Damishi Sango

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Damishi Tonson Sango
Minister of Sports
In office
June 1999 – January 2001
Preceded by Air Commodore Samson Emeka Omeruah
Succeeded by Ishaya Mark Aku
Personal details
Born (1950-01-01) 1 January 1950 (age 67)
Riyom LGA, Plateau State, Nigeria

Hon Damishi Tonson Sango (born 1 January 1950) was appointed Nigerian Minister of Sports in the first cabinet of President Olusegun Obasanjo, holding office between June 1999 and January 2001. He was a challenger to become the People's Democratic Party (PDP) governorship candidate for Plateau State in 1999 and 2007, and ran for Plateau State governor on the Alliance for Democracy (AD) platform in 2003.

Early life and career[edit]

Damishi Sango was born on 1 January 1950 in Ganawuri, in Riyom Local Government Area of Plateau State and belongs to the Aten minority ethnic group. He obtained a grade II teacher's certificate in 1973 and began working as an elementary school teacher, later becoming headmaster. Attending the University of Jos, he earned a B.Sc in History in 1982 and a Masters in Comparative Politics in 1986. He was appointed to the boards of Jos International Breweries and the Christian Pilgrim's Welfare Board.[1]

In 1987 Sango was elected Chairman of the Barakin Ladi Local Government Area in Plateau State.[1][2] In 1993 he became Plateau State's presidential nominee for the Social Democratic Party under the option A4 system. However he failed to become a candidate in the national elections, which were anyway annulled by the military administration.[3] After the return to democracy with the Nigerian Fourth Republic, Sango was one of the three main aspirants to be PDP candidate for governor of Plateau State, the other two being David Jang and Joshua Dariye. He was thought to have come second in the PDP primaries after Jang, with Dariye third. However, the National headquarters selected Dariye as PDP candidate, and he went on to be elected governor.[4]

Sports Minister[edit]

Sango was sworn in as Sports Minister in June 1999 in President Olusegun Obasanjo's first cabinet. He later confessed that he knew nothing about sports when assigned the job.[5] During his period of office, Nigeria competed in the All African Games in South Africa (September 1999) and the Olympic Games in Australia (September 2000), and the national football team the Super Eagles played in several international competitions. In January 2001 president Obasanjo dropped Sango from his cabinet.[6] In December 2009, Sango criticized the practice of constantly replacing sports ministers after a year or so in office. He recommended that they should have a 10-year tenure, so they could have time to make real improvements, and could be held accountable for results.[7]


There was no funding for the All African Games, which started three months after Sango took office.[8] The Ministry of Sports said that failure to provide sufficient funding on time was their main problem in preparing for the Olympics.[9] In addition, Sango had to contend with rebellious Sports Association chairmen.[10] In November 2002, after leaving office, Sango said there was a "mafia" in the ministry of sports that would frustrate any minister's policy or program.[11] He made similar criticisms of the Nigeria Football Association, which were echoed by Senator Olorunnimbe Mamora in 2008 when he accused the "mafia" of stifling the growth of Nigerian sports.[12]

2000 Olympics[edit]

Sango was booed by the crowd in July 2000 when he attended an Athletics Championship before the Sydney Olympics, due to the poor state of preparation for the Olympics.[13] However, funding for the Olympics had only been approved in June 2000, less than three months before the event.[14] Sanjo was forced to rely on Cuban coaches to train Nigeria's boxing team, an offer that Cuba had made following a recent visit President Olesanjo's had made to that country.[15] The star Nigerian football striker Nwankwo Kanu was unable to obtain a release from the Arsenal football club to play in the games.[16]

In the 2000 games, Nigeria earned three silver medals.[17] After the games, Sango awarded $6,000 to 4 × 400 m men's relay silver-medalist Aniefiok Udo-Obong and to his teammates for their performance.[18] In November 2000, Sango faced a panel probing the poor performance of the Nigerian contingent at the Olympic games, testifying at a six-hour closed hearing.[19]


In January 2000, Sango flew to Malaga, Spain to visit the Super Eagles camp and check the progress of their training for the 2000 Africa Cup of Nations co-hosted by Ghana and Nigeria. This followed two serious defeats in friendly matches in Spain.[20] In June 2000, Sango attempted to resolve a disagreement between the Nigeria Football Association (NFA) and Minaj Broadcast International related to the marketing of national league matches.[21]

Sango faced criticism over employment of Dutch football coach Johannes Bonfrere, but in June 2000 supported him on a TV sports show, citing Bonfrere's in-depth technical knowledge of the game.[22] He defended Bonfrere again in October 2000 after Nigeria's poor performance at the Olympics, saying that he did his best.[23] In January 2001 he said he was unable to sack Bonfrere since he had not had any official complaint from the NFA concerning breach of contract.[24] Sango's successor Ishaya Mark Aku later criticized Bonfrere's contract, which he considered overpaid and insufficiently specific about duties.[25]


Sango was tough on doping, and directed the Olympic sports chairmen to monitor their athletes to avoid any embarrassment over the use of banned drugs.[26] In November 2000, Sango challenged National Sports Association chairmen to use the 12th National Sports Festival in Bauchi as a way of discovering budding athletes to represent Nigeria internationally in the future.[27] In December 2000 he said he would cleanse the organizations of the 24 sports associations, other than the Nigeria Football Association, to solve their endemic problems of unqualified chairmen, excessive financial demands and poor results.[28] He praised establishment of grassroots soccer outfits in rural areas, describing them as a move in the right direction and calling on individuals and corporate bodies to give support.[29]

Later career[edit]

After leaving the Ministry of Sports and Social Development, Sango held various government appointments. In October 2006 as Chairman of the Nigerian Copyright Commission he presided over destruction of N390 million worth of copyright violating materials at the Lagos State Waste Disposal ground, including VCDs, audio CDs and books.[30] In August 2009 President Umaru Musa Yar'Adua appointed him a member of the board of the Integrated Water Resources Management Agency.[31] But the focus of his career was the ongoing political struggle between leading Plateau State politicians including himself, Joshua Dariye, elected Plateau State governor in April 1999 and reelected in 2003, who held office until impeached in November 2006, Jonah Jang, who was elected Plateau State governor in April 2007, Solomon Lar and Fidelis Tapgun, earlier governors of the state and Senator Ibrahim Mantu.[32]

2003 campaign[edit]

In October 2001 it was reported that Sango and retired Air Commodore Jonah Jang had reached an agreement to cooperate in removing the current party leadership in Plateau State, dominated by Governor Dariye, before competing independently for the post of governor.[33] In March 2002 Sango described Dariye's recent creation of new districts and Chiefdoms as cosmetic, doing nothing to solve the urgent need to improve road and hospitals, power, water and schools.[34] Dariye announced the formation of a group called the Plateau Elders Unity Forum, saying Jang and Sango were among the members, but they were not consulted before their names were announced. Jang later left the PDP to become the gubernatorial candidate of the All Nigeria People's Party (ANPP).[35]

In May 2002 Sango also left the PDP.[36] In August 2002 he was formally accepted as a member of the Alliance for Democracy (AD) party.[37] As AD candidate for governor, Sanjo appealed to the people of Plateau State to fully participate in the voter registration exercise so they could achieve genuine change.[38] At a massive political rally in Jos Sango told the crowd that he was just a symbol of the aspirations of ordinary men and women in the state, and described local leaders as the real moving spirit of the party.[39] In March 2003 he said "the need to restore our state, reconstruct and build the ruins of what has become the lot of our dear state in the last four years, is the embodiment of our struggle.[40] Just before the April 2003 elections there were rumors that the ANPP and AD had agreed that Sango would step out of the race and transfer his support to Jonah Jang. Sango denied this.[41] Joshua Dariye was again elected on the PDP platform.[42] Subsequently the AD broke up in rival factions.[43]

PDP infighting[edit]

Sango rejoined the PDP, and was one of the main challengers to Jonah Jang in the 2007 Plateau State PDP governorship primaries.[44] He was supported in his bid by Senator Ibrahim Mantu, who had been assisted in gaining his seat by Dariye but had later worked for Dariye's impeachment. Sango was unsuccessful, with Jang winning the primaries and going on to be elected governor.[45] In the primaries, none of the aspirants obtained 50% of the vote as required to be declared winner, although Jonah Jang gained the most votes. In the interest of party unity, Sango agreed to accept Jang as candidate rather than insist on a rerun.[46]

After the 2007 elections there were speculations that governor Jonah Jang had removed Sango's name from the list of ministerial nominees for the state.[47] Sango became part of a PDP faction in Plateau State that was opposed to Jonah Jang.[48] In April 2009 the factional struggle boiled up at the national PDP convention in Abuja, with policemen removing Mr Emmanuel Imagnih, chairman of Sango's faction, from the meeting. Sango was invited to talk with President Umaru Yar'Adua, but denied that the discussion had anything to do with the incident.[49] In a newspaper interview that month, Sango said that there was no problem, and the party was united.[50]

In June 2009 former governor Joshua Dariye joined the anti-Jang faction.[51] The two sides were invited to meet with the PDP's National Working Committee to resolve their differences in July 2009, but Jang declined to attend.[52] In a September 2009 interview one of the faction members, Jimmy Cheto, stated that Jang had deliberately excluded senior members of the party including Tapgun, Dariye, Sango and Mantu.[53] Sango went further, alleging that Jang and his PDP followers had begun discussions with opposition parties to form an alternative platform in the 2011 elections.[54]

2011 campaign[edit]

In April 2010 former student union leader Comrade Ashu Yakubu launched a text message campaign to make Sango a candidate in the 2011 elections.[55] In May 2010 a group calling itself the "2011 Movement in Plateau" called for the party to make Sango its candidate, citing his selfless action in allowing Jang to become candidate in 2007 despite not having enough votes.[46] An analysis of Sango as a possible candidate noted that he had the advantage of coming from the north of the state, with no senior contenders from that zone. He could be handicapped by coming from an ethnic minority, but had the advantage of being broadly acceptable to religious groups.[56] An article in the Tribune paid Sango a backhanded compliment, saying he possibly lacked the necessary financial resources to run for election due to having invested much over the years in politics with little return.[32]


  1. ^ a b "The man: Damisi Tonson Sango". Damishi Sango. Retrieved 25 May 2010. 
  2. ^ "Polls: Sango Urges AD Supporters to Expect Victory". ThisDay. 27 February 2003. Retrieved 25 May 2010. 
  3. ^ Andrew Agbese (13 May 2010). "2011 And the Sango Factor in Plateau Guber Race". Daily Trust. Retrieved 25 May 2010. 
  4. ^ Tokunbo Adedoja (19 May 2004). "Apprehended in London, Suspended in Abuja". ThisDay. Archived from the original on 30 August 2005. 
  5. ^ Emeka Ezeugwu (9 February 2001). "Again, Obasanjo Gambles with Sports". ThisDay. Retrieved 4 May 2010. 
  6. ^ Akinjide Akintola (30 January 2001). "Obasanjo Sacks 10 Ministers – Sarumi, Jemibewon, Adeniran, Bunu, Sango, Others Thrown OUt". P.M. News. Retrieved 4 May 2010. 
  7. ^ "Sango says minister needs ten years". BrilaFM. 9 Dec 2009. Retrieved 4 May 2010. 
  8. ^ "Sango Awards Self Pass Mark". Vanguard. 19 June 2000. Retrieved 25 May 2010. 
  9. ^ Boye Ajayi (20 July 2000). "Sports Ministry Knuckles Over Funds Scarcity". ThisDay. Retrieved 25 May 2010. 
  10. ^ Uzor Odigbo (10 November 2000). "Association Chairmen May Shun Minister's Invitation". ThisDay. 
  11. ^ Demola Akinyemi (14 November 2002). "Sango Confesses to Mafia in Sports Ministry *says They Mislead Every Minister.". Vanguard. 
  12. ^ Ben Memuletiwon (22 February 2008). "Laughing Stock!". Daily Sun. 
  13. ^ "Sango Enlarges Olympic Squad". Vanguard. 24 July 2000. Retrieved 4 May 2010. 
  14. ^ Ignatus Chukwu (21 June 2000). "Presidency Approves Budget for Olympics". The Post Express (Lagos). Retrieved 25 May 2010. 
  15. ^ Akeem Oyetunji (22 May 2000). "Sango relies on Cuba for Olympics". Vanguard. Retrieved 25 May 2010. 
  16. ^ "Kanu blames Arsenal for Olympic absence". BBC Sport. 20 December 2000. Retrieved 25 May 2010. 
  17. ^ "Medal Table". BBC Sport. Retrieved 25 May 2010. 
  18. ^ "Silver Medal Fetches Udo-Obong N.7m". ThisDay. 2 October 2000. Retrieved 25 May 2010. 
  19. ^ "Sango Appears Before Sydney Panel". The Post Express. 5 November 2000. Retrieved 25 May 2010. 
  20. ^ Lanre Olaleye (5 January 2000). "Sango Set For Malaga". P.M. News (Lagos). Retrieved 25 May 2010. 
  21. ^ Igwe Nnamdi in Abuja (29 June 2000). "Sango Wades into NTA/Minaj Crisis". ThisDay. Retrieved 4 May 2010. 
  22. ^ Emeka Ezeugwu (21 June 2000). "Sango Extols Bonfrere's Technical Acumen". ThisDay. Retrieved 25 May 2010. 
  23. ^ "Sango Defends Bonfrere Jo". Vanguard. 2 October 2000. Retrieved 25 May 2010. 
  24. ^ Innocent Atabo (4 January 2001). "Only Obasanjo Can Sack Bonfrere -Sango". P.M. News. Retrieved 25 May 2010. 
  25. ^ Akeem Oyetunji (21 March 2001). "Aku Frowns At Bonfrere's Contract – Criticises Sango's Role". Vanguard. Retrieved 25 May 2010. 
  26. ^ "Sango Vows To Expose Nigerian Athletes". The Post Express (Lagos). 2 June 2000. Retrieved 4 May 2010. 
  27. ^ Ramsay Ugele (10 November 2000). "Sango Tasks Association Chairmen". The Post Express. Retrieved 4 May 2010. 
  28. ^ "Curtain Raiser With Emeka Enechi". ThisDay. 5 December 2000. Retrieved 4 May 2010. 
  29. ^ "Sports Minister Lauds Grassroots Soccer". ThisDay. 14 December 2000. Retrieved 4 May 2010. 
  30. ^ SEGUN AJAYI (4 October 2006). "NCC destroys N.3 billion pirated works in Lagos". Daily Sun. Retrieved 26 May 2010. 
  31. ^ George Oji (8 August 2009). "FG Constitutes Membership of Ten Boards". ThisDay. Retrieved 26 May 2010. 
  32. ^ a b "Supremacy battle amongst Plateau political actors". Tribune. India. 20 May 2010. Retrieved 26 May 2010. 
  33. ^ Tokunbo Adedoja (8 October 2001). "2003: Jang, Sango Groups Reach Accord". ThisDay. Retrieved 26 May 2010. 
  34. ^ Louis Achi (29 March 2002). "Second Term Bid May Scuttle Democracy – Damishi Sango". ThisDay. 
  35. ^ Tokunbo Adedoja (19 May 2004). "Apprehended in London, Suspended in Abuja". ThisDay. Archived from the original on 30 August 2005. Retrieved 26 May 2010. 
  36. ^ Funmi Peter-Omale (24 May 2002). "Damishi Sango, Jang Others Quit PDP". ThisDay. Retrieved 26 May 2010. 
  37. ^ Segun Ayobolu (1 September 2002). "AD's Song of Change in Plateau State". ThisDay. Retrieved 26 May 2010. 
  38. ^ "Register for Genuine Change, Urges Sango". ThisDay. 12 September 2002. Retrieved 26 May 2010. 
  39. ^ "April 19: Plateau's Moment of Decision". ThisDay. 23 February 2003. Retrieved 26 May 2010. 
  40. ^ "AD Guber Candidate Pledges to Restore Plateau's Glory.". This Day. 11 March 2003. Retrieved 26 May 2010. 
  41. ^ Taye Obateru (17 April 2003). "I'm Still Interested in Governorship, Says Damishi Sango". Vanguard. Retrieved 26 May 2010. 
  42. ^ "What Next for Them Too?". ThisDay. 18 May 2003. Retrieved 26 May 2010. 
  43. ^ "Battle for the AD Carcass: The December 16 Convention and its Aftermath...". ThisDay. 26 September 2004. Retrieved 26 May 2010. [permanent dead link]
  44. ^ Andrew Agbese (16 September 2009). "Jang Wants to Destroy PDP Before He Decamps -Sango". Daily Trust. Retrieved 26 May 2010. 
  45. ^ Femi Adesina (9 August 2008). "Mantu: Old sins have long shadows". Daily Sun. Retrieved 26 May 2010. 
  46. ^ a b Andrew Agbese (10 May 2010). "Sango's Candidature Will Resolve Injustice in Plateau PDP". Daily Trust. Retrieved 26 May 2010. 
  47. ^ Rakiya A. Muhammad (10 June 2007). "Governor Jonah Jang". Daily Trust. Retrieved 26 May 2010. 
  48. ^ Seriki Adinoyi (22 June 2009). "Plateau – CNPP Chides Dariye, Mantu, Sango Over Blackmail". ThisDay. Retrieved 26 May 2010. 
  49. ^ CHIDI OBINECHE (21 April 2009). "Plateau factional chairman bundled out of convention". Online Nigeria Daily News. Archived from the original on 30 April 2012. Retrieved 26 May 2010. 
  50. ^ CHIDI OBINECHE (26 April 2009). "No crises in Plateau PDP – Damishi Sango". Online Nigeria Daily News. Archived from the original on 25 February 2012. Retrieved 26 May 2010. 
  51. ^ Isa Abdulsalami (17 June 2009). "Dariye joins PDP factions, govt kicks". Online Nigeria Daily News. Archived from the original on 25 February 2012. Retrieved 26 May 2010. 
  52. ^ John-Abba Ogbodo (17 July 2009). "Jang absent at PDP peace talks over Plateau crisis". Online Nigeria Daily News. Archived from the original on 30 April 2012. Retrieved 26 May 2010. 
  53. ^ ANDREW AGBESE (28 September 2009). "PDP can do without Jang – Jimmy Cheto". Daily Trust. Retrieved 26 May 2010. 
  54. ^ Andrew Agbese (16 September 2009). "Jang Wants to Destroy PDP Before He Decamps -Sango". Daily Trust. Retrieved 26 May 2010. 
  55. ^ Andrew Agbese (12 April 2010). "Plateau – Sango's Guber Campaign Begins". Daily Trust. Retrieved 26 May 2010. 
  56. ^ Andrew Agbese (13 May 2010). "2011 And the Sango Factor in Plateau Guber Race". Daily Trust. Retrieved 26 May 2010.