As President Muhammadu Buhari’s tenure as Nigeria’s President enters its home stretch, assessments are being made of his administration. There are many things he could have done better and there are some he did right. One of the things he clearly did right was appoint Sunday Dare as Minister of Sports and Youth Development. The youth of a nation is very important to its development and so beyond just sports, whoever was assigned to oversee youth development had to have his head screwed on properly and also be innovative and disruptive of the status quo.
Sunday Dare is one of the star performers in President Buhari’s cabinet but is also one of the most unheralded locally. His acclaim resounds in the circles that matter across the globe and many seek to tap from the treasure trove of his wisdom and experience. On two separate occasions, he has been invited to address the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) on Social Business, Youth and Technology. The most recent occasion which was this past September, he spoke on “Social Business Towards a Sustainable Revival of Post-COVID-19 Economy”. His words left no doubts about his high intelligence quotient and awareness of the challenges the world is facing.
Those who thought that a journalist wouldn’t be a good fit for the ministerial portfolio that Sunday Dare was given but they have since recognized that they were wrong. The man is no upstart. He holds a Bachelor of Science Degree in International Studies, Second Class Upper from Ahmadu Bello University Zaria and Masters in International Law with a Distinction from the University of Jos, Plateau State. Sunday Dare has at different times been an Oxford University, United Kingdom Research Fellow; Harvard Nieman Journalism Fellow; and New York University Freedom Forum Fellow.
The Honourable Minister’s intelligence and leadership abilities are not limited to just the youth. He is proving to be a voice of reason and a unifying factor in his political party’s matters in his home state, Oyo. The All Progressives Congress (APC) is facing internal squabbling across Nigeria as members jostle for positions ahead of the coming general election cycle and Oyo State has been heated up recently following a hotly disputed state party congress. He called for calm assured that the national leadership of the party would make the right decision on the matter, saying the different parts of Oyo APC forged the unity required by all. His statesman-like demeanour and wisdom is helping to maintain the peace in Oyo State, known in the past for do-or-die politics to the extent that it was tagged the “Wild Wild West”. Such is Sunday Dare’s impact that there are increasing calls for him to contest for the governorship of Oyo State in the next election. He has however not let the praise-singing get to his head and he insists that he remains focused on his current assignment at federal level. That level of focus is uncommon in this clime and is commendable.
Perhaps the most noticeable feature of his humility, in a move uncharacteristic of the typical Nigerian public office holders, Sunday Dare publicly took responsibility for certain lapses by officials that brought the country some shame at the Tokyo Olympics. His letter to that effect is itself a magnum opus in the dying art of a leader taking responsibility in unpalatable situations.
It said in part:
“As the Minister I must bear some institutional responsibility for this lapse. I also had to depend and expect that each person in the long and often technical chain will perform their role expeditiously and with precision. Unfortunately, somewhere along the line someone failed in their responsibility and as Minister I bear the responsibility and brunt of criticism. But that is not enough. I must move to ensure that Nigeria never experiences another such moment. I have ordered a full investigation that will not only uncover what happened, but will also, recommend a process where such lapses can never occur in the future and initiate leveraging compliance monitoring technology to guardrail this. I have personally apologized to the affected athletes. Here and now, I personally apologize to all Nigerians for this ineligibility episode.”
The accolades for exceptional service and stewardship are likely to continue pouring in for the Honourable Minister of Sports and Youth Development as many more Nigerians begin to see and appreciate the fruits of his diligent labour. The New Telegraph Newspaper a few days ago awarded him its Innovations Man of the Year. Some months back, the Association of National Olympic Committees of Africa awarded him the Highest Order of Sports Administrators in Africa for his immense contributions to the growth of the Olympic Africa and sports development in Nigeria. Prior to that, he was bestowed with the traditional title of Agbaakin of Ogbomosoland in the town of his nativity, Ogbomoso, Oyo State. It is the hope of many that even as he serves out the rest of his term as Minister with the Buhari administration, he will continue to shine his brilliant light in Nigeria’s service at the highest level. Nigeria desperately needs it.