial assistance to the reformed national sports federations. Several questions, concerns, and considerations have emerged that should be addressed if the surgery of the national sports federations is to be sustained. For example, the need to improve efficiency and good governance, eradicate doping, prevent age manipulation, protect athletes’ rights, provide athletes insurance and welfare, prevent sexual harassment and sexual assaults of male and female athletes, promote professional etiquette, good management of resources, check financial recklessness, encourage transparency and accountability, promote good governance practices in the administration and management of sports at both the national federation and state association levels are benchmarks of good global practices.

If the nation hopes to aspire to become the best sporting nation in Africa, be among the top four sporting nations in the Commonwealth and ultimately rule the world, Team Dalung must believe that the President
Buhari’s vision of using sports for national unity and global sports dominance is not only realistic, it is achievable. Dalung, love or hate him, has set the tone and the direction for sports excellence. He has provided a new vision, a new direction and a new strategy.

The 42 national sports federations presidents and vice-presidents should also seize the opportunity to do good and uphold the ideals of the nation. National Sports Federations (NSFs)will be fully responsible and accountable for the overall management, direction, control, regulation, promotion, development, improvement, and sponsorship. The federal government, particularly the Ministry of Youths and Sports will not interfere in the day-to-day affairs of the NSFs. But the laid down regulations conditions must be fulfilled if NSFs wish to access grants and funds from the federal government or from corporate Nigeria.

Team Dalung will face several challenges. The first is to overturn the scrapping of the National Sports Commission and recommend a new National Commission for Sports Development and Improvement (NCSDI) with a concomitant bill. The main goals of the new bill will be to ensure a more sustainable source of funding, improve fund management, and provide security for national and international athletes. The second will be the restructuring of the NCSDI’s staffing to increase sports related positions. The third will be to promote increased transparency and accountability. The fourth is to work with relevant local and state governments and non-governmental agencies to present an executive bill on the NCSDI act to the state and national assemblies. The fifth is to institute clear guidelines for financial reporting across sports related bodies to ensure increased transparency on the use of funds allocated to the NSFs.

The sixth is to enhance the capabilities of state associations and national sports federations. The eight is to improve coaching capacities at the grassroots and encourage the use of modern training techniques and methods. The seventh is to develop state associations and national federations capacity to operate as fully independent organisations in terms of funding, competition support and athlete development. The eight is to seek partnerships with the   private sector. The ninth is to set up the Court of Arbitration for Sports (CAS).

To sustain the gains made, the first move is for all State Associations and National Sports Federations in collaboration with Commissioners and Directors of Sports to review and discuss pertinent documents such as the State Associations and National Constitutions/Bylaws, the National Sports Policy (2009), the Presidential Retreat Report (2012) and the National Sports Reform Committee’s Recommendations (2016). The review of these documents will ensure that Dalung’s vision and efforts are sustained.

Sadiq Abdullahi is a former Nigerian tennis prodigy. He wrote this piece from America.

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