Time moves so fast with tons of achievements that it seemed like yesterday when President Mohammadu Buhari appointed Mr Sunday Akin Dare as Honourable Minister of Youth and Sports Development.
Since assuming the reins, Dare has moved with the speed of light by changing the dynamics of the Ministry that is often perceived as not only poorly funded, but problematic.
Mr. Dare’s renewed vigor and desire to succeed where others had failed, innovation and urgency where others had stagnated, have changed so many wrong perceptions about Federal Ministry of Youth and Sports Development.
Dare, hit the ground running by dusting up his rich contact-base to begin the processes of restoring the confidence of the private sector with a Public Private Partnership (PPP) to bring about a revival of the moribund Youth and Sports sector.
Despite all the hiccups, the last one year has seen fundamental changes in the Youth and Sports development sectors.
The Adopt Campaign has received widespread public commendation with a well-designed programme; with the objectives of restoring, re-invigorating and restoring sporting infrastructure to their lost glory, while elevating sports to deliver economic benefits to the youth and generality of Nigerians. The innovative initiative would ensure podium performances by our athletes. For the first time ever, athletes are being adopted by individuals, corporate bodies and state governments by providing them with direct funding for the Olympics.
The Adopt-a-Pitch initiative has seen to the near completion of the Daura Township Stadium through the support of Chief Adebutu Kesington; work has commenced on the football pitch of the Moshood Abiola National Stadium, Abuja through the support of Alhaji Aliko Dangote, the Ahmadu Bello Stadium, Kaduna will be wearing a new look courtesy of the intervention of the Kaduna State Governor Mallam Nasir El-Rufai.
A task force has begun work at the National Stadium, Surulere, in a bid to return the stadium back to its original masterplan ahead of the concessioning process.
In addition, the Minister has secured assurances from a philanthropist who is to rehabilitate some facilities at the stadium. The Obafemi Awolowo Stadium, Ibadan is set for a facelift as well.
Perhaps the greatest impact is the repositioning of sports from mere recreation to business. This would open limitless opportunities in Public Private Partnership, infrastructural development, merchandising, sponsorship, television rights, marketing, branding, content and ultimately better welfare for the athletes.
In the last one year, Dare has restored confidence into the sector with the midwifing of the Sports Industry Policy which would bring fundamental changes in the sports sector. Dare has given impetus to the welfare of athletes. During the Covid-19 lockdown, he distributed welfare packages to athletes and youth, assisted the mothers of late players like Rashidi Yekini, Samuel Okwaraji, Ali Jeje and quarter miler Sunday Bada.
He had earlier paid for the surgery of female basketball player Nkem Akaraiwe, picked part of the hospital bills of former Green Eagles player Kadiri Ikhana who went through surgery. He also extended the same gesture to ailing former Super Eagles defender Sunday Eboigbe and boxer Jerry Okorodudu. The minister paid for the mouth surgery of table tennis legend Funke Oshinaike. He had also lent support to youngsters boxing sensations Sekinat and Sultan Adekoya under the Adopt-an-Athlete initiative.
Dare has also made giant strides with the resuscitation of the Principal’s Cup, Headmaster’s Cup, and the introduction of the Unity Cup. The otherwise forgotten long distance races in Pankshin and Mambila Plateau are set for revival and with it, hope for a resurgence in Nigeria’s performance in this event.
The revival of the moribund Hall of Fame will not only create an enduring legacy but inspire the younger generation to emulate past sporting heroes. The establishment of the Outdoor Hall of Fame is not only symbolic, but an enduring legacy to immortalize Nigeria’s sporting legends.
The berthing of the Sports Industry Policy would bring fundamental changes to the sports development in Nigeria with its attendant impact on the national economy.