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Redefining disability

By Joesf Omorotionmwan

This stammerer in our little village, Oghada, woke up one morning and burst into tears, unwittingly coming up with what later became a song in the village: “Oghada come, come and see, come and see that a lame man has run faster than me”.

He later began to narrate how he had invested all his hard-earned money from farm work on the education of his children. In the fifties, when many could not afford to train one child, Papa had sent three of his children to secondary commercial schools across the Niger. His calculation was that when they finished, wealth would arrive.

By the twist of fate, the three children did not finish well. Meanwhile, the children of a very poor villager who could not further their education had successfully picked up jobs as drivers and salesmen in a soft drink company and they were building houses everywhere.

Nigeria, we hail thee! We must continue to hail this country for abandoning its citizens at the Biblical level of Ecclesiastes 6:2. God has given us “so much riches, wealth and honour, so that we wanteth nothing for our souls of all that we desireth”. Yet our leaders keep denying us the mouth to eat of the God-given wealth. Someone was pondering the other day, why it is that of all the oil producing nations, Nigeria remains the only place where oil theft thrives.

We also wonder why Nigeria remains the only nation where oil boom has turned to oil doom to the extent that although Nigeria is said to rank fifth in the world’s oil production table, we are still the only nation where governance hinges only on the debate of oil subsidy instead of how to develop the nation and its people. It never ceases to amaze some of us that what started like a huge joke is now a flourishing reality: Nigeria now imports refined petroleum products from our backyard, Niger Republic.

We reached for the dictionary and looked up the word, “Disabled”. It is defined as “unable to use part of your body completely or easily because of a physical condition, sickness, injury, etc”. It is clear that Nigeria is disabled. Papa in the village has appropriately defined himself as disabled as a lame man has outrun him.

The authorities in Nigeria have been fraudulent in every aspect, including the application of disability. A few weeks ago, we went to London presumably for the Olympic Games and we disgraced ourselves thoroughly.

We quickly reminded ourselves of Pierre de Coubertin (1863-1937), founder of modern Olympiad, who believes that the original spirit behind the games was participating, not necessarily winning. But we forgot that there must still be evidence of participation.

For instance, Nigeria did not appear anywhere on the medals table for the so-called able-bodied athletes. I am sure the Sports Minister, Mallam Bolaji Abdullahi, had problems convincing President Goodluck Jonathan that his people got to London.

Truly, after the fierce but honest and friendly competitions, a win or loss at the games would showcase the strength or weakness of a country’s domestic polity and economy. Economically strong and politically stable nations would invariably do better than the loafers.

The disaster we met in London did not come as a surprise. It was a total reflection of the Nigerian state. No organisation ever grows much higher than the environment in which it exists. The moment Nigeria failed to qualify for the football event, it was clear that we were going on a frolic. A Team Nigeria for the Olympics without football is like a train without an engine.

The reasons advanced for the London massacre have been aptly summarized under the bold headings of corruption, instability, lack of preparation and the rest. Evidently, we cannot expect to reap US, China or Russia when all we have planted is Nigeria.

We hope President Jonathan realises that failure is failure and no failure makes for good breakfast anywhere. The London disaster was indeed shattering to the administration and Nigeria. Every sector in Nigeria is dead. President Jonathan must begin to take the tough decisions now.

If Professor Berth Nnaji could be shown the door because the lights he was producing were not bright enough for Nigerians, what of Abdullahi who has thoroughly soaked all of us in the mud in London? Should he not be relieved of his brief as the supervisor of our sports? After the London Olympics, other serious nations have started preparing for the next Commonwealth and Olympic games. But in Nigeria, we must wait till two weeks to the events!

In all this, God still loves his people. That’s why he quickly sent the Paralympics to salvage our situation. Those we dubiously defined as disabled have now turned round to show that there is ability in disability where the rest of us are struggling to demonstrate that there is great disability in ability. What an irony! They did us proud. In the end, the world stood up for the Nigerian colours 13 times – for our 6 gold, 5 silver and 2 bronze medals!

Nigeria thoroughly dominated the power-lifting medals table where it harvested most of its medals. We broke four Paralympic and four world records in the games. We remember Yakubu Adesokun, the Ibadan-born athlete who set the ball rolling in the men’s 48kg category.

Twice in a single day, he broke his own record by first lifting 178kg, before lifting 180kg – almost four times his body weight! Nigeria must apologise to these people for criminally labeling them as disabled. We now know better where the real disability resides.

Incidentally, many of the names we saw on the medals tables of Britain and other winning countries were definitely Nigerian, which boils down to one fact: our sports administration is defective. The question Bob Oriwo, a frontline physically challenged upholster in Benin City, asked years ago is still relevant – Na so we go dey dey?


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