•Ray Ekpu, Reuben Abati, Abimbola Adelaku, Dr Ugoji Egbujo, Adekunle Salami
Compiled by Oghene Omonisa
The Olympic games end tomorrow in Rio, Brazil. The dismal performance of Team Nigeria is no longer news. The controversies, the shame, the disappointments and international disgrace that became part of Team Nigeria may linger in the reviews that will surely follow. But many foretold the imminent fairlure and government cannot absolve itself from the blame.
In the history of Nigeria’s participation in the Olympics Team Nigeria has never had it this bad in terms of preparation and conduct of the leadership of the Nigerian sports. Some of Nigeria’s celebrated columnists found it absolutely necessary to write on sports. Their passion is read in their opinions and messages to the government and people of Nigeria. Enjoy excerpts from their columns before now:
*Dalung is a joke – Abimbola Adelakun, columnist, The Punch, July 28, 2016
“Despite Solomon Dalung’s self-delusion about Nigeria winning at least five medals, we will likely come back home all washed in disgrace just like the 2012 Olympics; a global proof of the tardiness of black and African peoples.
“Nigeria is not prepared for this event and the first blatant confirmation was a July 19 report that President Muhammadu Buhari had ‘ordered’ that funds for the Olympics be released! What country does that for a major event less than a month to the opening of the Games?
“Dalung has since refuted the claim about athletes buying their own tickets. While we are still on the subject of the perennial dysfunctionality that haunts Nigerian sports, can we also talk about the fellow that currently heads the Sports Ministry? Dalung is a joke. He does not seem to have a clue about the huge potential of sports. Rather, he spends time on social media writing syrupy religious articles and some sycophantic claptrap that shows he is not conscious of the gravitas of his official appointment.
“On July 3, he posted a picture of himself at a stadium in Paris claiming that Multichoice had sponsored him and some others to witness a UEFA Champions League quarterfinal match. Dalung, apparently oblivious that the joke was on him, asked his social media company to predict the result of the match. It was bad enough that he was unaware it was unethical for him to have received gifts from a private organisation; it is funnier that Dalung continues to be an echo chamber of the Buhari anti-corruption platitude.”
*2016 Olympics: Team Nigeria, failure foretold – Ugoji Egbujo, columnist, Saturday Vanguard, August 20, 2016
“Before Delta Airline produced adverts that speak of their efficiency in rescuing persons lost at the sea of planlessness, our Sports Minister had gone to inspect facilities in Brazil. If the idea was to see how the Olympics is organized first hand then it could yet be a prudent trip. There is no harm in thinking futuristically.
“But while he was inspecting facilities thousands of miles away, his athletes were loitering in disillusionment. They were trapped in an acute reality the frivolity and superficiality of a ministerial sightseeing of Brazilian facilities could not postpone.
When the dream team took their dreams beyond the incompetence of the Sports Ministry and the NOC, the Minister wriggled his hands off their apparent truancy. It was enough to say, the nation was broke and all training programmes should happen locally. He had gone to check for them where they would lodge in Brazil, and they should be contented.
“It wasn’t long before the stranded football team made international news headlines. And the shame splashed on everyone. The Minister bolted out of his woolgathering and started oozing incoherent excuses. “The sports ministerial portfolio cannot be another token that can go to just about anybody. Because when ignorance and incompetence come together in a minister destitute of passion for sports, misery is magnified.”
HE CAN’T MOVE OUR SPORTS FORWARD – Adekunle Salami, sports journalist, New Telegraph, July 16, 2016
“From the very beginning, Dalung did not strike me as somebody ready to move sports forward. He came in talking about how he was cheated of his estacode at Mali 2002 Nations Cup where he claimed he was given about $2,000 instead of over $6,000. “After investigations, it was revealed that the highest ranking government official at the competition did not get more than $3,500. One wonders what Dalung was talking about.
“He vowed to fight corruption and crisis because according to him, ‘I am known as a crisis resolution expert and that is why I am in sports to resolve all issues.’ Sad enough the crisis in Nigerian football which Dalung inherited is still prevalent despite the intervention of the Minister.
“The Minister as the number one personality in sport has refused to take a decisive step on this perhaps because Giwa is from Jos just like him. The soul of Nigerian football has been dangling and that is why poor results are being posted especially the embarrassing back-to-back Nations Cup miss of the Super Eagles.
“The Minister shocked the world with his reaction on the predicament of the national U-23 team preparing for the Olympic Games football even in Atlanta, USA, saying whatever happens to the team was not his business. ‘I don’t know about the trip to the US and if they are suffering that is the business of those who sponsored them not my business,’ he said.
“Dalung should simply resign or tell Mr President to assign him to another ministry. He is not worthy of leading Team Nigeria to Rio Olympics. He knows nothing and he is not ready to learn. It is a SHAME.
*Dalung doesn’t know his onions – Ray Ekpu, veteran journalist, The Guardian, August 9, 2016
“In terms of poor preparation for this event, we have handily won an Olympic gold medal. Whether we win medals or not the shame we have brought to our country is Olympian in size.
“Regina George, one of Nigeria’s sprinters, was thanking Nigerians who contributed money for her trip based on her appeal for help. She and the other athletes were simply told by our sports officialdom to fund their training and trips to Rio and a refund will be made to them in due course. George said she had gathered $3,750 from some Good Samaritans. What a country!
“There was no money to take care of the players. They arrived Brazil on . . . and even with the jet lag stupor they still defeated Japan 5 – 4.
“The public queried why the players were left stranded at Atlanta. We were told there was no money to hire a plane for airlifting them to Rio when athletes from other countries had already arrived and mastered the Rio environment. The Minister of Youths and Sports, Solomon Dalung, who wears a trade mark red beret replied with unsolomonic wisdom to enquiries about the stranded boys that he was unaware they were camping in Atlanta. I hope his red beret will not be the physical equivalent of a red card for our sports.
“If this Minister knew his onions wouldn’t he have pleaded with President Muhammadu Buhari to authorise a release of one or two of the 10 aircraft in the Presidential fleet for a major national assignment like this? That way our athletes would have arrived in comfort in a plane marked with our green white green colours hugging a huge dose of national pride, and confident that it is a grateful nation that has sent them on a worthwhile errand.
When you treat an athlete like royalty, the reward you deservedly expect is reciprocity in full measure. When you treat him like a piece of rag your expectation should be nothing but rag-like.”
*Many people are calling for his job – Reuben Abati, columnist, The Guardian, August 14, 2016
“Many of the affirmations are relatively the same: the President is a good man but he is surrounded by incompetent people who have their own agenda, so they say, or that the Ministers are not doing their job and right now, there is a loud protest against the ability of one Minister to manage something as simple as taking a sports delegation to the Olympics. The number of people calling for the man’s job is growing.”
*Future foretold? Editorial, The New Telegraph, Friday, November 20, 2015
“The reverse is the case in the Sports Ministry as Solomon Dalong, who has no track record in the industry was named as head. Dalung was a Prisons officer and he is also a trained lawyer called to the bar in 2001. His background has nothing on sports and that is the country’s number one sports citizen.
“We acknowledge that Dalung is not the first of such ministers named without knowledge of sports, but his case came as a surprise because stakeholders in sports were expecting a CHANGE in line with the vision of the current administration.
“However, Dalung, in his first public speech assured that his general knowledge of administration would be sufficient for him to excel in sports. He said ‘I’m not a novice in sports. I know a lot about sports because I was a sportsman in my school days. I will bring more values to Nigerian sports. I have been in national service for a very long time and I have dedicated my life to this country. I’m happy that there is a good foundation that I will build on.’”
Almost a year after, Solomon Dalung has not been able to live up to his words, going by his present actions and rating. Or perhaps he still needs more time to be able to meet his promise of bringing “more values to Nigerian sports.”