WE WILL REBUILD TRUST OF CORPORATE BODIES TO INVEST IN SPORT – DALUNG
Minister of Sports and Youth, BARRISTER SOLOMON SEPCAP DALUNGN in this exclusive interview with our reporter NICHOLAS DEKERA of in his office, bares his mind on basic reforms in the ministry, revamping dilapidated sporting facilities and the re-positioning of the whole sports industry to attract corporate participation.
Q. In line with your party manifestoes, what basic reforms can Nigerians look out for in Sports?
Well, every democratic government has a party manifestoes. A party manifestoes is a covenant upon which a party seeks elections and there are promises made to the electorates. When elected they pursue them, and for us in APC, our manifestoes is very clear. The things that we campaign with in Nigeria if elected were war against corruption, haven identified it as a monster that has destroyed every segment of our national life. We also promised to address the question of unemployment; we promised Nigerians that we shall embark upon radical Agricultural reforms and the restructuring of the economy. These were the four things we campaigned with.
So in answering the question what reforms shall I embark on in line with my party manifestoes, of course am going to be guided by the campaign promises we made; that is to say we shall contend with corruption with all sense of sincerity and face it as a national challenge and be sure we minimize it to zero level in the ministry.
As for unemployment, we have so many youths empowerment schemes, we have youth acquisition, we have empowerment programmes, we have training programmes and leadership training. So we are going to ensure that these programmes are pursued practically not as done in the past, so that those selected must also be transparent and fair. We are also going to increase the number of those who are going to be trained, we are going to ensure that the National Youth Development Centers are put in their proper perspective and utilized effectively.
We are going to engage private participation in the maintenance of some of the facilities. We are going to embark on grassroots development of sports as a cardinal focus so that we can have proper face of talents.
In doing this we intend to liaise with the Ministry of Education and ensure that the curriculum is restructured so that our children can grow up with sport right from the Primary School to whatever level especially at eighteen
when their potentials will be needed. The reforms we have here is that we are going to change the ways with which developmental related issues are approached. We are also going to alter the terms and techniques in the ministry so that things can work. I think for us, it is very important, youth development scope needs to be enlarged and the
various training programmes needs to be more realistic instead of reducing them to mere conferences where people are gathered for six or seven days and are given some tokens. We are going to ensure that those who train them must have the capacity to do so that when they settle down the skills they gather are going to be maximized. So that
unemployment is going to be reduced instead of the lip services paid to the issue previously. So these are some of the reforms we have in approach to our manifestoes.
In concrete terms, how do you intend to go about the issue of “YoUWiN’’ or do you intend to restructure it to accommodate more youths?
Well “YoUWiN” and other youth empowerment programmes of the past administration were not domesticated here, they were programmes created and some of them are found in other ministries. So I have not laid hands on any documents linking us with such programmes and in all the briefings I had, You Win was never mentioned at all. But I know just like every Nigerian knows YouWin was housed somewhere in the ministry of finance. So I think if there is a need for reforms in YouWin, the question should be targeted to where it is housed.
What is your take on the role of Sport management, how do you intend to engage private sector participation?
On assumption of office as a minister I discovered that the sport industry is not enjoying a fraternal relationship as it were with corporate governance, and the corporate family in other developed world, democracies and economies are principally funding sport. In fact government has nothing or little role to play except provision of security. But here in Nigeria, government is the major financier of all sporting activities. If government does not bring out money no sporting activity will successful go on, even meetings. If we are calling for meetings of Presidents of the Federation, Government must take responsibility of everything including hotel accommodations and flight tickets before such meetings can take place so it’s that bad.
So, I have decided to consult and mobilize, some prominent investors, consortium investors so that we can come together with practical funding system to Nigeria, and this can be possible if sport management of funds can be trusted. The fear of most corporate world is lack of trust of the various funds invested in sport. We are carefully going to ensure we instill prudent management of these resources from the corporate world, and by doing this we are going to
be rigorous in terms of supervision of these funds and ensuring accountability of how these funds are spent.
I think by so doing, we will be able to build the trust of corporate investors and they will be able to put in their money. So that is ongoing.
We also intend to hold a summit of all stake holders in sport to x-ray and address radically the problems of sport administration in Nigeria. By so doing, we are engaging them, exploiting their experiences and by the grace of God we will certainly achieve this.
What mechanism are you going to put in place for sport veterans apart from the rewarding of 1985 team few days ago?
The athletes are not employees of the government, taking care of them is insinuating a pension scheme for them and pension scheme only exist when you are an employee of government or a particular organization. So what was done by the President was a reception in honor and not a launching of the pension scheme for Veteran sport men.
Secondly, Yes it took 31 years for them to be rewarded, but we want to reinforce the culture and tradition of reward system in our public life, reward system is well entrenched in our National Anthem, so we have simply done that but we did not launch a pension scheme for sport men. Well for those who have not been covered, we have just started. If
it has not been done before and we are just starting it, then we will do it. We are convinced that anybody who has made this country proud, if he is not rewarded today he will be rewarded tomorrow. If it takes 31 years and somebody is rewarded, then the number of years it takes before rewarding anybody will not be an issue now.
How do you intend to restructure most of the dilapidated sporting facilities?
The APC government is just six month so it cannot even be responsible for the decay. So if the media has been asking this kind of question may be the situation would have been different, But I think maybe we were either afraid or we decided to sit on the fence, the public facilities are indeed in very bad stages but we intend to renovate them and put them in use, and in doing this we are going to involve
private partnership who will invest in those places or use funds to renovate them and then commit them to managers so that they do not degenerate into this stage they are now.
So we are definitely going to address the problem of the dilapidated stadia spread round the country. We have started going round to inspect some of them and get managers to man them.
On a lighter note, what is the significance of your uniform?
Well, unfortunately today am not wearing it because Friday is a Holy Day and Saturdays are free days and Sundays are prayer days. So many people have asked this question that what is behind my mode of dressing. Famous the Red Beret is signature, is my signature of struggle for the common people. The Kaki is just a very modest way of appreciating the magnitude of what common people face in this country. I do not fancy dressing outside that, it does not portray our understanding of the problem.
There are people in this country who have difficulty eating one square meal and yet we intimidate and harass them with gorgeously expensive dresses. Some of our dresses can even feed a complete community. That is the worth of it. So I find it difficult to reconcile such an irony, so I have decided to live happily and modestly. But for the Red Beret, it is the signature of those who struggle against injustice, against oppression of the poor, against violence. So the red color represent the blood of the poor people who have been struggling for a better society, so each time you look at
the red beret you remember that some people have shed their blood for the world created by God and others have decided to hijack it against the voiceless majority.
Do you have any further message to the youth?
Yes, we are lucky to have a father figure today who is a leader, very selfless and committed to the growth of the youths. He has so much passion for young people. So if you neglect the youth we should not talk about the future. So with that zeal there is hope for the young people. Today may not be too good but tomorrow is guaranteed because what we are struggling for today is to see that Nigeria is better, even if we did not see it let our children enjoy it. So the only way the youths can appreciate him is to reorient themselves. So for the youth, there is a very great future.