Expectations from youth’s minister By Emmanuel Onwubiko

EMMANUEL ONWUBIKO'S COLUMN OPINION

Currently, I am battling to finish with the arduous task of reading some key books I recently bought.

One of such books is the latest copy from Richard Templar who is an award winning author in the Western world.

“The Rules of people” is such a fascinating book from Richard Templar that tells so much about the different attributes of members of the human race. 

An interesting dimension of this easy to dissect book is where the writer factually stated as follows: “Each of us is a unique concoction of our genes, our upbringing, and our experiences. None of these things are things we can change. And together these ingredients make us the extraordinary, unique people we are today”.

The aforementioned evidential affirmation relates exactly to our horizons as Nigerians just as the narratives perfectly lead us to the conversations that this piece has set out to unleash.

It is a fact that Nigerians are a unique type of persons who are enormously gifted in the different fields of human endeavors. 

However, our collective experiences with the species and character of persons who have held different decision and policy making positions in government have shaped a disappointing but graphic picture of a nation in serious need of the crop of leaders that would match words with action. 

We have had too many of our people in top positions at both the national and bi-national levels whose actions whilst in offices have fundamentally departed from the words they uttered to the hearing of all of us.

But it is not exactly in our gene to always be cursed with a set of leaders that would not be bothered doing exactly what they say they will do in the delivery of the mandates of their respective offices.

A couple of days back, President Muhammadu Buhari picked about 43 Nigerians as ministers to form the executive council of the federation. 

The list has eventually turned out as a unique concoction of the good, the bad and the ugly. It is a mixed bag. 

Some persons who have secured top positions as ministers are known to be persons of questionable characters who have skeletons in their cupboards. 

Sadly, there seems to be a total absence of forensic and background checks to make sure that those who are holding these high positions are men and women who have stood the test of time in their previous jobs. Political calculations outweighed the desire for merit, competences and professionalism which ought to have determined those to be made ministers. 

Some of these ministers are known suspects of different fraudulent schemes and some have indeed faced detention by the anti-graft agencies. 

But they are sitting pretty tight as cabinet level ministers. 

So I ask, is it in our gene to reward criminality?

The response to the above poser is the topic for another write up. 

Suffice it to state that our focus today is on what the new sports and youth minister Mr. Sunday Dare ought to do so as to meet up with the expectations of millions of Nigerians who are waiting to see whether it would be just business-as-usual as it were in the last four years which was the first term of the current president who has been returned by Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) for a second and final four year tenure. The last four years saw a minister of Youths and Sports that appeared delusional and completely bereft of what constitute quality service delivery. Right now the person on board on paper, looks like somebody who may have something positive to offer.  

Incidentally, Mr. Sunday Dare is a new wine in a new jug or to put it differently, he is one of those in the current federal cabinet that can be said not to have any known skeletons in his cupboard. To the question if he is a square peg in a square hole, we need to watch out to see how he unfolds his programmes for remaking the Sports and youth sector to regain the pride of place and to project our youngsters as creative and talented members of the human race in an increasingly sophisticated and competitive World. 

Sunday Akin Dare who is 53 is a journalist of Oyo state origin and who is a well-known political son of the national leader of the All Progressives Congress (APC) Mr. Bola Ahmed Tinubu. As governor of Lagos state Mr. Tinubu who groomed Sunday Dare is known to have developed sports to some appreciable levels.  Understandably, this minister of Youths development and Sports started his job on high notes. He has begun by making some significant oral commitments. 

“I am excited to be here today. I thank the president, Muhammadu Buhari for appointing me minister of youths and sports development of our country. The work starts now, so let’s work together as a team”, he charged his staff.

“Youth development is key to the success of any government. We have youths, we have sports. Our mandate area is very clear. We must broaden our horizons, we must deepen the work we do and quality of work we bring to the table”.

“I am not unaware of the challenges, controversies and development in this ministry. It’s a ministry that is dear to the hearts of Nigerians. Beyond sports, there are other ways we can develop the youths. We will be thinking outside the box”, he stressed. 

Mr. Sunday Dare also promised to in his words, take sports out of the back pages of newspapers to front pages with positive news.

The brief statements by the newly sworn in youths and sports minister seem to capture the summation of the thematic mandates of the ministry which are as follows: ·        To empower Nigerian youth to become self-reliant and socially responsible; ·        To provide a sustainable framework for integrated planning and collaboration among stakeholders for the development of policies and programmes, laws and other initiatives that promote and enhance the development of the Nigerian youth and the protection of their interests; ·        To establish a technically efficient institution, equipped with the desired professional manpower, resources, right equipment and well maintained facilities for sports development and participation, and; ·        To develop the sports sector to a world class level where it would provide continuous improvement of quality of life for the entire citizenry to the extent that Nigeria would be recognized as a leading sporting country in the world.

The minister therefore needs to aggressively pursue these goals and in doing so he needs to carry his team in the ministry along and must eschew bitter rivalries, animosities, sycophancy and lack of accountability. He has understandably pledged to partner constructively with the media which ironically is his professional terrain. 

For most Nigerians, the key to success as a minister is elimination of nepotism, corruption, lack of accountability and the operation of the ministry in an opaque fashion. He should be ready to answer questions from Nigerians. He must open up the books for critical scrutiny and be ready to defend his investments in the areas of Youths development and Sports and the people must feel the practical impacts of his duties. 

I must say that first and foremost, the minister of youths development and sports should hit the ground running by reviving the pursuit and discovery of local sports talents through the restoration of a place of glory for school sports in all parts of Nigeria. He should put on board a transparent reward system for excellence and merit to be recorded by the Sporting youngsters in the varies fields of Sports. 

There is the urgency of the now for Mr. Sunday Dare to partner constructively with the ministries of youths and sports in all states of Nigeria and Abuja so there is a national momentum that should drive the re-introduction of series of sporting competitions at the grass roots, zonal and national levels. 

The state legislatures must be told to prioritize sports and youths development even as those who should be involved in the governance of all facets, aspects and segments of sports must be those who are passionate and professionally committed to deliver excellent services for the growth and advancements of local sports which will inevitably manifests in the emergence of national and international sporting talents. 

The minister needs to explore the developments of both field and track sports just as there is the need for the private sector to be actively involved in the running of ports because basically, all around the world, sports have become multibillion dollars business.

The minister should work out the transparent strategy for instilling discipline and sanity in the running of all the agencies and bodies that coordinate the organization of sports in all its ramifications even as there is the need to eliminate the problem of match fixing and poor refereeing which are threatening the future of football at the local levels.

Too much of criminality and fraudulent activities have happened in the administration of soccer in Nigeria. 

It is time for all stakeholders to work towards restoring financial discipline in the running of sports in all aspects so that our sporting talents who are groomed and picked to represent Nigeria at regional or international levels are properly cared for and not treated like orphans.

The sports and youth development minister has promised to look beyond the known routines and to explore other innovative ways of developing the youths. This is a good step. How to do that is for his office to stop the interferences of the central and state governments in the elections into the different youth-led bodies because right now, those heading the National council of youths are mere “house boys” of politicians.

The minister needs to map out strategies for skill and vocational trainings of Nigerian youths so as to engage them in meaningful activities and keep them away from crimes. The ministry should work constructively with all the relevant social protection agencies in both the private and public sectors to fully develop the youths and keep them away from cybercrimes. He is lucky to have a Director General in the National Youths Service Scheme (NYSC) who is a square peg in a square hole going by his public pronouncements and actions. The NYSC is a critical factor in the skills empowerment of Youths and these agenda in the NYSC must be sustained and broadened.  

These are the expectations of most Nigerians. 

Watching the way hundreds of youths embark on risky journeys through the Mediterranean seas to search for greener pastures and to run away from the widespread insecurity in Nigeria, should worry the new minister. 

His job is surely cut out for him. 

There is no time for frivolities, surely. The ball is on his court. 

*Emmanuel Onwubiko heads HUMAN RIGHTS WRITERS ASSOCIATION OF NIGERIA (HURIWA) and blogs @www.emmanuelonwubiko.com,www.huriwa.blogspot.com,www.thenigerianinsidermews.com

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