Side Kick

Who replaces Dalung as Sports Minister?


After what seemed like an endless wait, President Muhammadu Buhari this week forwarded a 43-man list of his ministerial nominees to the National Assembly for screening and confirmation.
On the list were 12 former ministers, who served during the first tenure of Mr President.
Noticeably one of the former ministers that will not be retuning is ex-Sports Minister, Solomon Dalung.
Until Buhari released his ministerial nominees’ list, many of us thought the former Sports Minister, Solomon Dalung was quite close to Mr President given his last assignment as the leader of Presidential delegation to the recently concluded 2019 African Nations Cup in Egypt, alas we were wrong.
Perhaps, the President may head read wide range of complaint from Nigerians who bemoaned the approaches of Dalung.
Judging by the omission of the former Sports Minister, it is apparent that Mr President knows that despite our ethnic and religious difference, sports remains the unifying factor for Nigerians. Nigerians are highly passionate about sports and our President may be seriously considering repositioning sports in his second and final lap of administration.
With Dalung missing out of the list, President Buhari must have pencilled down a name to rejuvenate the sports sector and take our sports to the next level according to his campaign slogan.
Looking at the President’s 43-man ministerial nominees, there is hardly any sports personality or one with thorough sporting background on the list.
This time, we are likely to have another politician heading the Sports Ministry than a technocrat.
However, looking at the ling list, we may already have inkling on the likely successor of Dalung in the next cabinet.
For me, one of Babatunde Raji Fashola, Rotimi Chibuike Amaechi and Godswill Akpabio will take over sports portfolio in the impending cabinet of Mr President. The trio have a number of things in common; Aside being members of the ruling APC, they are all former governors who all spent two terms in office. While Fashola succeeded the APC national leader, Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu as Lagos State governor, Amaechi took over the baton of leadership in Rivers State from Peter Odili while Akpabio also served in same capacity in Akwa Ibom State.
Interestingly, the trio took so much interest in sports while in office as governor.
As governor of Lagos, Fashola built quite a number of sporting facilities in the Centre of Excellence most notably the Teslim Balogun Stadium, Surulere.
He also hosted and sponsored our national teams and athletes ahead of major competitions. Chiefly among competitions hosted by Lagos under Fashola’s tenure is the largely successful National Sports Festival at the Teslim Balogun Stadium.
Fashola, who is a die-hard supporter of Manchester United at a time, invited the club’s legendary defender, Rio Ferdinand to Lagos and he was honoured with the title of; Fiwagboye of Lagos. The former Power Works and Housing minister after leaving office as governor has remained in contact with several sports personalities across the country.
If given the portfolio of the Sports Minister, Fashola is likely to record more success in office than Dalung who was more of a controversial figure during his term in office. Fashola, a trained lawyer is unlikely to return to his former portfolio as I foresee President Buhari handing over that brief to Ogbeni Rauf Aregbesola, given his professional calling (Engineer). Also, not in favour of Fashola’s return to the PWH Ministry is the alleged clamour by Buhari’s kinsmen (Northerners) that such juicy portfolio should be zoned to their region.
For Amaechi, at a time Nigeria was struggling to qualify for the 2010 World Cup in South Africa, he was made the Chairman of the Presidential Task Force under the administration of Goodluck Ebele Jonathan. The former Rivers State governor and his team raised huge sum of money to fund the Super Eagles campaign and also motivated the team with his presence each time they were preparing for a match. Like Fashola, while in office as governor, Amaechi almost turned the Adokiye Amaesimaka Stadium, Port Harcourt to the permanent home of the Super Eagles.
On his part, Akpabio invested heavily on one of the highly rated stadia in Africa – the Nest of Champions (now Godswill Akpabio Stadium) in Uyo. The Eagles played quite a number of matches at the facility recording success most times.
Akpabio, as governor and even senator led government functionaries to watch and cheer our senior national team and other national teams to victory.
If Akpabio is considered for the portfolio, he is not likely to need any tutor or special training as the former governor has shown his undying commitment to sports over the years.

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