There is a video of the Minister of Sports, Solomon Dalung, cross-legged and smiling, in front of a member of Nigeria’s U-20 women’s team, called the Falconets. The player, on her knees, is seen to be counting a wad of money.
There have been arguments for and against this scene. In this age of social media, the video has since gone viral and has become a fulcrum for those who accuse the minister of gross incompetence and believe he is the worst thing that has happened to Nigerian sports.
But to whom much is given, much is also expected, which is why an explanation of the scene in the context of the country called Nigeria is needed.
We can make two assumptions: one, the minister was there in his capacity as a Nigerian citizen, occupying a temporary office as assigned by the President. Two, the Falconets are in the Austria training camp as representatives of the country to a FIFA World Cup, also occupying a temporary office as [indirectly] assigned by the President.
Now, what makes the difference is that while one has direct access, the other (Falconets) has indirect access. While one sits and meets with the President, the other often gets conveyed messages.
But there is also the cultural aspect that a journalist, Nnamdi Okosieme alluded to on Facebook. “Dalung is old enough to be that young lady’s father and if she decided to kneel before him, I see nothing wrong there.
“She chose to see him first as a father/elder before seeing him as a public official. She probably felt it would be disrespectful sitting down in front of him and counting the money.”
Hold on, before you draw out the swords and guns.
Edafe Matthew Eseoghene, writing under @ELEGBETE1 on Twitter believes the blame should be squarely on the embattled Nigeria Football Federation president [NFF], Amaju Pinnick, for having abandoned the team.
“Hi @PinnickAmaju, how is it possible that the falconets of Nigeria were in camp since May 10 under your watch played six games, won them all and they were not paid a dime. They have to kneel before Dalung for a mere $5k, as much as I want to blame Dalung eh, Amaju na only Eagles?”
As much as one may be displeased with the Minister’s activities in the sporting scene since he was appointed about three years ago, there seems to be a correlation with what’s gone wrong with Nigeria.
The NFF as an organisation should continue to function irrespective of the state of the president, whether embattled, diseased or otherwise.
The organs have their duties, and there are secretaries, tasked with the day-to-day running of the Secretariat.
Why then would the Minister of Sports have to junket to Austria to dole out $5,000? In this age of money transfers, why did he need to fly [accompanied by aides definitely] to go bail out a Nigerian team, in camp in Europe?
It is possibly because proper processes are not in place and Nigerian politicians continue to play this card. Without their presence, without their signatures – nothing works a culture that engenders sycophancy.
Back to the kneeling incident
Even if the player was respectful of the white hairs and age of Mr Dalung, couldn’t the minister have told her to get up? If the money had been sent to the different accounts of the U-20 team, would they have had to kneel before the ATM machine whilst collecting it?
Why the public show of giving money – couldn’t that have been handed to the captain in private and told to share accordingly?
Perhaps Mr Dalung did not trust that any of his aides would have delivered the $5,000 safely to the team, which is why he had to fly to Austria and then rush back to kick open the poorly-organised 2018 Confederation of African Athletics competition, taking place in Asaba.
When we get our priorities right, we will know and the world would be the better for it. You can come to your own conclusions after watching the video, which a colleague described with these words: “Something seems not quite right? The confusing smile, Bartimeus leg shake? The team captain’s Syrophoenician kneeling?”
I leave you to draw your own conclusions!