Dalung and ministers Buhari ‘spended’ 8 months to search for

Dalung and Ministers Buhari ‘Spended’ 8 Months to Search for

By Azuka Onwuka

Minister of Sports, Solomon Dalung
Minister of Sports, Solomon Dalung

If Channels TV did not show the videotape of the Minister of Youth and Sports, Mr Solomon Dalung, telling the  House of Representatives  Committee on Sports that “the funds spended were properly spended,” anybody alleging that a Nigerian minister made such a statement would be accused of concocting a malicious story against a minister. Dalung is said to have a university degree in law, a postgraduate degree, and worked briefly as a lecturer.

Before those who love to hide behind a finger start reminding us that English is not our mother tongue, please, in what language was he taught in primary school and secondary school? In what language did he sit for the examinations set by the West African Examinations Council and the Joint Admissions and Matriculation Board by which he was offered an admission into the university? In what language was he taught at the university for four or five years? And in what language was he taught at the Nigerian Law School and assessed before being certified to be called to the Bar? Sure, it was not in Tarok, Hausa or Igbo.

There is also the argument put forward by some that what Dalung said was “expended,” but his accent made it sound like “spended.” That spin is just for those who love to defend the indefensible. No matter one’s accent, “expended” and “spended” have three and two syllables respectively and do not sound alike when pronounced. Dalung was very clear in the video.

Beyond this shocking display of lack of rudimentary grammatical knowledge by Dalung, he has been making statements that are embarrassing for both the administration of President Muhammadu Buhari and the nation. Recently, he said that the reason the female national football team, the Super Falcons, that won the African Women Championship for the eighth time, was not paid their allowances was because the sports ministry did not envisage that the team would win the championship. Even though the team went into the competition as the defending champions, Dalung told State House correspondents at the Presidential Villa, Abuja, two weeks ago: “Don’t forget that nobody even knew the team would emerge victorious. If we were confident they will emerge victorious, all the (Nigerian Football) Federation would have done is to plan for process of participation and entitlement.” .The nation was faced with the embarrassment of the footballers demonstrating in Abuja for many days.

In spite of the importance of the World Cup and Nigeria’s performance at it, Dalung said that Nigeria’s participation at the World Cup is a waste of time: “That competition stinks of corruption. Nigeria is too poor to waste money on it… The cup that we can win is the African Cup of Nations. There is nothing again that will take us to another man’s balcony in the name of the World Cup. We already have the Commonwealth Games and the Olympics. For these, we can attend such meets. But I am opposed to the World Cup. We don’t agree to it. Conspiracy in the World Cup is too much.”

Also, it was under his watch that the U-23 football team was stranded in the United States of America for many days before the Olympics. And when he wanted to talk about it he said: “Our U-23 team is suffering in the United States of Nigeria.” If some pardon that as a slip of tongue, Dalung wrote on his Facebook account in April that he visited “Gongola State” in 2016, a state that ceased to exist in 1991: “I attended a football match between Internally Displaced Persons of Gongola State and footballers from the Diplomatic Community yesterday to mark the United Nations International Day of Sports for Peace and Development…” Gongola State was split into Adamawa State and Taraba State 25 years ago.

Nigeria had a poor performance at the 2016 Olympics, chiefly because of poor preparation and support for sports, but had a great outing at the Paralympics.  Speaking on the performance of the Paralympians, Dalung said that athletes did not need preparation to win medals at the Olympics: “The disabled athletes have shown that all you need is a winning mentality and not too much preparation. They trained under the same condition with their able-bodied counterparts but they are winning medals now.”

The thought process of the minister makes one wonder how he was chosen as the minister of youths and sports. He had no record of sports management. So, how was he chosen, after six months of searching, by the President, in a country of exceptionally gifted people with deep knowledge and understanding of sports and management? Just like most of the other ministers and aides appointed by Buhari, Dalung is a square peg in a round hole. He makes news because he is manning a ministry that is always in the news.

In addition to the six months Buhari spent from his inauguration date of May 29, 2015 before appointing his ministers, he also spent the whole of April and May as the President-elect. Those two months were enough for him to appoint his ministers and other key aides. When Nigerians complained that it was taking too long to make these critical appointments, they were told that the President was taking his time to choose the best. Even till today, Buhari has not made some appointments.

No matter the shortcomings of past presidents like Chief Olusegun Obasanjo, Alhaji Umaru Yar’Adua and Dr Goodluck Jonathan, some of the highlights of their tenures came from the quality of people they appointed. They were the leaders who brought these names to the fore: Prof Dora Akunyili, Dr Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, Mallam Nuhu Ribadu, Mallam Nasiru el-Rufai, Prof Chukwuma Soludo, Mallam Lamido Sanusi, Dr Oby Ezekwesili, Prof Attahiru Jega, Dr Akinwumi Adesina, Mr Mike Onolomemen. Which names are emerging under Buhari?

Even the bright names in Buhari’s administration have been rendered ineffective by the strange portfolios he assigned to them. A medical doctor like Dr Chris Ngige seems lost as the Minister of Labour. Mr Babatunde Fashola that was at ease as the Governor of Lagos State seems like a fish out of water in the power, works and housing ministry. Even though Fashola said as a governor that within six months a serious government should be able to provide the nation with electricity, one year after being in office, he has not made the power supply better. It was the same scenario that played out when Obasanjo appointed Chief Bola Ige the Minister of Power and Steel in 1999. Ige, an intelligent lawyer, promised to get water out of rock. But soon, he found out that a monkey is exceptional in the jungle, but not in the desert. Obasanjo had to move him to the Ministry of Justice within eight months. Conversely, the difference Prof Barth Nnaji and Prof Chinedu Nebo recorded in the power ministry showed that they were on familiar terrain.

Akunyili, a first class pharmacist, shone like a million stars when she was appointed the Director-General of the National Agency for Food and Drug Administration and Control by Obasanjo. But when Yar’Adua made her the Minister of Information in 2007 because she always spoke passionately, it seemed as if it was not the same Akunyili. Okonjo-Iweala was smart to resign within two months after Obasanjo moved her from Finance Ministry to Foreign Affairs in 2006.

Ministers and heads of agencies give a lot of mileage to a president. Buhari is not giving himself any noticeable mileage. He has the opportunity to achieve such through those he appoints. But he has not done good appointments. He should stop waiting for anything or assuming that his aides will change. To make a mark in 2017, he needs to change many of them now, swap roles for many and think only of appointing exceptional people who will add value to his administration and to the nation.

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