From Aaron Artimas
I have never been up to five meters of Barrister Solomon Dalung, the Minister of Youth and Sports let alone enjoy a warm hand shake. But, as a journalist and public affairs analyst in my own humble way, I have diligently followed his impressive political journey especially the way he passionately applied himself to the campaign to ensure social justice and fairness to all Nigerians no matter their status or location.
Accordingly, he was a youth mobiliser, unionist and political activist. Many people may recall that he mounted an aggressive opposition against the erstwhile divisive and ethno-religious regime of Governor David Jang of Plateau State.
Barrister Dalung had also carried the same gusto to the national and international levels through a sustained media advocacy and unexpectedly, he had received awards from some foreign electronic media for this outstanding advocacy.
From the foregoing, Barrister Solomon Dalung, without doubt, is a house-hold name in Nigeria, especially within the country’s political class.
But, these were not the only things which made him thick. Five years down the line, Barrister Dalung had established for himself a reputation as a fearless, independent and dispassionate commentator on national issues especially as they affect his background as a micro-nationalist from the North. At a time when many Northern minority leaders obsessed and paranoid by the wild claim of Hausa-Fulani, cum Islamic domination or marginalisation, Barrister Dalung spoke openly against this notion.
He, infact, was among the first northern Christian leaders to declare total support for President Muhammadu Buhari’s presidential bid, thereby decimating all forms of fear and as well, opening a floodgate of support for the president.
Barrister Dalung took precious space in newspapers, local and foreign electronic media to express his views on the inadequacies or failings of the previous regimes and why Nigeria needed change. As a testimony or appreciation of his patriotic stand on national issues, Barrister Dalung received unprecedented deluge of heroic support from across the country, especially, youths from the core northern states of Nigeria. He became an instant celebrity, role model and rallying point for the youths and other Nigerians, wearied by the timid and paralysing resignation to fate against the background of the so-called socio-religious domination.
With President Buhari’s victory in last year’s General Election, Barrister Dalung’s surging image as an undisputable patriot and detribalised Nigerian made his appointment as minister, a fait accompli, as millions of people took to the social and conventional media to canvass this position.
His eventual appointment as Minister was therefore not unexpected; as it justified not only his huge contribution to the enthronement of the APC administration in the country as well as the reciprocal support and agitation of Nigerians to this effect.
He, Solomon Dalung’s grass to grace story, had been told several times but the kernel of that success is, of course, his indefatigable fighting spirit. Becoming a minister in Nigeria, without a visible godfather only speaks volumes of a surreptitious personal drive for success inspite of all odds. And this is the personality that defines Solomon Dalung, a former university lecturer and local government Chairman.
Upon becoming the minister of Youth and Sports, Barrister Dalung branded himself in revolutionary clothing which he had affectionately ascribed to the martyred Bukinabe revolutionary leader, Thomas Sankara. Beyond the rhetorics of revolutionary ideologue, Sankara symbolises change, resistance against social injustice and corruption.
This has been the quintessential posture of Barrister Dalung, throughout his life and which he has brought to bear in his present disposition as Minister of the Federal Republic. Beyond the schizophrenic perception of anything as fetish just because you don’t understand it, Dalung’s khaki and red beret dress code merely signifies patriotism, hard work and search for social justice.
Based on the foregoing, perhaps, Barrister Dalung has nothing else to prove both, as a believer in Nigeria and his personal thirst to make an impact wherever or whenever he was thrust with a position of responsibility.
Nigeria has often been described as the most difficult country on earth to govern. This will be an understatement, if one were to imagine what the advancement in technology and by extension, the social media or the liberal information dissemination have done to the country. Today, the country is choking in the throes of an irresponsible, indolent and immature social media that has no mission or focus beyond the excitement of free platform to say what they want. And if you add this to a gullible and largely uninformed society, ready to believe anything without any qualms, then the problem can only get worst.
And why not, a country deeply divided along religious and partisan lines is bound to accept anything no matter how untruthful or bizarre as long as it settles with their views against those partisan lines. The country does not care about truth or issues and could therefore throw every available dirt, as long as it dents and diminishes the regime. Tragically, it is within the bounds of opposition.
Today, the government continues to spend precious time or even money responding to mischievous or frivolous information. And this has to be done not only as a duty but also to clear these types of mess because of the grave potential of being mistaken for the truth by responsible members of the society.
A case in point is a piece titled, Solomon Dalung: The mascot and Buhari’s experiment with mediocrity by Emmanuel Ugwu.
As usual, the write up is a mere display of verbosity in a rather pretentious effort to impress his readers with grammar. I am aware that Sahara Reporters often avail hack writers like Ugwu, enough space to showcase their dubious mastery of English, without substance or wisdom as if the ability to write is good reason for such costly mistake.
The problems of Nigeria is beyond grammar. Apart from his insurrectionary style, Ugwu had nothing whatsoever to offer except personal insults and malice, which exposes him as an insidiously aggrieved “wailer”. At least, Ugwu had to admit something, “Solomon Dalung is not a divisive public figure by any stretch of imagination” and “there is shear unanimity of opinion about his utility as Nigeria’s minister of Sports”.
The matter should have ended here. But to engage in a fruitless and pointless search for faults, beats my imagination. Perhaps, the writer wants to lend his voice or play to the gallery of some misguided young people who have turned the social media to an opportunity to vent their grievance against the government.
It is utterly disturbing that seemingly intelligent Nigerians, like Ugwu have willingly brought themselves to this low level of indiscretion.
Communication is a means of persuasion. But, the outright use of abusive language in Emma’s incendiary piece and other viciously concocted or distorted stories is only meant to serve a purpose. Whenever there’s a flurry of rumours, speculation and hearsay about impending cabinet reshuffle, some desperate individuals are bound to throw caution to the wind to position themselves.
No doubt, Dalung arrived at the Ministry of Sports amid high expectations; all may not have been met, but his modest contributions have been immense to say the least. There are obviously many achievements in the sports ministry including football.
Minister Dalung and indeed other ministers need to be placed on public scrutiny to obtain maximum results, but this type of sweeping condemnation is bound to demoralise people who have good intentions for our country.
One sore point in Emma’s write up and misguided criticism of the Sports Minister was the deliberate but highly scandalous disregard of the damning FIFA Financial Audit Report on the alleged misappropriation of over one million dollars FIFA grants by the Nigerian Football Federation just as the Super Falcons allowances saga. FIFA has suspended further grants for football development in Nigeria.
This clearly demonstrates the chicanery of a section of the media obsessed with a dubious campaign of calumny against the Minister for some inexplicable reasons. If the Minister is complicit in any deliberate attempt to rubbish the image of the country the country has enough room to bring him to order.
In the entire write up, Ugwu said nothing about the subsisting bureaucracy in the NFF which should appropriately take the blame for this intriguing absurdity that brought the attendant shame on our nation.
Ministers are not appointed to take over the functions or responsibilities of directors, accountants or even clerks, who are already versed in their respective fields of responsibility. These category staffers are to advice and guide ministers on what to do in every circumstance.
Mr Ugwu wrote as if, all Dalung had to do was draw back his seat, open a safe and pay out the money or alternatively yank out a cheque book and write out cheques for the players. There are laid down administrative policies and procedures in every ministry, department or agency which predates ministers and they are bound by these policy guidelines.
For instance, if a ministry exhausts its yearly allocation, perhaps only the ministry of finance or the direct intervention from the president could save the situation, as we understand in this case. Besides, football is run by the Nigeria Football Federation (NFF); the ministry of sports provides policy guidelines as well as financial grants to ensure maximum success in their operations. Had everyone played his part in this debacle? Ugwu should have told us.
To be sure, every Nigerian is a sports enthusiast especially, football. Nigerians are so versed in football, even a 10 year old can be readily offered professorial seats in every sports institution in the world. But, to suggest that the minister had “no casual flirtation with any known sport prior to nomination” clearly exposes this writer as a hatchet man on a mission to destroy Minister Dalung.
In fact, Ugwu tried to play God by further suggesting that the “president nominated people (ministers) of little accomplishment and scant promises”. Who then qualifies to be appointed as minister in Nigeria? All over the world there are no prepared manuals for ministers beyond the policy thrust of their ministries, as they are expected to work with technocrats in their respective departments.
I am sure these types of people are not lacking in the country’s bureaucracy including the Ministry of Sports. It smacks of ignorance and mischief to target ministers for failure or inadequacies in their ministries while in fact we should be looking at the quality of advice going to these ministers. Nobody is complaining of not being given enough room to showcase their expertise.
Political appointees have to endure this abusive humiliation because of the notion that such appointments are designed to enrich individuals rather than service or sacrifice to the nation.
Excited commentators like Ugwu are defined by this same notion because all they think about is money and nothing else. It is not expedient to waste precious time discussing the state of Nigeria and its trajectory in 2015, before president Buhari took power, however it is important to note that the corruptive rot which existed in every ministry, department and agency is beyond the immediate contemplation of comrade Ugwu and his ilk. Writing hateful and generalised condemnation of this administration or its agents cannot remove the reality of its existence.
Based on what I read and heard of Dalung from far away Taraba state where I live, he is among the very best talents the country has so far discovered and to say anything to the contrary is to expose oneself as being on a paid mission to destroy.
Artimas is a journalist who sent this piece from Jalingo.