One day in August 2016, I happened to be scrolling through my Twitter feed when I spotted something that made my blood boil. Seye Ogunlewe, with whom I once ran in the Garnet House relay team almost 2 decades ago at Atlantic Hall, was on the timeline trying to raise funds. At the time, he was Nigeria’s fastest man and he had qualified for the Rio 2016 Olympics easily. What he had not counted on was Solomon Dalung.
The former sports minister, best known for his thrift shop impression of Thomas Sankara complete with the red beret, was a man who was never particularly in a hurry, even if it would save his life. Such was his lack of urgency that a day after the Olympics commenced, Seye and other Team Nigeria athletes were busily tagging brands in Twitter funding appeals.
Famously, when Samson Siasia took the Nigerian Olympic football team to a training camp in the US and the team needed to catch a connecting flight to Brazil, Dalung said something to the effect of “So how that one take concern me?” To my slightly naive 26-year-old eyes in 2016, I thought Solomon Dalung was the absolute bottom of the barrel and it could never get worse than him. What did I know…
How it should take place
As much as I am tempted to lay liberally into Sunday Dare following Nigeria’s most spectacularly embarrassing outing at the Olympics, this column is actually not about everybody’s current least favourite sports minister. He is merely an explanatory device that I hope to use in illustrating a problem with what Nigeria optimistically refers to as a government.
The problem I am referring to is that of the basic disconnect between what counts as a political win in the classic democratic state and what a political win actually is in Nigeria. In your classic liberal democracy, say the UK for example, the job security and career advancement of someone in the equivalent of Sunday Dare’s job depends on what results he or she produces.
Team Great Britain has just had its most successful Olympics in living memory, with a medal haul surpassing even that of 2012 when London hosted. This means that funding for the sports programs that have delivered these successes will be maintained or increased, and the administrators in charge of these programs are safer in their jobs and more likely to progress.
The administrators may well have got into those jobs based on several factors other than their competence (nepotism and favouritism is part of the human condition), but the key point to note is that merely GETTING the job is not the end of the journey for them. They need to produce results if they want to keep those jobs – however, they got them. If they bomb woefully like Sunday Dare, they will likely never work in public office again.
And the winner is…Sunday Dare
In Nigeria on the other hand, there is no such feedback mechanism. In fact, while a British Sunday Dare would have been asked to resign by the Prime Minister by now, we can be sure that no such thing will ever happen in Aso Rock. Over here, merely getting a job like Dare’s is the end of the road. The entire sum and total of the purpose of public office is to hold public office and enjoy its trappings.
There is no expectation, no evaluation, no KPI review, no threat of job loss, no loss of status, no performance observation mechanism – nothing. Once you make it into Dare’s kind of job, you essentially have 4 years to put your feet up and enjoy the finest delights that Abuja has to offer – haven’t you stressed yourself out and worked so hard just to get here? Who needs more hard work after all that lobbying, brown-nosing, expense and travel?
So, while it is fashionable to think that Sunday Dare has demystified himself with Nigeria’s god-awful Olympic debacle, the truth is rather less attractive – he absolutely does not care, because a good Olympic performance is not within the KPI parameters of his job anyway. He is in office and we are not. All our mockery and criticism is just the words and actions of jealous, hungry and frustrated people who are angry that God has not blessed them like him. Who Olympics epp?
And well, who indeed?