New beginnings with Owanikin and Dare
By Steve Alabi
The appointment of Mr. Dotun Owanikin as the Ondo State Commissioner of Youth and Sports and that of Mr. Sunday Dare as the Minister of Youth and Sports offer the opportunity of new beginnings for sports at both the state and national levels. As they will find out, their actions and inactions will be under constant scrutiny from a demanding public and press. Sports administration cannot be done like any other endeavour. It requires special attention and exceptional dedication, almost bordering on obsession. You cannot administer sports as a matter of routine. You have to be passionate about it, offering it your heart and soul.
For Owanikin, the starting point is the Sunshine Stars FC. He needs to be properly briefed about this most overt sports and money guzzling initiative in our dear state. There is nothing really wrong in pumping money into the club as long as it turns in the desired results and since sports cannot be done on a shoestring budget. But there is something wrong with a club that consumes huge resources without a single success to its name as Sunshine Stars have become under the current management.
The past three seasons have all ended in colossal failures even though the club’s management has largely hoodwinked the people of the state into believing that escape from relegation is a success. It is not and we reject such abominable lowering of the frontier of success for our team and and contrived excuses for the failures. If the only success the club celebrated in three seasons is escape from relegation, the inevitable conclusion is that the management really has no clue about how to cook success. It is bereft of victory ideas.
Unfortunately, failure in Sunshine Stars has the propensity to be contagious simply on account of the fact that it guzzles more money than the rest of the sports. If Owanikin must succeed, he has to take a keen and critical interest in what is going on in the club and the entire Football Development Agency. It is no secret that there is no love lost between the two topmost administrators. It is also well known that there is a disconnect between the management and the players. A house divided against itself, as the sages have wisely asserted, cannot stand. The cracks are too wide open to be ignored.
Owanikin will also do well to assess the capacity of the entire bureaucratic base of sports development to drive success for the state in the short and long terms. Should the Sports Council continue to be without a Governing Board? I do not think so. The newly confirmed General Manager, Mr. Wande Fabuluje was brought from his seat as Director of Sports in the ministry, suggesting that there is a gap in human capital in the Council. There is therefore an urgent need to constitute a Governing Board to provide political leadership and direction for the Council.
Like in the case of Owanikin, the main challenge of the new Sports Minister is football. The NFF is problematic in every respect. The national passion is ailing with the leadership hobbling along with sartorial arrogance amidst unending corruption charges. Not only is the leadership unable to take the national passion to a higher level, it is itself subject of international indignation. Like in Sunshine Stars, the NFF has lowered the barometer of success for the national game. What was once considered dreadful dreaming is now tagged realistic targetting. How can a team of the pedigree of the Super Eagles target semifinals as realistic bar in the African Cup? I reiterate forcefully that it is an affront on our national integrity to lower the standard of success for the Super Eagles or any of the national teams.
The Minister will also need to sweep the entire fabric of sports clean to remove the perennial stains of corruption that keep pulling sports down. Corruption is too pervasive in our sports and constitutes a singular drawback factor for genuine growth. It holds success down and makes it impossible for our ways to be like those of other climes. Our ways remain largely selfish, dubious and pedestrian. Where excellence is required, we deploy mediocrity. Where honesty is required, we find brigandage. Where competence is required, we resort to nepotism.
With Owanikin and Dare, we must find new beginnings. There is rot but the situation is not irredeemable. Our new sports anchors will help themselves and the sector they superintend over if they do a dispassionate overview of what they met on the ground and do not allow themselves to be hoodwinked, misled and misdirected by those who will attempt to protect their interests. It is in their nature to package their interests as national interests. Owanikin and Dare must be on their guard lest they fall. They are warmly welcome. May their tenures be successful.