Nigeria: Whither Go our Sports? Whither go our Sportsmen?

                  By Tobi Idowu

The previous two weeks had seen the staging of the biggest and the most glamorous sport show on earth.  Brazil embraced and welcomed hordes of diverse sports talents into its economically beleaguered country and the Olympic Games provided, perhaps, for a brief period, something to cheer the Sports-crazed Brazilians. Nigeria was one of the many countries that trooped to the Southern American country to participate, and take from the thousandth medals on show at the Alpha sport festival. But, how market Nigerians? But for the heroics of the Mikel’s team, yes John Obi Mikel’s team since he was almost responsible for the football team at the Olympics for everything including bailing them out of a Brazilian hotel!, Nigeria’s participation would have been all gloom and doom.

The muted excitement that trailed the going of the Nigerian contingents to the Olympics was nothing of a surprise; Nigeria was in the nadir of economic woes, and had been fed numerous mischievously cooked-up news stories intended to distract hungry and angry citizens since May 29, 2015. However, the opening day ceremony mock-show by Nigeria did enough to pique people’s attention to the going-ons at the Olympics. The tracksuit-clad Nigerian sportsmen were omens of what eventually was to be expected: omni-shambolic displays galore….

Sport has always had an attractive pull about it that it draws even the most disgruntled persons to it. It has always provided a succor or balm in the most excruciating moments for Nigeria and Nigerians, for instance, the pall that draped the Abacha’s period were briefly lifted twice in 1994 and then in 1996 when our gallant sportsmen and women did the Nation proud at the Nation’s cup, the World cup and the Olympics. People forgot momentarily their woes, they forgot the lover of black glasses – Nigerians’ tormentor plenipotentiary, Sanni Abacha; the heroics of our patriotic sportsmen and women fed joy and hope to a nation in need and in search of a switch-on of light within a terrifying darkness. Yet Nigeria’s participation at the Olympics did nothing but to export Nigeria’s inadequacies to the rest of the world. What a way to project the failings of the Change regime!

And it will be too wrong to apportion any slice of blame to members of our sport contingents for their abysmal displays in Brazil. Rather the Nigerian government and its sports agents deserve Nigerians’ knock. The Minister of Sports, National Sports Commission and other such negligent departments owe Nigerians a duty, and that is their resignations for such shame they projected to the rest of the world. These kidders of Nigerians went to Brazil hoping to hit a boon in spite of their faux effort at ensuring adequate preparations for the athletes. However majority of Nigeria’s sports individuals who went to Brazil knew they were merely taking a brief sabbatical from the daunting woes at home by going to Brazil to compete with other serious nations. Olympics come every four years, and it is a four-year toil and drudge at the gym and in training that brings a medal at the games. Not the Nigerian fire-brigade approach! This sickening approach had failed woefully in the past, it failed this year, and it will fail in the next years.

While the now clichéd comic inquest as to why we performed woefully at games will commence soon, it will be unwise for Nigerians to seek any serious results from the chicanery. Neither Nigeria’s sports nor our sportsmen are gone. They have always been with us. They have just been unfortunate because of the inadequacies and ineptitude of those that should be in charge of their affairs.

However it must be said that the current administration seems indifferent to the sports sector. The signs are ominous. In fact, the indifferent treatment meted out to Nigeria’s contingents at the Olympic Games was a flash or preview of what to expect. Or how can one digest the obvious gaucherie of the Sports minister who said their (Buhari’s) administration was not responsible for the Olympic team. So Jonathan’s administration whose lifespan ceased on May 29, 2015 should be called to answer for a tournament held in August 2016? A responsible minister would have literally sacked himself having realized the grave import of his faux pas: since we are never a nation that takes initiatives, David Cameron, the former Prime minister of Britain, has indeed shown Nigerian leaders the honorable way of admitting failure by resigning the British government premiership.

In conclusion, it is time the harsh reality of mock-seriousness was faced in the country. The truth in proverbial sowing of yam seeds, and yet expecting maize harvest needs to finally sink into Nigerians’ consciousness from those at the helms of affairs to those in the vessel. The delusion in fooling ourselves in expecting miracles since ‘we are the most prayerful’ country in the world needs must be dropped also. Perhaps Nigerians are too insular, and will not want to see that there are other prayer-crazed nations! Yet the gains of prayers will not come if necessary physical pains have not. Nigerian sportsmen will continue to be no-where-to-be-found if there is no paradigm shift in the sports sector.

Meanwhile hearty congratulations to the Nigeria Olympic football team for doing Nigerians proud, and of course doing themselves proud in spite of big odds against them.


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