NIGERIANS are too happy over the performance of the home-based Eagles at the just concluded CHAN contest in South Africa that they did not notice one of its blights – Nigeria paid bonus to the Eagles for losing to Ghana.
When it happened at the 1998 World Cup, it was criticised. The players had insisted on their winning bonus before a game they eventually lost. The practice continued surreptitiously. We thought that it would have stopped with all the noise about government’s transformation agenda.
The Minister of Sports Mr. Bolaji Abdullahi paid the Eagles a bonus of $100,000 for losing the semi-final game to Ghana. He paid another bonus of $100,000 for the much-hailed quarter-final victory over Morocco. Doubtlessly, the Eagles made a good impression about Nigeria’s domestic league.
As has become the practice of government officials, Mr. Abdullahi dragged President Goodluck Jonathan into justifying the waste of public funds. He said the President appreciated the team’s performance. Did the President instruct Mr. Abdullahi to reward the team for losing to Ghana?
We find the minister’s conduct abhorrent. A bonus is a reward for a great performance. Bonus is the Latin word for “good”. It can never be associated with an odious practice of rewarding someone for missing an expected target.
Had Mr. Abdullahi been spending his personal money, he would have been free to do whatever pleases him. Even at that, we would have warned him against infecting the national team with low expectations. How could he spend public money so whimsically? The Nigeria Football Association pays bonuses to the players. As a parastatal, NFA has its allocations from government, coupled with funds from sponsors, FIFA and CAF. It can survive without the effusive injection of funds from government, in the manner Mr. Abdullahi did.
How has Mr. Abdullahi rewarded other sports? Is he Minister of Football? Was he even committed to the preparation of the Eagles for CHAN? How does he explain a reward that makes victory unimportant? Under what vote did he obtain the wasted $100,000?
Since he was acting in the President’s name, we hold the President equally responsible for the wasted funds. We would have asked the National Assembly to upbraid Mr. Abdullahi, but as usual, National Assembly sports committees were present when Mr. Abdullahi gave the money, they applauded in acquiescence.
Mr. Abdullahi appears to have more funds at his disposal than he can manage. We suggest that he disburses some to the various teams preparing for the Commonwealth Games billed for Scotland. The Games are less than six months away. Mr. Abdullahi has no funds for athletes’ preparations, yet he pays bonus to a team that lost.