Onochie Anibeze’s Moscow Diary
A journalist from Malawi here takes delight in meeting Nigerians.
“Ieeegweee” he would hail a Nigerian, thrusting a hand up and slightly bowing in a typical way an Igbo would greet an Igwe.
Asked if he knew the meaning of Igwe, Stalin, said “of course. It means a high chief.”
And how did he come to know about this? He explained that he watches Home Videos from Nigeria and that a channel in their television bouquet in Malawi “permanently shows African movies.”
Stalin has picked up some Nigerian cultures and proudly speaks of them here.
Dare Esan’s $200 wine, Sports minister’s birthday
The tension that gripped Nigerians here while Blessing Okagbare stepped out for the 100m final last Tuesday was unbelievable. After winning in the Olympic Games anniversary meet where she ran 10.79 seconds, a new African record, the hype on the World Championships turned towards the Delta girl. Expectations grew among Nigerians and Blessing appeared to have developed more confid-ence.
The gold chase was on. And when they were about to start the race, heart beats increased. Julius Ogunro, the SA to the sports minister, asked at that moment if it would not be healthier to shut one’s eyes like some people do during penalty kicks in soccer. I asked him why he came here. Dare Esan, the Complete Sports Editor stood. He couldn’t sit to watch the race. I was already standing. Duro Ikhazuegbe, the sports editor of Thisday also stood.
We were all tensed up. Julius held his shoulders and remembered that it was Tuesday, August 13, the birthday of his principal, the sports minister. “What a wonderful birthday gift it would be for Blessing to win the gold here,” he said. Such was the expectation of many Nigerians. On your marks, set, the gun went and Shelly Ann Fraser Pryce had left all on the blocks. Muriela Ahoure of Ivory Coast was gone, Carmelita Jeter was gone.
We watched and hoped that, as usual, Blessing would recover and power home. She had always won her races in the last ten meters or so. But from 50 metres we saw her struggling and English Gardner of USA passed her and Kerron Steward followed. What an evening. We expected gold but found our country not good enough for silver or bronze. We all stood there petrified. Speechless momentarily. The weather wasn’t cold but the air around us made us cold. Blessing was sixth. As we walked away, Dare Esan only said “this morning I had told some foreign friends that we would have a drink tonight. I kept $200 for the wine that I was going to use to toast to our victory. I’ll now walk straight into my room when I get to my hotel. I’ll keep my $200.”
We stepped out of the main arena to the entrance of the VIP Hospitality zone where sports minister Bolaji Abdullahi was already standing.
“I think that it will be unfair to talk about what we didn’t get. It’s better that we talk about what we have. We have a silver here from long jump, from the same athlete. It’s worth celebrating. It’s our first medal in the World Championship for14 years” the minister said, trying to console everybody.
Solomon Ogba, the AFN President had joined us. So was Amaju Pinnick, Commodore Omatseye Nesiama, Rene Thobi, a Camerounian journalist who was so impressed by the concern and conduct of Abdullahi that she told the minister “I want to take a picture with you so that I’ll tell our own sports minister how a minister of sports should be close to the people.” Abdullahi obliged and continued to commend Blessing but added that Nigeria should produce many top athletes so that “all our expectations would not be on one athlete.”
He was right but his ministry has to lead the way. He seems to be pulling strings to do so. Time will tell. Julius later left with him and we never heard anything again about his birthday.
Okagbare’s tears impress official
Tears, naturally, should attract pity if not sympathy. When Blessing Okagbare failed in the 100m final here and burst into tears, many felt for the Nigerian athlete. Nigeria is here with 20 athletes but only Blessing is a medal potential. She already has one, a Long Jump silver. But when she dropped to the sixth position she cried all night.
“We have athletes here who crashed out in the first round of their events but they are acting as if nothing happened,” Jide Josiah, a Nigerian official fumed. “You see them playing around, wearing skimpy things and showing off as if they are here for another business.
But see how Blessing is crying. And that’s somebody who already has a silver. Can you imagine? Blessing has shown how patriotic she is. She has shown her determination and the will to win. Look at how she was crying. That shows her good spirit.” If you didn’t follow the story and heard his last remarks, you would think that he was commending Blessing for weeping over her failure.