By Pepsi Ogechi Adiukwu
I sat waiting for the Mayor of London Boris Johnson, Secretary of State for Culture, Olympics, Media and Sport Jeremy Hunt, and LOCOG chair Lord Coe. The event was the after games media briefing at the London Media Centre. One can feel the excitement and calm. This clan of journalists will have to really dig deep and hard to find negatives today as opposed to a similar setting at the beginning of the games.
I cast my mind back to another press briefing a few days earlier, that time it was at the Nigeria House, we were waiting for the Sports Minister, the NSC DG, the NOC president and others.
The journalists on this occasion had no problems with finding negatives, many voices including mine, expressed anger at corruption amongst other issues responsible for our dismal outing.
Boris Johnson told us that, as well as being the most successful ever, the 2012 Olympic Games had exceeded many expectations with records smashed not just by Team GB athletes but right across the capital, from transport to tourism.
The Nigeria Sports Minister, Mallam Bolaji Abdullahi told us that he had learned many lessons, that hard work, good preparations and not prayers, win medals. He said that the country cannot achieve much if a lot of money is not injected into sports. Abdullahi said: “Olympic medals are all about hard cash”.
During the press briefing others made contributions and asked questions regarding sports development from the schools, clubs etc. I focused my comments and question on corruption because as I pointed out, there were no new ideas or contributions offered- including mine- they were all rhetorical. What we lacked was the will to do the fit and proper thing.
The purpose of this exposé is to reveal the way and manner a part of the N2.3billion naira reported to have been given to the sports ministry was wasted in London with the summation that had this money been received and put to better use at the appropriate time, the Nigeria 2012 experience would have been a different one.
The above summation is not rocket science; indeed all the stake holders know this. What then is stopping the government, the NSC and the NOC from doing the fit and proper thing?
The answer lies in the way a huge part of our ‘Olympic’ money was spent in London. All the beneficiaries of this money are culpable in our Olympic 2012 failure. The custom of “Official Delegation” – the gold mine of competitions, that benefits civil servants in the sports ministry, members of the national assembly, spiritual/royal leaders, politicians etc. and their followers, continued at the London Olympics.
Many of them fed fat from the N2.3billion naira; they were flown to London, some to Jeddah via London, given free accommodation, food and full estacodes.
Many of them enjoyed the ‘national cake’ more than the real [fit and proper] “Official Delegation” – the athletes, coaches and sports administrators representing Nigeria at the Games.
An official of Lagos Sports Writers’ Association of Nigeria (SWAN) said that the Lagos and Abuja SWAN were each given N5million naira.
An inside source who was horrified at the amount of fifty pound notes packed into envelopes and given as estacodes to the “Official Delegation” asked rhetorically…’millions of Nigerians are hungry, there are no sports facilities and this amount of money is available to be shared here’?
We gathered that certain flights were from Lagos-London-Jeddah. What Olympic event was scheduled for Jeddah!!?
Most of the “Official Delegation” (Hundreds) did not go to watch a single Olympic event, he added. He was also livid at the fact that a top member of the National Assembly chose to rent a Mercedes at seventy five pounds an hour instead of making use of the 2012 BMW brand new car designated to him for the Olympics.
We also gathered that a Governor from the south came for the opening ceremony went back to Nigeria and later returned for the closing ceremony.
The audacity of it all was such that a delegate, who was neither an athlete nor a coach but one of the beneficiaries who received envelopes filled with fifty pound notes harassed a top director in the sports ministry and demanded for more.
All those who partook in the sharing of the N2.3billion naira as mentioned above are implicitly saying to the government, it is alright; in fact it is preferable that you release funds a few months before the Olympics as we will find ways to spend them.
The message should have been – spearheaded by the NSC, we needed these funds (and more) four years ago but since it has come this late, we will state our plans and purpose for sports development by investing three quarters of this money into transparent initiatives that we will kick off as soon as we get back.
We did not need the hundreds of people we flew, housed and paid to be in London. There were so many areas that money could have been saved, from business class return tickets to hotels, etc.
I have not bothered to mention the monies given to the NOC and the Federations for the Olympics – they need to account for them of course- those are bona fide and proper allocations.
The Minister at the press briefing told the Doubting Thomas’s present to have faith. As much as the head takes the lion share of the accolades/ blame in victory or failure, we are mindful of the fact that the Minister came into this office a few months ago and has not had the time to implement his ideas.
As I told him during the press briefing, his success will largely be determined by how the NOC and NSC carry out their responsibilities and it is his responsibility to ensure that both are responsible and accountable.
The future is not far away;
as President Goodluck Jonathan has ordered “a total and comprehensive re-organisation.”
We hope this will be done to ensure that only those with CCI (people who are committed, competent and with integrity) are left to run our sports.
We should not hesitate for one minute to put the blame on the sports minister if the future becomes the present.
To all responsible…are there any funds remaining and have we plans to allocate them?