BY VICTOR IROELE.
Martin Luther King once remarked: ‘The greatest measure of a man is not where he stands in moments of comfort and convenience, but where he stands in moments of controversy.’
I am not one given to controversy, but in life, there are things you may not completely avoid and there are times, you also need to rise above human consideration of your convictions, so long as you are at peace with your creator.
The Honourable Minister of Youth and Sports Development, Barrister Solomon Selcap Dalung was born on 26th September, 1964 in Sabon Gida in Langtang South Local Government of Plateau State.
He went to Local Education Authority Primary School Sabon Gida from 1971 to 1977, before proceeding to Government College Keffi, currently in Nasarawa State.
He studied law at the University of Jos from 1991 to 2000. He attended the Nigeria Law School, Bwari, Abuja in 2000 and was called to Bar in 2001.
In 1982, he joined the Nigeria Prisons Service and rose to Assistant Prisons Inspector before retiring in December 2004.
After being called to the Bar in 2001, he became Personal Assistant to late sage, Solomon Lar, when he was appointed Adviser Emeritus to former President, Olusegun Obasanjo.
His love to continually serve humanity and impact the society led him back to the University of Jos in 2004 as a lecturer before acquiring his Masters Degree in Law in 2007.
His public service took him to Langtang South Local Government as Chairman between 2007 and 2008, and Plateau State Deputy Chairman and later Chairman of the Association of Local Government Chairmen of Nigeria (ALGON).
Someone, who knows the Sports Minister from his days at University of Jos, Chinedum Ohanusi, Head of Sports, Kapital FM, Abuja, said Dalung did not start activism today, but even in our school days, was a regular face in student unionism, ‘an aluta extra-ordinaire’.
Activism or radicalism runs in his family dating back to his great grand-father. He is a self styled crusader for social justice and equity.
He is a member and leader in “Muryar Talaka” – loosely translated “Voice For The Voiceless.” Sometime in 2013, he said: “My great ambition in life is to be a Tarok leader and nothing else.”
By this statement, one can deduce that Dalung is not given to vaulting ambition, but a modest man, contented with probably, only, leading his people to better life and giving them a voice, in a society that consistently ensures the drowning of the voices of the voiceless.
This pain has been taken to lay the background of Solomon Dalung and probably draw a little inference as to his driving force.
Having given this background, now let us dig into the matter – Dalung and the rest of us.
He was appointed Minister of the Federal Republic on November 12, 2015 alongside 35 others, after almost seven months of searching by President Muhammadu Buhari before constituting his executive council. Many of the ministerial appointees were strangers in their assigned portfolios, including Solomon Dalung.
Is there any difference between Babatunde Fashola in Power, Works and Housing, Chibuike Amechi in Transport, Audu Ogbe in Agriculture, Adamu Adamu in Education, Adebayo Shittu in Communications, Senator Udoma Udoma in Budget and National Planning, Lai Mohammed in Information and Solomon Dalung?
My argument has always been that the hood does not make the monk. Most of us, who single out Dalung for execution, have anchored it on presumed poor performance in his assigned ministry, even when we all know Sports and Youth Development, is least of the problems of every successive government since 1999.
Attention to sports is mostly limited to when there is any major championship like the World Cup, Olympic Games, Commonwealth Games or All Africa Games.
The youth come to national focus or consciousness, mostly, the year preceding national elections or election year. Thanks to President Buhari, who signed the Not Too Young To Run Bill into law, signposting a presumed consideration and attempt at mainstreaming the youth in our national discourse and development.
Before now , we had seen political parties appoint persons in over 50s and even in their 60s as Youth Leaders.
If we think sports falls into priority area in any successive government in Nigeria, then, tell me the budget of sports compared to other ministries listed above, and juxtapose their performances with that of sports.
The budget of sports is the departmental or even unit budgets of some MDAs, yet everyone trumpet sports as the only unifying factor in Nigeria.
The initial budget proposal for Sports in 2018 appropriation was N16.2billion representing 1.4 percent of the initial N8.612 trillion national budget.
Was this figure increased after the budget shot to over N9 trillion, the answer is NO, yet that is how important Sports and Youth Ministry is to the government.
Of this sum, 95 percent will account for recurrent expenditure, while a paltry five percent will be used to fund its capital projects.
This arrangement falls short of the government’s policy of 70:30 for recurrent and capital expenditure respectively.
Against this background, do we argue how successful we expect the ministry to function?
Let us now look at some of the ministers mentioned above. How much did they receive as budgetary allocation over the years, and their performance?
How do we rate Fashola’s performance in Power, Works, and Housing? Excellent, I guess, yet Nigerians are still lamenting the terribly state of power every day, or is it the good roads that now litter everywhere, may be the bridging of the 17 million housing deficit of Fashola’s magic?
What makes him different from Dalung, yet this is a critical sector? Education Minister, Adamu Adamu is an Accountant, can we say in all honesty that our education system is better today than he met it?
If yes, why do we still have more Nigerians travelling abroad to study, even courses that are replete in all universities in the country, and further depleting our little forex? How he is different from Dalung, yet this is a critical sector.?
Audu Ogbe, Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development, are we today self sufficient in terms of food or has the bar been raised beyond where Akinwumi Adesina left it before picking up the African Development Bank job?
What of Lai Mohammed in Information? How much of believability does he command when he speaks, despite his years of romance with the media before coming on board as Minister of Information?
The Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Abubakar Malami, SAN, is a lawyer.
What you can refer to as a square peg in a square hole, but, I guess, that is where it ends. The series of judicial embarrassments that the government has suffered, one would think, a stranger in the profession is advising the government.
The latest, on national security and national interest being higher than rule of law, is a good case, and the Nigeria Bar Association has replied in a way that signals how happy they are with the quality of his service.
This is to buttress the argument that the hood does not make the monk. Let me spare others vis-à-vis their academic backgrounds and performances in their assigned portfolios.
Having delineated the performance of other ministers, and how Nigerians rate them, I guess, the agreement will be they have all performed excellently?
If that is the case then, why do many still argue that the All Progressives Congress led government has failed Nigerians and should not be given a second term mandate?
But if we, however, reason along the same wave length that they have not performed well, why then single Dalung for the guillotine?
If we measure performance by measurable parameters, one can argue that Dalung towers above the ministers listed. For the sake of argument, which minister in critical sectors listed above has had less controversy than Dalung?
Is it that the narrative suits the narrators that only Dalung has failed and should be sacked, while others have excelled and should be retained?
Has it anything to do with where Dalung comes from, Plateau State, who have had the unfortunate, or fortunate luck of being chosen as where the Minister of Sports comes from for quite some time now?
In case you need a reminder, like Damishi Sango Like Ishaya Mark Aku like Solomon Dalung, all were victims of terrible media murder.
One thing we must, however, take is the fact that a man must stand up to something or die for nothing.
Ishaya Mark Aku, may his soul rest in peace, took up the reform of the Nigeria Football Association, with all manner of verbal assault and defamation.
But he stood his ground because of his conviction that it should not be business as usual. Solomon Dalung, has chosen to stand for the rule of law, because of his conviction that our democracy is anchored on the rule of law and above all, a constitutional matter, irrespective of whose ox is gored.
There are those, who choose to sit on the fence in moments of controversy not to offend anyone and sound like saints.
In the contrast, are those, who choose to take a stand based on principle or conviction. As Apostle Paul admonished us in the Holy Writ, let us be people of conviction not of conformity.
Many in our society prefer to be people of conformity, flow with the bandwagon, even if it violates their conscience and human reasoning, so long as it makes them smell of a good deodorant from Paris or Venice.
Ironically, both Aku and Dalung had opportunities to play the ethnic card, but chose to wear the robe of nationalist, but painfully, we still force the garb of ethnic warlords on them.
Aku had an opportunity to appoint a Plateau man as NFA Secretary General then, under Decree 101, but chose to reform and reposition it. Dalung, in like manner, had an opportunity to throw his weight behind Ambassador Chris Giwa, when the Federal High Court gave him judgment in 2016 as the legally recognised NFF President, but he insisted that Amaju Pinnick has the right to appeal.
Then everybody hailed him as Solomon of our time, but when the case has been proven beyond all reasonable doubt that Giwa has a case and rightly recognised by the court, which the Supreme Court affirmed, Dalung stood firmly on the side of the constitution, and suddenly he became partisan.
I have deliberately chosen to avoid talking about the sports federation elections for obvious reasons, but before someone points to it as his disaster in sports, I am forced to say for the first time openly, while still insisting not being a Dalung apologist, which you can confirm from his Special Assistant, Nneka Ikem-Anibeze.
The federation elections were fixed for Abuja on a fixed date. The decision to hold one of the elections, Basketball, in Kano earlier than others, for me, was a wrong step.
Tijani Umar has done well, I have personally told him that, and still believes, he could have won, even in Abuja. Football has so much vested interests, and any attempt at touching it, is like walking the path where even angels dread to walk.
Then comes the point, a man must stand up for something or die for nothing. Your greatest measure is not where you stand in moments of comfort and convenience, but where you stand in moments of controversy.
Dalung has withstood all the insults, abuse, verbal assault, defamation, character assassination and blackmail for standing by the rule of law, and even at the risk of losing his job in a country where people can sacrifice friendships of years, even blood relationships, just to hold on to power.
I have critical looked at the whole gamut of criticisms against Dalung, while not saying he has not made one or two mistakes like any other human, I make bold to say the man has been unfairly criticised and demonised.
I have also come to the conclusion that his audacity and convictions convict many of their lack of convictions and principle in life. Let him, who has no sin, has made no mistakes, cast the first stone. This is my take, and last comment on Dalung this, Dalung that. God help Nigeria.