Nigeria: Former Sports Minister Says Marginalization, Pauperization of the Youth is Cause of Growing Insecurity
Solomon Selcap Dalung, Nigeria's Former Minister of Youth and Sports has blamed political colleagues for insecurity in Nigeria, which he attributes to the government’s failure to invest in the nation’s youthful population.
Mr. Dalung, a former federal minister during the first term of President Muhammdu Buhari, expressed disappointment over what he described as a deliberate and conscious attitude of the political class to marginalize Nigeria’s youth.
The 57-year-old politician, who spoke to Timescape Magazine during the closing ceremony of the just-concluded 20th National Sports Festival tagged “Edo 2020”, said the youth have the potential and talent to turn around Nigeria’s fortune, but added that marginalization of the young and energetic had instead resulted in insecurity.
With the United Nations reporting that 62 per cent of Nigeria’s population is under the age of 25 years, the country has a large number of people that could benefit from investment in sports.
Insecurity in Nigeria is increasingly the number one problem (C) The Guardian Nigeria
The youthful population has, according to Mr. Dalung been undermined by the political class and these young people are no longer agents of change and drivers of societal transformation. He says the youth are instead a source of poverty, alienation, destabilization, and violence, which he blames on the political class.
Among other failures, Mr. Dalung says the political class uses sports, not as a tool for national development, but for conning the youth of their support during elections.
“They (the political class) know that sports is what they can use to get the youth and immediately after they win the election, the youth will be abandoned. This is the attitude of our politicians and it is responsible for the state of insecurity we find ourselves in,” he says, adding that both the federal government and states have failed over the years to give sports premium position as a tool for national development.
Insecurity characterized by, among other things, a spate of kidnappings targeting ordinary people and school children has been blamed by some experts on widespread inequality. The World Bank’s sustainable development goals’ atlas shows that Nigeria is home to 86 million people living below the poverty line. Nigeria, where Africa’s largest population of poor people live, is also home to Aliko Dangote, the continent’s richest man.
Former Nigerian Sports Minister, Solomon Dalung (middle) at the Edo 2020 National Sports Festival in Beni, Edo State recently
To alleviate the inequality, Mr. Dalung says the government should look to sports.
“There is a 10-year-old girl who I was told won three gold medals (at the Edo 2020 sports festival). You can see that the girl has become an instant millionaire. There is no industry that can create a millionaire within a short period of 10 days like sports. So why are we not investing in it?”
Mr. Dalung accuses the Nigerian government of not seeing sports as a critical sector that contributes positively to national development, citing his stint as Sports Minister, when he would have to “…beg for money to host events organized to unite our youth across the nation. In cases where money was provided, it would be too late to achieve the desired result”.
“It would surprise you to know that the Abuja 2018 National Sports Festival which I hosted and revived, I got the approved money for it nine days to the opening ceremony. The question is what could we do within nine days in terms of putting in place infrastructure, logistics and other important things needed for the festival?” He queries.
“We also had similar problems before the last Rio 2016 Olympic Games in Brazil. The press castigated me as if my parents were foreigners, but they did not know what I was going through. You can't believe that not until we went for the Olympics, the government did not release a dime for me. The first tranche of money for the Olympics was paid four days into the Games. I had to borrow 50 million Naira ($131,115) from my friends to camp Team Nigeria,” he says.
The former minister attributes the casual attitude with which Nigerian leaders treat sports to the belief that it is just recreational.
“This attitude explains why the leaders don't care about investing in sports,” he says.
Young people in Nigeria pay the greatest price for the growing insecurity (C) PM News
The belief that sports is recreational also fuels the leaders’ view that it is only necessary when they are having elections.
“This is when they will hurriedly repaint sporting facilities, organize competitions, buy players from abroad and assemble these players to compete against each other. If a trophy is won, then they will celebrate it as an achievement for them to win the election. The youths will be cajoled to trust them that this man believes in youth development,” he regrets.
He explains how the 44 national sports federations in Nigeria could be a source of income for the country could be.
“If these 44 federations are functioning effectively, the percentage of youth that will be engaged will be up to 30 per cent of youth population in Nigeria. It is also going to create wealth more at the disposal of the young people,” he says.
According to Mr. Dalung, the young athletes at the Edo 2020 who win medals could make money, if each medal is rewarded and compensated for by their state governments. With some states paying up to one million Naira ($2,600) for each gold medal won, this would represent a boon for the winners, who would then use the money for expenses such as school tuition or to inject capital into family businesses.