By Ben Efe
Former Athletics Federation of Nigeria president, Dan Ngerem is not happy about the way government usually brush aside Nigerian athletes. And also how it fails, to recognize the glory these athletes often bring to the nation.
Mr. Ngerem was speaking against the background of Nigeriaâ€™s outing at the last African Championships in Nairobi, Kenya where the countryâ€™s ambasadors won eight gold medals to come second to the host nation.
He said that it was wrong for the government to elaborately celebrate the achievement of the women squad at the FIFA Under-20 Women World Cup, but ignored the heroic performances of athletes like Blessing Okagbare and the other women who made Nigeria proud in Nairobi on the same weekend.
â€œ The President made congratulatory messages to the Falconets. What about the Nigerian girls that came second at the African athletics championships in Nairobi?
â€œWe have Olympic medal potentials in the team, yet Nigeria can afford to pretend as if it is only football that does exist. If we can set up a presidential committee to raise funds for football that didnâ€™t get us anything, why canâ€™t the same committee be set up for other sports?
â€œThis was how it was in 2008, when the President received only the football team that won silver at Beijing, but up till now the women who won bronze have not been received,â€ said Ngerem in Lagos.
He urged the Sports Minister to make athletics his priority and provide funding for the Sport.
â€œWe need to fund athletics, it is not all about football. Do you know that when the athletes were in Nairobi, the approval for funds for the African championships is still in the office of the director of sports?Â They were in Nairobi no money and no uniform.
â€œ The athletes (just like during last yearâ€™s World Championship in Berlin) went to the African Championship in Nairobi, Kenya with zero support from Nigeria/NSC. Only empty promises that they never intend to honour.
â€œAll this is happening in the same year we would be participating in the Commonwealth Games in India come this October (under three months from now). And also the first ever Junior Olympics in Singapore both events scheduled several years ahead in world sports calendar.
â€œDo we need reminding, that while football is popular, it can only fetch Nigeria one medal in any major competition. Other sports like, athletics has potential for multiple laurels for the country and indeed constitute close to 65% of All Africa; Commonwealth and Olympic Games,â€ Ngerem said. He praised the efforts of athletes in Nairobi, especially when Kenya and South Africa were better prepared to get results.