Why National Sports Federations restructuring by Dalung must not fail

*Return National Sports Commission to complete the reform

From Sadiq Abdullahi

The instability, injustice, and confusion in national sports federations, and by extension, state associations, the lack of democratic norms and continental or international podium success, led to Minister of Sports Solomon Dalung successful sports sector surgery on 13th April, 2017. Complaints and harsh criticisms has trailed Dalung since taking over from Dr. Danagogo about two years ago. But the general mood in the sports sector today cautionary and yet optimistic.

Since the colossal failure of the Nigerian contingent at the 1988 Olympics, the Federal Government realised 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. Former presidents and sports ministers lacked the political, philosophical and spiritual to reform a sector marred in corruption and ineptitude. President Muhammadu Buhari, with his “Change Begin with You” mantra gave Dalung the green light to go ahead with his reform agenda.

Sadiq Abdullahi...former Nigerian tennis prodigy supports Dalung's reform
Sadiq Abdullahi…former Nigerian tennis prodigy supports Dalung’s reform

Minister Dalung’s courageous and strategic move took many people, including his harsh critics, sit-tight and die-hards, by surprise as he unveiled new guidelines for the restructuring of the national sports federations elections, signalling a turning point and a new beginning in the repositioning of the sports sector. This reform effort is unprecedented. Everyone, especially both sports committees in the National Assembly and stakeholders (the new presidents and vice-presidents), the new “breeds” to begin the authentic repositioning of the sports sector.

There will be resistance and hiccups from those impacted by the change. On June 9, 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 new leadership for the respective boards for the next four years. The inauguration slated for July 9, 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.” Samples of the plan especially from one of the aspirants Nduka Odizor published online are encouraging, but need total revision.

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 performed will be sustainable. For example, the need to improve efficiency and good governance, eradicate doping, prevent age

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

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 be committed and must believe that the President Buhari’s vision of using sports for national unity, job creation, and dominance in continental and international competitions is not only realistic, it is achievable.

Minister Dalung, love or hate him, has set the tone and the direction for sports excellence and grassroots sports development. He has provided a new vision, a new structure, a new direction, and a new strategy. It is now up to 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 has laid down regulations and conditions which must be fulfilled, if NSFs wish to access grants and funds from it or from the Corporate Nigeria. This safe guard is necessary and critical.

Challenges: “Team Dalung for Sports Excellence” will face several challenges. The first will be to make a case for the override of the National Sports Commission. A new commission is imminent: National Commission for Sports Development and Improvement (NCSDI) with a concomitant bill is critical to the stability and sustainability of NSFs. 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 to restructure the NCSDI’s staffing to increase sports related positions. The third will be to promote increased transparency and accountability.

The fourth will be 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 will be to institute clear guidelines for online financial reporting across sports related bodies to ensure increased accountability and transparency on the use of public and corporate funds allocated to the NSFs. The sixth will be to enhance the capabilities of state associations and national sports federations. The eight will be to improve coaching capacities at the grassroots and encourage the use of modern training techniques and methods. The seventh will be to develop state associations and national federations capacity to operate as fully independent organizations in terms of funding, competition support and athlete development. The eight will be to seek partnerships with the private sector. The ninth will be to set up the Court of Arbitration for Sports (CAS). The tenth will be to seek the support of ex-internationals in the Diaspora.

To sustain the gains made, the first move will be 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, mission, and efforts will be sustained. A retreat for the new presidents, vice-presidents and secretary will be the natural next step to kick start the implementation phase.

Sadiq Abdullahi is a Nigerian Professor and former national team player, Davis Cup exponent and astute public analysts on matters of sports development

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