Like they say, “how time flies!” It is already three years since Sunday Dare’s emergence as Nigeria’s Minister for Youth and Sports Development. Three years ago, the Minister was saddled with the dual responsibility of taking care of the sports sector, just as the vigour of the youthful population.
In three years, Sunday Dare has led from the front, in facilitating sports development at all levels and catalyzing Nigeria to record-breaking feats in sports.
Just a number of weeks ago, Nigeria posted its best ever performance in the history of the Commonwealth Games in Birmingham. Team Nigeria won 12 Gold, 9 Silver and 14 Bronze Medals. In the run up to the Games, Sunday Dare reiterated on numerous occasions the need for Nigerian athletes to compete and deliver podium performances and not just make up the numbers. This was achieved, as a scientific process was initiated by the minister to focus on sports where the country had comparative advantage.
Moreso, at the 2020 Olympic Games in Tokyo, Nigeria broke a 13-year record with its Silver and Bronze Medal win, while also winning four Gold, one silver and seven Bronze medals at the Paralympic Games.
As part of the mechanism put in place to bring the best out of Nigerian athletes, the Minister initiated the Adopt-an-Athlete Programme, which has provided grants for over 45 athletes from corporate bodies and individuals. Athletes such as Oluwatobiloba Amusan, Ese Brume etc have benefitted from the initiative while the National Basketball teams enjoyed $5000,000 grants.
Another programme, this time, to rejuvenate sports infrastructures in the country is the Adopt-a-Facility initiative to rejuvenate and reinvigorate sports infrastructures in the country. This programme led to the revamping of the Moshood Abiola National Stadium, which has now been approved by both FIFA and CAF. Since its reopening, the facility in has hosted the Senior National Men’s and Women’s Team (Super Eagles and Super Falcons), the Flying Eagles (U-20 Boys), Falconets (U-20 Girls), The Golden Eaglets (U-17 Boys), as well as The Flamingoes (U-17 Girls). Other facilities such as the National Stadium, Surulere, Daura Township Stadium, Liberty Stadium, Ibadan are also benefitting from the scheme.
The National Principal’s Cup has unearthed almost a generation of super stars for the country but it went into comatose for 25 years. Sunday Dare’s grassroots development drive led to the revival of the Principal’s Cup in 2021, encompassing different Sports for schools from all geo-political zones of the country.
Furthermore, in a bid to make sports lucrative and profitable, Sunday Dare pushed for the reclassification of sports as a business. This has been approved by the Federal Executive Council. The minister has continually refined Nigeria’s sporting balance, signing MoUs with Spain, Turkey, Portugal et al, to comparatively juxtapose Nigerian sports with the most refined on the international space.
The National Sports Festival, the National Youth Games, Talent Hunt Programmes are a few amongst many other programmes changing the narrative for Nigerian grassroots sports development, which has enjoyed unwaivering attention and support from the minister, as a result of his unbridled commitment for development.
Welfare of athletes has also remained a top priority for Sunday Dare, since the inception of his tenure. Through the Athletes’ Welfare Scheme, athletes renumeration for medal winners climbed to an unprecedented 300%.
Living no strand of doubt, it has been three years of a progressive trajectory for sports in the country. Football at the grassroot level has thrived in many ways with tangible successes recorded (the last of which were recorded at the WAFU B junior championships).
With even more reforms set to be finalized, one can only raise a thumb, perhaps two thumbs to a quintessential leader, who has laid down the gauntlet and has passionately pursued success in his sector. Cheers to more success, Nigeria.