*No President Jonathan
*Bio, Ekeji should advise him
By Patrick Omorodion
It is less than 24 months to the 2012 London Olympics where Nigerian athletes are expected to compete with the best in the world for honours, but the signal these athletes are getting is not an encouraging one for them.
Just last month in Delhi, India, the athletes, after what some of them described as not too impressive preparation for a competition of a Commonwealth Games magnitude, performed beyond the expectations of Nigerians, including their administrators through the usual sheer Nigerian spirit.
Apart from the few drug stain by three athletes, Folashade Abugan, Damola Osayomi and Samuel Okon, Team Nigeria hauled more gold than their 1994 performance in Victoria, Canada, the best for the country before now.
Again last month in Accra, Ghana, Team Nigeria through scrabble conquered Africa by retaining the African title through Wellington Jighere, the Delta-born player who had won it two years earlier in Nairobi, Kenya.
The African Scrabble Championship has been held eight times and Nigeria has won it seven times, losing only one edition, in 2002 to South Africa. Two Nigerians, Dennis Ikekeregor and Jighere remain the only players to have won the title back to back.
On return from Ghana, what we heard from Abuja was a reward of N200,000, a pittance by any standard, from the Sports Minister/Chairman National Sports Commission, NSC, Alhaji Ibrahim Bio. No refutation on that has come from his office till date, meaning it is true.
The Super Falcons were really super last Sunday defeating their old foes, Equatorial Guinea 4-2 in the final of the 2010 African Women’s Championship in South Africa. It was their sixth title in seven championships since 1998, losing only the 2008 edition to Equatorial Guinea who parade a handful of Nigerian players.
On their return from South Africa, Monday, the team were treated to a rousing reception both in Lagos and Abuja culminating in a presidential banquet where President Goodluck Jonathan showered them with encomiums and promise of financial reward early next month.
In the process, mention was also made of the Flamingos who reached the final of the U-17 World Cup, losing to host Germany 2-0, the Golden Eaglets who reached the final of the U-17 FIFA World Cup hosted by Nigeria last year but lost to Switzerland 1-0.
The Scrabble team that have performed the same feat as the Super Falcons, dominating the African scene were left out, as no mention was made of their exploits and a possible reward for them like the female football players.
In 2004 when the Falcons won their fourth title, President Olusegun Obasanjo was about rewarding the girls without realising that the scrabble team had done so earlier. It took the action of some Nigerians, Osaretin Emuze and this writer inclusive to remind Chief Patrick Ekeji, then director of sports development to inform the presidency about it.
The scrabble players were thus included in the one million naira reward given the Falcons and Chief Toke Aka, president of the scrabble federation, the players and the entire scrabble family were grateful.
Again, the same scenario is about to repeat itself. Both teams have made the country proud and should be rewarded equally because they are all ambassadors of this country. If Alhaji Bio doesn’t know, Chief Ekeji should explain it to him. Both of them should tell President Jonathan to act like a father to all and not discriminate against another set, because their sport has been labelled a lesser sport.
The reward should be extended to the Commonwealth Games ambassadors too because their feats were no less than the Falcons. Again, the government should be reminded that football, like scrabble, only produces one gold medal whereas athletics, special sports, wrestling and weightlifting, like we saw in Delhi, India, produced 11 gold medals to put Nigeria among the top 10 countries in the Commonwealth.
If the dream of the Federal Government’s Vision 20:2020 is to be achieved in the long run, equal opportunity and reward system should be applied to all sports because Nigeria is not a one sport country.