By Ikeddy Isiguzo
We should appropriate some things as national assets. Among them is the social responsibility agenda of some of key organisations in our environment. On my mind today is Mobil Athletics Championships that the oil company has sponsored for decades and which it said it had finally decided to stop.
The message would be shattering for athletics that hardly gets sponsorship, but the writing has been on the wall for more than 15 years. Mobil stopped its internal involvement with the IAAF Grand Prix in which it used to be a title sponsor and had then tried the same move back home. Somehow, it listened to reason about the peculiarities of its engagements with Nigerians and continued the competition, which used to be a flagship event with global attention.
Nigeria had a horde of world-class athletes then based abroad who were in high demand in the international circuit. Their commitment to the home competition that Mobil sponsored was even considered a sacrifice on their part, as they had to leave chasing fame and fortune abroad to make the home appearance.
What sustained the home event was the strategic decision that was made years ago to tie the Mobil competition to the trials for Nigeria’s selection of the national teams for international competitions.
The athletics calendar was staggered enough that almost every year there was a major competition that Nigeria had to select a national team.
Mobil’s consideration for withdrawing, earlier, included costs. There were also comments that the sponsorship had image challenges for Mobil. I remember vividly, when I had a closer involvement with athletic, a particular Mobil official had an astounding arrogance that did the company no good.
The image challenges arose from how she carried on while dealing with everyone involved in the competition. The media were her favourite targets. Yet the sponsorship continued with the understanding that Mobil’s contributions to Nigerian youth were more important than the behaviour of its official. The event gave Mobil high visibility, more visibility than whatever it was doing in the immediate communities where it operated.
When I heard of this withdrawal, I was wondering what arguments the federation would push forward in asking Mobil to continue the partnership with athletics. Oil is still selling well. Mobil’s operations in Nigeria are going on very well. There have been no hints of Mobil stopping oil productions in Nigeria. If it has challenges, they are the same ones other companies in Nigeria face.
Both sides have failed to improve the event. Moreover, one had thought that the sponsorship would have been deepened to include preliminaries that could have been scattered across the country. The quality of the competition has dropped because the initial unsung works that produced quality athletes have ceased.
Frustrations in the relationship have been mutual. Like in all engagements, both sides must find a way to re-engage for better results. I do not think Mobil makes enough noise about the fruits of its investments that opened the door to stardom to generations of Nigerian athletes who became world stars.
Without Mobil, they would not have gone that far, or would have under more dimming circumstances. The athletics authorities on their part must find a way to make their brand outstanding. They still have something Mobil needs, but they are unable to prove it to Mobil.
I would like to see Mobil return to continue a national assignment that has generated global waves with the output of Nigerian athletes. Mobil cannot abbreviate the applause the global community that gleefully watched as it oiled Nigerian athletics.
Warner Resigns To Save Blatter
THE story of the FIFA scandal is ending with the resignation of Jack Warner, the FIFA Vice President who was a central figure in the allegations that have dogged FIFA more seriously in the past months.
His resignation makes sense. It means that a deal has been reached. Warner had threatened to spill the secrets about the deals in FIFA. Was he seriously? Anyone who understands how FIFA operates would know he was a man too close to too many FIFA deals that he could have known more than enough to make FIFA authorities uncomfortable.
Is it a puzzle that the planned investigations against him have been stopped? Joseph Sepp Blatter is doing all he can to remain FIFA President. Anyone who can stop that ambition will be thrown out, whether by resignation, sack, or suspension.
The story of Warner’s resignation will be told one day. I can bet it will be another scandal.
Table Tennis – Egypt Arrives
AFTER decades of dominating table tennis in Africa, Nigeria’s hold started slipping with poor investment in the game. Egypt that once reigned is back at the helms. The current African ranking (men) has only three Nigerians in the top 10, in the third and fourth places. Egyptians have the two top places.
More challenges are from Cameroon and Congo where a former Nigerian international and coach Kasali Lasisi is turning that country into a continental power in the game. The All Africa Games in September will be another opportunity for the contenders to stake their control of the game.
Time is running out for the re-invention of Nigerian table tennis. Is anyone going to stop the decline?
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