By Eric Elezuo
Much as Nigerians believe that majority of President Muhammadu Buhari’s ministers during his first four years in office performed way below average, the president still went ahead to retain about 18 of them while dropping 13 others.
However, among the dropped, there are a few whom Nigerians will give anything to see their backs in national limelight and discourse. One of such is the former Minister of Sports and Youth Development, Mr. Solomon Dalung.
Solomon Dalung was made the Minister of Youth and Sports by President Buhari in 2015. He had previously served in the Nigerian Prisons Service, the University of Jos as a lecturer and as Chairman of Langtang South Local Government Area in Plateau State. It must be noted that none of these qualities reflected in his actions and administrative policies while he remained minister.
His tenure was characterised by untold controversies ranging from misrepresentations, shallow knowledge of facts, and to top it all, was blighted at the end by allegations levelled by the International Association of Athletics Federations that the ministry under his watch failed to refund $130,000 mistakenly paid to Nigeria. He is still to make the refund till date.
Dalung was one minister, who when he speaks, Nigerians wondered if he was privileged to acquire formal education at all.
The former minister was quoted on many occasions for statements that are far below his calling. Recall that when the Super Falcons protested over bonus, Dalung said they were never expected to win the trophy.
“Don’t forget that nobody even knew the team would emerge victorious, if we were confident they will emerge victorious, all the Federation would have done is to plan for process of participation and entitlement,” he was quoted.
Again, he made Nigerians believe that the World Cup, as highly rated as it is, was a sheer waste of time participating.
“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.”
When the Nigerian Paralympics gave a superlative performance during an outing, Dalung hinted that, “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.”
While fielding questions from newsmen about the Dalung got many people furious when he referred to Nigeria as the ‘United States of Nigeria.’
Nigerians would not forget in a hurry when our dear former Sports Minister said, “Our U-23 team is suffering in the United States of Nigeria.” That was when the Dream Team couldn’t fly out to Rio for the Olympic Games. In the same instance, he denied knowledge of the Dream Team’s wellbeing in USA.
In his words, “The issue of our U23 National team suffering in the United States of America is news to me. In fact I am hearing it from you (the media) for the first time.”
The man didn’t stop there, he fueled the fire of his ignorance by adding “They (Nigeria U23) didn’t tell us what they were there for and who took them there. It doesn’t mean that if somebody goes to the market and has problem then you will come and ask the ministry. The question is who took them there? And what are they there for?
“Because they are U23 national team, they went to the US and they are having problems, does that become our business? When they were traveling to the US, from your information, were you told that we were informed? Before you (the media) asked us to account for something you should know whether we are aware of it.”
Unconcerned about the threat to throw the Olympic Eagles out of their hostel in Atlanta, he said: “If they are throwing them out of the hotel then they should meet who took them there.
“They were supposed to be given a letter approving they are traveling from the minister’s office. Then if they ask me, I will tell you that I approved it and this is the reason.”
Again, Solomon Dalung created more drama, denying knowledge of the appointment of super eagles coach, Gernot Rohr.
“I am not aware we have a new coach,” he announced.
It is unimaginable how a football federation would take such step without the consent of the sport minister.
Once, he posted pictures from a football match he attended at an IDP camp on his Facebook post, and referred to the state he went to as ‘Gongola State’. Which was created in 1976 and ceased to exist in August 1991 when Taraba and Adamawa States were created from it.
“I attended a football match between Internally Displaced Persons IDPs of Gongola State and footballers from the Diplomatic Community yesterday to mark the United Nations International Day of Sports for Peace and Development….”
Well, needless to mention the ‘spended’ episode when he said ‘the money spended was well well spended’.
With those and many more, it is not likely that Nigerians will miss the khaki and red beret wearing former Minister of Sports.