Open Letter To The Minister Of Youth And Sports Barr. Solomon Dalung

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Minister for Youth and Sports, Solomon Dalong
Minister for Youth and Sports, Solomon Dalong

By Fenny J Fwa

Permit me to convey my belated warmest congratulations on your well-deserved appointment as the minister of youth and sports. I’m saying well deserved in every sense of the word because you have been a social activist whose views on the less privileged are well known. Before Boko Haram became monstrous you have always advocated the modified version of former President Olusegun Obasanjo’s O carrot and stick approach, that is that the insurgency can only be conquered through dialogue and persuasion. I also had the rare privilege of traveling by air from Abuja to Yola where we had intensive conversation on the problems bedevilling the nation. I was highly impressed with your passion for this country. It is with these in mind that I’m pretty sure that President Muhammadu Buhari took the right decision in making you a minister of the Federal Republic of Nigeria and capping it with assigning an appropriate portfolio of youth and sports.
I have waited patiently to listen to your template for the this very important assignments bestowed on you, but to no avail. This is further compounded by the scanty policy thrust of APC on youth development as contained in their manifesto. The manifesto simply said it would create 20, 000 jobs per state. For those with SSCE they will participate in technology and vocational training. It will also pay unemployed youth a stipend of N5000 per month.
As far as I’m concerned, the task before you is most daunting and challenging, and therefore requires a lot of mental, human and material resources to accomplish. The gloomy situation is captured thus: 70m of the about 170m population of Nigeria are youth. 80% of the youth is unemployed according to the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN). This population is the energy room of the country and therefore their effective utilisation will bring about monumental economic transformation while failure will bring about all kinds of social vices such as armed robbery, drug addiction and trafficking, kidnapping, militancy, prostitution, cultism, ritual killings and insurgency. All the vices mentioned are heavily imbedded in our social life today and these have aided immensely the socio- economic stagnation we are witnessing today
Sir, it will not be out of place to urge you to work assiduously to address these myriad of problems of the youth. This is why I said your job is most challenging and requires all the brains, the energy and resources you can muster in order to give the youth a new lease of life in particular and the nation at large.
My modest contribution to your job at hand is to request you to work hand in hand with ministry of labour and productivity, which is solely responsible for job creation, to immediately create an agency for youth empowerment programme. Alternatively you will liaise with ministry of labour to revive the National directorate of Employment The agency will be saddled with the responsibility of collating the statistic of all unemployed youth state by state with their qualification and thereafter liaise with job creating ministries such as ministries of works, power, Housing, Agriculture and solid minerals to give these youth appropriate jobs. For instance you can put up a policy that any firm that secures a multi-billion naira contract must employ a minimum of 100 graduates in the relevant fields.
On the issue of the policy of party to pay a stipend of 5,000 to unemployed youth, all hands must be on deck to work out the modalities for its execution. Most importantly, the funding which may involve raising taxes from companies, international donor agencies and of course the sum of N500 billion set aside by the Federal Government for job creation in the proposed 2016 budget. I’m not opposed to paying certain stipend for the unemployed, but I doubt if the money set aside would cater for millions of the unemployed which may run into trillions of naira.
To avoid failure in the execution of the project due to shortage of funds, I humbly submit that the money so earmarked rather than pay stipends which may not reach all should be channelled towards empowering them by giving out loans after analysing their business proposals, which shall be given mostly by buying plants, equipment and materials with minimum amount in cash. Other measures should be pursued to ensure that our youth are gainfully employed to keep them off the street for the avoidance being involved in heinous crimes.
One of the most productive sectors in any national development plan is sports. Sports bring about the physical and mental development of human beings. This informs the reason why developed nations pay a lot of attention to sport development which has contributed to having a productive work force that has performed social, economic and political miracles. It is in this context that I read the APC manifesto from cover to cover to see if there is policy direction for sports but I found none.
Sir, you have not helped matters by keeping mute on the main policy thrust of your ministry as it concerns sports almost two month after being sworn in. Of course you have been emphasising grassroots development of sports. May be when you finish the ongoing facilities tour you will unfold your blueprint on sports development.
Whenever you are ready to unfold your programmes, you may incorporate some of these few suggestions that may assist in fashioning out desirable policies for our sports development.
All hands must be on deck to develop our sports infrastructure to bring them to world standard. National sports festival and school sports must be revived. Training of our sports managers must be top priority. This will enable them impart the requisite knowledge to our sports men and women in order to excel.
Good sports facilities go a long way in improving the performance of our athletes. Consequently I enjoin you to introduce council on sports where all commissioners of sports in the 36 states of the federation will be members. It will be a forum for the formulation of policies on grassroots development of sports.
All states should be encouraged to build Olympic size stadia in their capitals, while the local governments will, in conjunction with state governments, build mini standard stadia in all the local government areas.
The most critical sport that will not only enrich our sports men and women, but contribute to our economic growth is football which has been neglected for long. In this world of maximising your potentials to enrich your country, it has become desirable to harness our partially tapped potentials in football for getting maximum results. Sir, it will interest you to know that despite our in efficient football management, Nigeria is the fifth exporter of footballers with 598 of our footballers plying abroad. We can reach the number of Brazil the highest in the world with 1784. With these number of players, Brazilian players inject billions of dollars into the economy when they repatriate the dollars they make in playing football.
In 2014, Indian workforce abroad sent $70b home, that is three times more than our annual budget of about N4 trillion. Nigeria is not doing badly in that regard as our workforce abroad sent $21b as at 2014. With appropriate measures put in place, our players will add some billions in funds being repatriated abroad.
There is also the substandard nature of our league. From the bad pitches to poor officiating and also poor remuneration of our players, Government cannot raise the standard of our league, but it can create the enabling environment. Consequently Sir, as minister of sports, you can mobilise the private sector to not only own football teams but develop the facilities and pay players handsomely in order to make the league attractive. You must reach out to people like Dangote, Mike Adenuga of Glo, and big conglomerates such as Bua Group, MTN, Airtel and oil companies to come together and invest in our football league that will assure them profits in the long run.
If Egypt and Tunisia in Africa can run profitable leagues who are not as rich as us, I don’t know why ours should be different. The management of our football by nits wits that are not experienced and competent to handle such an important responsibility, and have added to our football woes. These are people are irredeemably corrupt as they have been mismanaging grants released to them by CAF and FIFA. In 2014, FIFA remitted a grant of $12.1m. Honourable Minister sir please examine the books of NFF and find out how they have been utilising the funds allocated to football development.
Honourable minister Sir, one of the most backward and analogue football policy of CAF is organising AFCON in January when major football leagues are in their peak on the pretext that organising the competition in June when must African countries are in the rainy season will affect the performance of the players. How can a body that is there to create solutions to problems will be so dumb and resign to nature?
Sir, you are aware that the 2010 World Cup was hosted by South Africa. Is SA in Europe or on the moon? Don’t European countries play football in winter when there is plenty of rain and snow? The entire North Africa is without a millimetre of rain in June. How do you expect players to play a maximum of 7 matches in 6 weeks and then go to their clubs and play well? This affected Yahya Toure in the 2013/ 2014 season. When he went away, Man City suffered and when he came back he was fatigued and couldn’t play well. This partly contributed to the failure of Man City to defend the league title they won in the previous season. If today AFCON is held, Man City will be without the services of two of their strikers i.e. Bonny and Iheanacho and the club will be left with only Aguero who is prone to injury. Yahya Toure, the engine room of Man City will also be off. Similarly Watford will be without Odion Ighalo who has scored more than half of the goals scored by the club if he plays for Nigeria.
Sir, this policy of CAF is scaring clubs from signing African players, thus depriving our players of legitimate source of livelihood that has changed the economic landscape of Africa ridden by poverty. You can champion the change of this policy at CAF by pushing them to organise AFCON in June just as obtainable on all other continents.
You can do this by reaching out to other ministers of sports in Africa and ex internationals such as Samuel Eto, Didier Drogba, JJ Okocha, Kanu Nkwanko etc to put pressure on CAF to change this policy highlighting the points raised. All that is required is to ensure that the countries that will host future tournament are to ensure that appropriate technology are applied in the respective stadium to drain water from the pitches as a result of heavy rainfall. If such countries don’t have the wherewithal, they can be assisted with money raised in previous competition. After all CAF posted a profit of $4b profit in the 2013 competition.
To cut down financial burden of hosting countries, two countries can core host the tournament. This was done in 2000 when Nigeria and Ghana co-hosted the tournament. Similarly Gabon and Equatorial Guinea co-hosted in 2012. Sir please give this matter the utmost importance it deserves.
Finally Sir, you need a consortium of sports administrators and practitioners to assist you to formulate sports policies and programmes that will assist you in the onerous responsibilities bestowed on you. Few examples of such people suffices. Patrick Ekeji, former Super Eagles player and former Director of sports; Amos Adamu, former sports administrator and CAF Executive, Sani Toro, arguably the best secretary of FA ever produced over the years; Victor Ikpeba, a former Super Eagles player and football commentator; Chioma Ajunwa, Olympic gold medalist in long jump; Segun Odegbami, a prolific goal scorer when he played for the country and football commentator etc.
This is therefore a clarion call on my amiable and patriotic minister to do the needful by putting in place appropriate policies that will transform our youth into a monstrous work force which will bring about quantum leap in the quest for accelerated economic growth. All hands must therefore, be on deck to give our sports a new lease of life with the attendant benefits accruable in such a very productive venture.
Fenny Fwa, Ministry of information, Yola

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