The Nigerian contingent to the London Olympics will return back to the country this week without a single medal. Not once did the crowd in London or the billions watching all over the world hear the Nigerian anthem sung for a medal. The last time that happened was 24 years ago in Seoul, South Korea.
But, of course you already know this.
True, Nigeria has never been a great sporting nation. Still, our showing in London is a steep decline though not entirely unexpected. For one, the fact that none of our football teams qualified for the Games was a clear pointer on the shape of things to come, if ever we needed one.
Already, those in charge are trying to put a spin on it. The Sports Minister, Bolaji Abdullahi, has been on a dizzying media blitz. At his ‘Nigeria Olympic Review’ press conference as well as his interviews and through talking points on social media, he has expressed disappointment at “how far our sports have fallen behind,” and has generally sounded like someone with knowledge of what actually went wrong and what needs to be done.
His official angle is that funding not only came in late, but was insufficient and so his ministry did its best in the circumstance and intends to do more. At least he did not accuse the “mafia” of frustrating his plans, as some who’ve occupied his seat in the past did.
But, of course, you’ve heard it all before.
The present state of anomie in our sports, is not the minister’s fault in any shape or form. However, Abdullahi seems to have a bit too much faith in his eloquence, assuming that because he says it in a different way, he’s saying different or he is different. No, sir.
Damishi Sango, who was minister when Nigeria participated in the 2000 Sydney Olympics complained after our poor showing (we won three silver medals then,) that funding for the Olympics had only been approved “less than three months before the event.”
Now, hear this: “We got N2.2 billion about two months to the Olympics,” said Abdullahi.
It is hard to expect anything to change when we see a minister so desperately trying to absolve himself of any responsibility. Claiming in his press conference and interviews that he was only made minister two months ago is disingenuous at best. He has been minister for about eight months, six of which were in acting capacity. If, as he claims, he is honest about doing a “scientific diagnosis” of events, then it must start with him.
Unfortunately, diagnoses are never enough: we already have multiple gold medals in that game. Our record however, in implementing the recommendations of our diagnoses is even worse than our Olympics performance.
Abdullahi needs to wrap up his ‘it wasn’t me tour’ and swing into action swiftly. We have the All Africa Games coming up in two years; he needs to show us that he and his team mean business this time.
All those ideas on the way forward which he so eloquently explains should be set into motion immediately.
We want to see less talk, less spin. And if he acts as good as he talks, we think we’ll hitting home-run with our sports pretty soon.