In Nigeria we keep on talking daily on how to improve our economy by little dependence on our crude, and how we should go head on into agriculture and others like tourism, industrialization sports and many more. Up till date the government has put little or no effort on the success of this dream plan.
From the just concluded Olympics in Beijing, Nigeria as expected With Beijing 2008 barely seven months away as at then were yet to commence meaningful preparations for what was the most competitive Olympics in recent times. Before the games, former Minister of Information and one-time Chairman of the National Sports Commission (NSC), Chief Alex Akinyele, raised the alarm over Nigeria’s preparations for the Games. According to him, except drastic action is taken by the NSC, it will be another disaster for Nigerian sports. Akinyele also noted that no athlete can excel without adequate preparation. In which I totally agreed and that is exactly what it turned out to be.
Nigeria participated in ten (10) sports and toke medals in only football, athletics and taekwondo, three Bronze and one Silver medal. The women football team was defeated at the early stages of the competition, while the men were defeated at the final which was as a result of the coach’s personal effort to ensure that his team won the gold medal. He did not take any form of indiscipline for granted, as he told Mikel Obi who refused to come on time, he will not play for his team, in which he kept his words.
In long jump, Blessing Okagbare, with a jump of 6.91, won the bronze medal. The 4x 100m women team led by Damola Osayemi also won bronze. Others in the quartet are Franca Idoko, Gloria Kemasuode and Halimat Ismaila. It was believed by many Nigerians that if only preparations started earlier we had a good chance on winning gold. The Federal Government only released money less than a month before the games. Participants were taken to a training camp without facilities to train with, things were done haphazardly and we had a haphazard result. Almost the best is not the BEST. And as the much said about Giants of Africa we failed.
In taekwondo, Chika Chukwumerijie was unable to make it to the final after beating the world champion in the quarterfinal stage. The promising athlete settled for bronze. Another individual effort by his father Sen. Chukwumerijie, according to him, he spent millions to prepare his son as a good father and a lover of sports. Nigerians and industries should also learn from this. Athletes should be encouraged during training and after success, unlike in the case of today only when you have won a particular competition that you are encourage and celebrated.
We all expected that Nigeria should also have a strong edge in boxing but the reverse was the case as this was the worse performance we have ever had. And so many other games we toke part in, like table tennis, wrestling, shot put and so on. Nigeria’s Vivian Chukwuemeka won gold medal in the shot put event of the Manchester 2002 Commonwealth Games but interestingly the lady that took the bronze medal at the event Valerie Vili of New Zealand won the gold in Beijing. Nigeria and its private sector allow their best water away in their prime. No form of encouragement or meaningful competition is organized for fast performing and interested athletes.
Last week a young guy in UST (University of Science and Technology) in Port Harcourt Rivers State invited me for a table tennis friendly in which he organized between his school team of which he is president and the Total staff team. I felt his desire to be an achieve as prior to this time I had advised him from time to time on self development and ensuring that he is known for what he is good at. His name is Isitoa Modunkwu an energetic young man. I told him to write a letter to the Commissioner of Sports Rivers State, as I knew the protocol officer and could ensure it got to the commissioner. He did write the letter, inviting the commissioner and I passed it on to the protocol officer, although I doubt the letter got to the commissioner but I blame him for not instilling in his team the importance of improving sports in the state and having any impact at all. I watched the friendly battle which was very interesting even though the Total team use their experience to mesmerize the UST team, you’ll notice that the turn out gave the UST team something to think about as they have decided to train and work harder as they are a new team and are prepared to excel.
We all must come together, Government, Private sector and individuals and do something about the Sports in the country. Nigerians are natural sports men and women. We are known all over the world to be strong and energetic men and women. Also preparations should be carried out on time, and private games like the one organized by my friend Isiota should also be attained by representatives of the sports ministry because that is the point were you find trainable gifted athletes.