By Ben EFE
Top Nigerian athletes have called on President Goodluck Jonathan to spread to them, the ‘Naira rain’ that fell on the Super Eagles after they won the Nations Cup in South Africa two weeks ago.
The athletes Ajoke Odumosu, Blessing Okagbare, Endurance Abinuwa and Nurudeen Selim and others said that it was hurting that the Nigerian government has failed to recognise their efforts most especially after they won the last African Championships for the first time in ten years in BeninRepublic.
The athletes also pointed out that some of them reached the finals of their events at the London 2012 Olympics and this was no mean achievement, considering the circumstances that surrounded Nigeria’s preparations for the games.
“It isn’t that we are against the Super Eagles getting rewarded for their achievement. We are indeed happy they won, but what we are saying is that the President should extend such magnanimity to us.
“We equally won a continental championship for Nigeria. In the past, athletes like Mary Onyali, Falilat Ogunkoya were rewarded for their achievements, but what about us? What has happened between then and now? Odumosu cried out.
The national hurdles record holder added that she had represented Nigeria endangering her life. “At those times I suffered asthma attacks; I have been injured and treated myself.
Even at that, they can’t even recognise me as the first Nigeria to win the Africa Championships back to back. I’m also the first Nigerian to get into the Olympics final in the 400m hurdles,”
Okagbare submitted that government treat athletics like it does not exist. She argued that it was distressing that football was getting all the attention, whereas athletics have won important medals for Nigeria.
“What they are trying to tell us is that we don’t exist, and this has been going on for years.
“We have won medals for Nigeria and they must recognise that fact. For instance, football didn’t quality for the last Olympics and we did even with all the seeming neglect. We got to the semi-final and some of us to the final and what kind of reception did we get?”
Abinuwa a 400m runner said that government must have to rethink on the treatment of her athletes: “Otherwise they will ask the footballers to go and represent them at the All Africa Games and Olympics in the future.”
Former athletes like Yusuf Alli, Gabriel Okon, Gabriel Opuana registered their displeasure over the seeming oversight by the administration of President Jonathan.
“After the African Championships, the sports minister, Bolaji Abdullahi promised that he was going to make the President host the athletes. But this never happened.
“In the past they promised us cash, but at the end of the day nothing was given. I remember bringing up the issue before the Beijing 2008 Olympics, but I was thrown out of camp,” said coach Opuana.
Reacting, Athletics Federation of Nigeria president, Solomon Ogba said that it was depressing that his athletes have not been given the recognition they deserve. He called on the government to support athletics as the sport has potentials to make the country great.
“Our athletes with little or nothing are in competition with those of America, Britain and Jamaica. And we know how those countries pamper their athletes.
“We need to give our athletes total support so that they can excel. At the last Olympics we had about 10 semi-finalists and finalist this has never happened before. We didn’t target to win any medal, because of the preparations we had. We must begin to do the right things if we want results and this is to support the athletes the best way we can,” said Ogba.