National Youth Games: Remembering One Of Solomon Dalung’s Legacies

National Youth Games: Remembering One Of Solomon Dalung’s Legacies

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By Amaechi Agbo

On Saturday, September 7, 2019, Nigerians across the 36 states of the federation including the Federal Capital Territory, FCT started converging at the University of Ilorin, venue of the 5th edition of the National Youth Games, Editor, Amaechi Agbo, writes.

The National Youth Games, NYG, is a creation of the Ministry of Youth and Sports Development, to among other things, promote cultural exchange among young Nigerians, discover sporting talents among the teeming Nigeria children as well as enhance the education attainment of the kids who take part in the annual competition.

There is no gain saying the fact that sport is a capital intensive venture that only a man/woman with undying passion for the love of sports and protection of the future of Nigeria sports can embark on particularly when funding has traditionally remained the bane of sports development in the country.

The immediate past minister of Youth and Sports Development, Barrister Solomon Selcap Dalung had, while in office, consistently bemoaned lack of funding in the most important ministry in the country.

As a visionary leader who came to office with unquenchable zeal to turn around the fortune of Nigeria sports for better, Dalung was not deterred despite facing overwhelmingly monumental challenges financially and administrative bottlenecks in his quest to revive Nigeria sports.

When he assumed office in November 2015, he inherited a ministry with no national outlook in terms of sports – the hitherto National Sports Festival was last held in 2012 and from all indications, it was obvious the road for revival is not one to debate on as more obstacles than hope abound.

More so, the National Youth Games. Nigeria, prior to his appointment as minister, relied heavily on states for athletes for continental and global competitions. There was no reservoir for athletes. Young athletes were allowed to waste away with their talents while Nigeria was performing abysmally at global tournaments.

Determined to change the narratives in Nigeria sports, the barrister-turned politician embarked on extensive consultations with state governments on the need to revamp the two most important sporting activities in the country – the t The National Youth Games, NYG and the National Sports Festival, NSF.

The National Youth Games was introduced in 2013, as a youth development initiative when the National Sports Festival, ‘Nigeria’s Olympic Games’, was held in Lagos in the preceding year.

It was designed to hold annually, but that was only achieved three years after the first edition.

Abandoned for three years, and with a mere budget of N9m in 2016, Barrister Dalung went cap in hand from one State to the other to appeal to State Governors, Community and Church leaders to donate to the revival of the National Youth Games, NYG.

He was determined to stick to the initial plan of hosting the games every year, so he never relented. He traversed the whole states in the federation, seeking and soliciting for financial support which eventually recorded enormous success as the governors heeded his cry and came in to support the NYG.

With a record of over 250 young athletes discovered in the 2016 and 2017 (2nd and 3rd) editions of the National Youth Games and over 300 in the 2018 edition, it is obvious that not hosting the Games for two years was a grave injustice to young Nigeria athletes.

Ever since, the Youth Games has been sustained by the Ministry annually with the benefits plenty. For instance, 17 of the young athletes discovered from the Games represented the Nigeria at the Youth Olympic Games in Argentina where they won 1 gold and 3 silver medals which further confirms Barrister Dalung’s foresight and dogged leadership style.

These 17 athletes now form the core of the new generation athletes emerging from almost all the sports who will do the country proud in international competitions.

Dalung, on leaving office in May this year, lamented the lack of funding in the ministry.

Speaking during his valedictory speech, Dalung said “The 2019 budget has embarrassing figures for allocations for sports. Sports is one of the most capital-intensive programs any government must sacrifice for it.

“In 2016, N9m was appropriated for the National Youth Games while N300m was appropriated for the first edition.

“I had to cap in hand with Dr Are to meet state governors, private sectors to revive the National Youth Games,” he said.

Adding that “If I had not revived the National Youth Games, there would have been deficit in athletes representing Nigeria in competitions because we have exhausted the recycled athletes. Most of our performing athletes are from the National Youth Games of 2016”.

Although Barrister Solomon Dalung’s legacies as former minister of the federal republic of Nigeria who oversaw the Youth and Sports Ministry divides interests understandably naturally, one obvious pact with history nobody can take away from him is the fact that he was the brain behind the revival of the National Youth Games, NYG which remains the engine room of our sports development.

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