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Saturday, June 22, 2024

Emmanuel Onwubiko: As Senator John Enoh emerges sports minister

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President Bola Ahmed Tinubu has selected men and women from amongst Nigerians who will become members of his federal cabinet to help pilot the affairs of Nigeria under his historical leadership.

As a President with the iconic mantra of renewed hope, Nigerians are in very high expectations that the men and women that the President has chosen in the exercise of his constitutional authority, will be those who would be devoted and dedicated to the manifestos of both the President which he preached during his campaign and the blueprint for the rapid development of Nigeria as articulated by his political party- All Progressives Congress (APC).

Reactions have trailed the selection of these persons some of whom are technocrats, politicians and statesmen and patriotic Nigerians. Some observers have expressed some reservations on the competences of some of these persons so appointed as Ministers designates.

But in a world of ever-evolving complexities, leadership becomes an art of transcending boundaries and excelling in diverse fields. Such is the narrative of Senator John Owan Enoh, a distinguished figure whose contributions to community development, youth empowerment, and his passion for sports have carved an indelible mark on the landscape of Nigeria’s social and political discourse.

Born on June 4, 1966, at the mesmerizing Agbokim Waterfalls in Etung Local Government Area of Cross River State, Senator Enoh’s journey through life has been one of unwavering dedication and commitment.

His educational voyage started at St. Gregory’s Primary School in Agbokim Waterfalls, where the foundations of his intellectual prowess were laid. This early exposure to education ignited a thirst for knowledge and excellence that would guide him throughout his life.

Following his primary education, Senator Enoh continued his academic pursuit at St. Augustine’s Seminary in Ezzamgbo, Ebonyi State, where he honed his critical thinking and leadership skills. His time at the seminary nurtured qualities that would later define his political career: integrity, empathy, and a commitment to service. It was during these formative years that the seeds of community development and Youth empowerment were sown within him.

Senator Enoh’s academic journey culminated at the University of Calabar, where he earned a Bachelor’s degree in Sociology (Second Class Upper) and a Master’s degree in Demography. These achievements showcased his dedication to academic excellence and the pursuit of knowledge, qualities that would serve him well in his subsequent endeavors.

From academia, he transitioned into the corridors of politics, a realm where his impact has been profound. Serving as a member of the Cross River State House of Assembly, the House of Representatives, and the National Assembly, Senator Enoh’s political trajectory underscores his dedication to serving his constituents and advancing the interests of the nation. His leadership roles within these chambers, such as Minority Leader and Chairman of various committees, demonstrate his strategic acumen and ability to navigate complex issues.

Amid his political engagements, Senator Enoh remained deeply committed to community development. His agricultural initiatives, ranging from arable and livestock production on numerous farms to his Foundation’s work in supporting individuals living with diabetes, showcase his diverse approach to addressing societal challenges. This blend of political prowess and community-oriented projects echoes his holistic approach to improving lives.

However, one aspect of Senator Enoh’s multifaceted character that stands out prominently is his fervor for sports. His involvement in sports-related matters has been an intrinsic part of his journey. Far from the skepticism expressed by some quarters, his passion for sports is undeniable.

From promoting youth participation in sports to advocating for infrastructural development and robust human capital investment, his vision for the sports sector transcends his political journey. Contrary to cynicism, Senator Enoh has been a constant advocate for the upliftment of sports in Nigeria.

It is not surprising, then, that his appointment as the Minister of Sports Development by President Bola Tinubu is a reflection of his long-standing dedication to this realm. The decision to separate the Ministry of Sports Development from Youth underlines the significance of focusing on sports as an independent sector. This is a strategic move that showcases President Tinubu’s recognition of the need for specialized attention to sports development.

Debunking the cynicism surrounding Senator Enoh’s appointment requires a broader perspective on the qualities that make an effective sports minister. However, it is worth noting that many sports ministers in Nigeria have hailed from various backgrounds, with a shared love and passion for sports. In fact, a deep understanding of sports management, coupled with effective policy implementation, is often more critical than a purely athletic background.

A big point to note is that Sports enthusiasts and administrators in most advanced societies and jurisdictions all over the World are not known to have retired from professional sports. I will cite the example of the members of the Royal family of Great Britain who are naturally bestowed with the authority to head the progressive drive made by the different sporting federations in their jurisdictions.

The Duke of Cambridge holds a number of patronages and associations which reflect his sporting passions and celebrate the very best of British sporting traditions.

In 2014, The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge accepted Honorary Life Membership of the Marylebone Cricket Club (also known as Lords), of which The Prince of Wales is also a member.

With his brother Prince Harry, The Duke of Cambridge shares a passion for Rugby and is Vice-Royal patron of the Welsh Rugby Union since 2006, and also became Patron of the Welsh Rugby Charitable Trust in 2012.

In 2006 The Duke of Cambridge, a keen Aston Villa fan, also became President of The Football Association, and has regularly attended both FA Cup finals and England games.

Within this role, he has supported the provision of world class facilities for our national team, and opened The St Georges Park national Football Centre in 2012 together with his wife The Duchess of Cambridge. This Prince follows Football passionately and has provided great motivation for many of the National teams that participate in global sporting fiestas.

Recently, Prince William shared a heartfelt message to the Matildas, just minutes after their World Cup campaign came to a tragic end.

Fans and players were seen in tears at Stadium Australia on Wednesday night as the Matildas folded to England after a phenomenal performance.

Though Aussies went wild for skipper Sam Kerr, who ignited the match with a stunning long range goal in the second half, England’s Lionesses came back with a brutal 3-1 win.

England’s players may have been blasted by pundits for their alleged “dirty tactics”, but the Prince of Wales had nothing but kind words for the winning team.

“What a phenomenal performance from the Lionesses — on to the final!” William wrote to the official Prince and Princess of Wales Twitter account after the tense semi-final came to a close.
“Commiserations to the Matildas, you’ve played brilliantly and been fantastic co-hosts of this World Cup. W”
King Charles was also full of praise for both teams.

“My wife and I join all our family in sending the mighty Lionesses our warmest congratulations on reaching the final of the World Cup, and in sharing our very best wishes for Sunday’s match,” he said.

“While your victory may have cost the magnificent Matildas their chance for the greatest prize in the game, both teams have been an inspiration on and off the pitch – and, for that, both nations are united in pride, admiration and respect.” This is the quintessential Prince and heir apparent to the Brutish throne. Nigeria git her political independence from Great Britain as it were.

Again, it is essential to recognize that the role of a Sports Minister does not solely hinge on a background in professional sports. Many successful sports ministers globally have come from diverse backgrounds but have exhibited an ardent passion for sports and a clear vision for its growth.

Senator Enoh’s commitment to sports over the years has been demonstrated through his advocacy, initiatives, and involvement in sports-related matters. This proves that he possesses the dedication and insight needed to drive the growth of the sector.

Therefore, the appointment of Senator Enoh highlights the recognition of the multi-faceted nature of sports development. His extensive experience in community engagement, youth empowerment, and policy advocacy equips him with the necessary tools to address the challenges facing Nigeria’s sports sector. By focusing on policy formulation, strategic planning, and fostering collaborations within the sports community, Senator Enoh has the potential to ignite a new era of sports development in Nigeria

Nigeria has witnessed firsthand the impact of leaders who genuinely care about sports development, irrespective of their professional backgrounds. In his role as the Minister of Sports Development, Senator Enoh is poised to leverage his extensive experience in politics, community development, and his love for sports to uplift Nigeria’s sports sector. His appointment is not a gamble but a conscious choice rooted in merit and competence, driven by his consistent love for the country and his party.

Change, innovation, and progress are often spearheaded by individuals who challenge conventional norms. Senator John Owan Enoh’s journey from community development to political leadership and sports advocacy embodies this spirit.

As he takes on the role of Minister of Sports Development, his legacy as a beacon of hope for the sports sector is poised to flourish. It is a testament to the fact that dedication, passion, and a clear vision can pave the way for transformative change, and Senator Enoh is undoubtedly at the helm of such change.

The cynicism surrounding his appointment, while understandable given the historical context, should not overshadow the potential for positive transformation that Senator Enoh brings. As he steps into this new role, there is an opportunity for him to harness his experience, passion, and strategic thinking to elevate Nigerian sports to new heights. Diversifying leadership backgrounds, as long as they are accompanied by genuine dedication and vision, can catalyze progress.

In the end, Senator John Owan Enoh’s journey from a small village near the Agbokim Waterfalls to the apex of Nigeria’s sports development ministry is a testament to the power of passion, dedication, and visionary leadership.

His appointment is a call to reevaluate the criteria for effective leadership and to embrace the potential of individuals who may not fit traditional molds but have the commitment and drive to make a difference. In this light, the future of Nigeria’s sports sector looks brighter than ever before, under the stewardship of a man who has consistently proven his love for his country and its people.

As the curtains rise on this new chapter in Nigerian sports, the stage is set for Senator Enoh to prove his mettle. In his hands lies the opportunity to reshape the sports landscape, infuse fresh energy into the sector, and inspire a generation of athletes and enthusiasts.

While some may question the unconventional choice, the time has come to believe in the power of dedication, vision, and strategic leadership. The appointment of Senator Enoh stands as a testament to his unwavering commitment to community development, youth empowerment, and sports advancement. It is no wonder that President Tinubu found him worthy of being made Sports Minister.

As Senator Enoh assumes his role, the nation watches with anticipation, hoping to witness the transformation of the sports sector under his guidance. With his track record of service, dedication, and passion, there is every reason to believe that his tenure will usher in a new era of progress, growth, and excellence in Nigerian sports.

The stage is set for Senator Enoh to lead the charge toward realizing the untapped potential of Nigeria’s sporting prowess, and his appointment is a resounding testament to the merit, competence, and consistent love for the country and party that he embodies.

We expect that developing grassroot sports for efficiency and effectiveness will become a dominant aspect of the mandate of this young Minister of Sports and as expected, there is the need to properly galvanise the abundant sporting talents for exports so as to help generate massive revenues that would be brought back to develope Nigeria just as it is expected that the stadia belonging to the Federal government are continuously maintained just as transparency and accountability would become the hallmark of sports administration in Nigeria.

Finally, my plea is that the minister provide greater leadership so stakeholders in the public and private sectors including the football federation and other sporting federations would articulate a template for reviving interest of Nigerians in watching and following Local sporting teams including the essential need to attract foreign direct investors to invest massively to develope the sporting infrastructures in Nigeria and enhance the seamless discovery of talented sports youngsters. The Minister should take up the issue of providing life insurance for young Nigerians who represent Nigeria in the diverse sporting tournaments. We must never abandon our patriotic sportsmen and women when they are retired.

*Emmanuel Nnadozie Onwubiko is the Head of the HUMAN RIGHTS WRITERS ASSOCIATION OF NIGERIA and was NATIONAL COMMISSIONER OF THE NATIONAL HUMAN RIGHTS COMMISSION OF NIGERIA.

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