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Sen. JOE: Made for Tinubu’s ‘Renewed Hope’ sports agenda

About eight months ago, when President Bola Tinubu assigned portfolios to members of his cabinet, a few surprises sprung up. One such surprise was the deployment of Sen. John Owan-Enoh, JOE, an experienced lawmaker to head the newly created Ministry of Sports Development.

In his twenty years sojourn in the legislative arm of government, which spans across both the state and national assembly, Sen. JOE, a former University Don, specialises in budget, appropriation, and public finance management. Most of his certificate courses, too, are in this area.

In terms of his life outside politics, the Cross River-born politician is a farmer. Perhaps this is not surprising as the economy of Etung where he comes from is built around agriculture.

READ ALSO: C’River Speaker opens constituency liaison office, launches SOAN organisation

However, even though he kept an open mind regarding where to be deployed to, most of his teeming supporters were looking at him mounting Ministry that was closely related to what he had done for twenty years in the public service. But as they were hoping and praying, the President saw something different in him and entrusted him with the responsibility of leading his ‘Renewed Hope’ agenda in the sports sector.

But this was not received with the excitement that his work as Minister has brought. Rightly, there was some scepticism in some quarters because even though he had always been a sportsman who played football at the local level, he had done very little before this time in the area of sports administration in the country.

But eight months down the line, the Minister has not only justified the confidence reposed in him by the President but has also drawn accolades from all and sundry because of his meticulous, calm and mature approach to tackling the difficult issues in the sector. Even those who had hitherto doubted his ability to lead the ministry have been humbled by his practical road map for the sector which is centred on facility/infrastructural development, athletes welfare, talents hunting and nurturing, etc.

Besides, since assuming office, he has motivated Nigerian teams to perform exceptionally in all the major tournaments the country has participated in. For instance, during the just concluded AFCON, he got the President to approve N12 billion to clear all the outstanding debts owed to the national teams. The players, of course, repaid his good work by staying motivated throughout the tournament to finish second with a silver medal, even when a lot of people did not give them a chance.

At the recently held 13th All-Africa Games Competition in Ghana, he ensured the government played its part in keeping the athletes motivated throughout the tournament, leading them to finish second in the medal table with 120. Egypt was only ahead because the country participated in more competitions than Nigeria; a situation the Minister had vowed to address ahead of the 14th edition.

In the 2024 budget, the minister’s vision for the sector was clearly captured. In the coming days, the country’s sports facilities will experience rapid upgrade and standardisation, there will be the establishment of sports academies across the country to hunt and nurture talents, and the country is working to establish its first Sports University, amongst others.

Stakeholders in the sector have expressed their delight over his impact since his appointment. For example, the former President of the Nigerian Football Federation, Amaju Pinnick, in an interview recently, gave a glowing commendation of the work he’s doing by describing him as the “best thing to happen to the Sports” sector since independence.

Similarly, in February this year, he became the first Minister to earn the President accolades when he (President) told him during a video call with the Super Eagles Eagles ahead of the Angola versus Nigeria quarter-final match that he was doing his work well.

Unarguably, a lot still needs to be done, but that should not take away the fact that the sports sector in Nigeria is experiencing revival under Sen. JOE’s watch; and that he had no prior experience in sports administration to create the kind of impact he has in the complex and technical environment in such a short period of time has made it even more noteworthy.

Maybe he is just a match made for the “Renewed Hope” sports agenda.

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