Last week when President Uhuru Kenyatta announced the structure of his new cabinet, Sports (no prizes for guessing) was lumped together with Culture and Arts.
It came as no surprise at all. This was purely in keeping with tradition. In the eyes of Uhuru’s predecessors, Mzee Jomo Kenyatta, Daniel Arap Moi and Mwai Kibaki, sports belonged to the backwaters of their cabinet structures.
I was born during Mzee Kenyatta’s sunset days but from what I gather, sports featured nowhere in his lean independence cabinet of 1963.
A look at the list of Kenyatta’s cabinet of 15 ministries, perhaps the only one that was ‘remotely’ related to sports was Eliud Mwendwa’s Ministry of Labour and Social Services.
Exit Kenyatta, enter Moi. His fetish for having all the main sporting facilities across the country named after him notwithstanding, not to mention his knack for gracing all major sporting events, Moi too didn’t consider sports worthy of having a full ministerial docket.
In fact, during the Nyayo days sports was just a department within the expansive Ministry of Culture and Social Services.
Then came Emilio Mwai Kibaki. Apart from his love for golf, the immediate former president was overtly aloof to sports.
Ironically, he was the first Head of State to grant sports a visible docket, albeit under the Ministry of Youth, Gender and Sports.
During their well-oiled campaign in the run up to March 14 General Election, the ruling Jubilee Coalition identified the country’s sporting challenge thus (and I quote their manifesto verbatim):
“Our collective love for sports and the arts is one of the strongest factors that unite us. In the sporting arena we are world leaders in middle and long distance running. At home our culture is vibrant and thriving. However, successive Governments have too often neglected sports and creative industries. As a result, the potential in these sectors have not been accorded a chance to improve our quality of life or boost our economy.”
To this end, the Jubilee manifesto outlined a 16-point blueprint as a viable solution.
As we wait with bated breaths for President Uhuru Kenyatta and Deputy President William Ruto to reveal the identities of the office bearers of their 18-ministry cabinet later this week, it is my hope that the two principals will appoint in the Sports, Culture and Arts Ministry someone capable of maximizing the great potential of this multi-billion shillings industry.
Key in Jubilee’s ambitious manifesto is the establishment of a National Lottery Scheme, the establishment of state-of-the-art youth development centres in all the 47 Counties and building of five new sports stadia in Kisumu, Mombasa, Nakuru, Eldoret and Garissa while at the same time upgrading existing sporting facilities at the county level.
Clearly, the yet to be named Sports, Culture and Arts Minister already has his/her work cut towards achieving this ambitious plan. The Kenyan sporting fraternity will be keenly watching to see whether indeed, they ‘should believe, yawezekana, kusema na kutenda’.
Failure to which, the Jubilee Government will be held to account for their lofty promises.