The Sporting Shame Called Nigeria,By Christian Ogodo



Youth Minister Bolaji AbdullahiEverything we try to do in this country is usually a jamboree, so much fanfare and squandermania of resources without achieving the set goals and objectives for desired growth.
Take the Apeshit Annual Calabar Carnival for example as one jamboree that its propagators of this month long event never signposts the essence of the carnival to be rooted in the cultures of the people of Cross River State.
Rather, what we are innundated with is the re-hash of the Brazilian Rio Carnival which celebrates nudity with no relevance to the great Ekpe Dance of the efiks; the Leboku New Yam Festival of the Yakkurs those of the ekois and the Bakors Of Northern Cross River.
Alas!, Lagos state with its lack of foresight on how to manage its huge resources accruing from commerce and taxation has joined in the shameful acculturation of traditional festivals of the peoples of lagos. Where are the eyos, the igunnus, the egungun masquerades et al?
This brings me to Nigeria’s perennial sporting failure and shame. sports is the biggest form of entertainment universally, and that’s why countries with little or no natural resources see it as a tool not just for self-regeneration and rejuvenation of the individual athlete, but more as a vehicle to project country in the comity of nations.
Nigeria’s shambolic performance at the just concluded iaaf world athletics championship in Moscow, Russia bespeaks of Nigerian sports and the dying culture of grassroots development
But for the heroic performance of Sapele-born Blessing Okagbare who lept to a silver glory in the long jump and the 4x100m relay race where she galvanised her peers to a bronze medal, Nigeria would have gone unnoticed in Russia just as the London Olympics. why? simply put, just as Nigeria is decaying in all material particulars, so also is our sports and its administrators.
The Idealism of grassroot sports was systematically obliterated from the nation’s social calendar almost three decades ago when the likes of Chidi Imoh, Innocent Egbunike, Iseme Ikpoto, Sunday Bada, Sunday Uti, Mary Onyali-Omagbemi,Faith Idehen, Peter Koyengwashi, Henriy Nwosu, Stephen Keshi, Segun Odegbami et al were all products of grassroot sports from primary to secondary schools culminating to the Nigerian National Sports festival.
Where are the games from which raw talents are discovered and nurtured to stardom? The decline of our sports began with the late Abraham Odia who chaired the national sports commission along with a bloated govt/official delegation neck-deep in sexual scandal sleeping with our female athletes as overtures for participation in the 1980 Moscow Olympics games.
The result of course was a mere jamboree by participation without any single medal to show for the huge resources committed to the games.
If we are a serious nation in addressing failures, the white paper on the public inquiry into that scandalous and shambolic outing of Nigeria to the 1980 Moscow games should have long been released to address our shortcomings. Typical of the usual Nigerian cover-up, the rot in our nation’s sports has been allowed to fester to a gangrenous state that requires only amputation.
Not even the flip-flop sporting agenda of the Jonathan administration has revealed any goodness in the rejuvenation of Nigerian sports. find out how much millions or billions of naira was expended to convey the thieving presidential stakeholders meeting on sports, then you will be amazed how we engage in squandermania with impunity and leaving the revival of our sports in the hands of a docile, myopic and corrupt sporting officials,has no wonder left out big and small businesses in the country not wanting to do business with the ministry of sports, the national sports commission and its agencies because of the shameful level of corruption and ineptitude.
How would you explain the case of the former secretary-general of the defunct Nigerian football association[ now Nigeria Football Federation ] Bolaji Ojo-Oba, in whose custody more than $300,000 [three hundred thousand dollars] meant for the Super Eagles Prosecution of the 2010 World Cup -African Qualifiers grew wings and flew out of his office windows without trace till date.
Neither the door to his office nor the safe in which he claimed he kept the money was ever tampered with. Is it not ridiculous that the same Ojo-Oba today is a director in the sports ministry? That is a reward for brazen theft. Can it be that the nigeria police met a brickwall in the course of their investigation? then tell me what business concern will want to deal with our sports officials with this culture of impunity.
There is no gainsaying the fact that a return to schools sports from primary to secondary, tertiary and the academicals, will be our only guarantee to kick-start sports rejuvenation instead of jump-starting our return to prowess that will surpass the mechanical age of our glorious sporting past.
President Jonathan must be told that either the sports ministry or the national sports commission have lost their focus and relevance and should be scrapped or put in better hands to make way for better and proper management of the administration of sports in the country. Nigeria must embrace the electronic and space age of sports by committing handsome resources to re-development of sports in general and particularly in those areas where we ranked first among equals globally,
We must rejuvenate sports like boxing, wrestling, swimming, lawn tennis, table tennis, long, tripple and high jumps including the pole volts. we can rediscover swimming talents to replace or rekindle the sweet memories of the Ebito Brothers [Nse And John]; Modupe Oshikoya of the second All Africa Games fame; Valerie Oloyede Of The National Sports Festival, Oluyole ’79. It’s been too quiet in our rivers, lagoons, pools and tracks where these heroes were never encouraged to conquer the world beyond Africa.
For our football, we just must stop the coaches mentality of winning at all cost by fielding overaged players at age-grade competions like the u17s and 20s. it is an obvious fact that six years after Nigeria won the U 17 Fifa World Cup in South Korea none of our exagerated ‘youths’ have made world headlines in football. Where is Chrisantus and the other men?
The problem is that late coach Tella and our football administrators took players that were twice their ages to a championship meant for teenagers and the result is that collectively we are cheats who cannot compete fairly. If not Chrisantus should be at the same level with Arsenal’s Ozhil who has blossomed since The Fifa U17 World Cup In Seoul.
All of this sporting shame that is Nigeria must be done away with before we can soar and use sports not only as a source of wealth, but also as a strong tool for youths regeneration and engagement.
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Christian Ogodo is a broadcast-journalist with Daar Communications plc, Abuja. e-mail: [email protected] tel: 0803 653 1410

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