By Joef Omorotionmwan
WHEN it suits us, we tout the idea around that there is ability in disability. Of course, this also presupposes that there must be a lot of disability in ability. This type of situation comes to the fore every four years – after the Olympiad and its Paralympics counterpart.
In our search for the functional meaning of the world “Disability”, our guide, Webster’s Third New International Dictionary, pointed to the following: The condition of being disabled; inability to do something; deprivation or lack, especially of physical, intellectual or emotional capacity or fitness; a particular weakness or inadequacy; and the inability to pursue an occupation or perform services for wages because of physical or mental impairment…
The authorities in Nigeria are fraudulent in every respect, including the application of disability. There is no better explanation for the fact that in every Olympic Tournament, Nigeria gets thoroughly disgraced out, only to be redeemed by the Paralympics that follow almost immediately.
We are quick to regard females as the weaker sex but when it comes to the actual show of strength, even the few laurels we get at international sporting engagements come mainly from the women. How can anyone easily forget the superlative achievements of Chioma Ajunwa and Blessing Okagbare at intercontinental outings when it seemed that their male counterparts were asleep?
Our Sports Ministers can never wish away the importance of the paralympians. At the end of each Olympic Game, Nigerians quickly deposit every fault from our abysmal performance at the doorsteps of the Sports Minister. For instance, at the conclusion of the 2012 London Olympics where Nigeria did not have even a pin to show that our contingent even got to London at all, the then Sports Minister, Bolaji Abdulahi, sweated it out. Coming almost immediately after the then Minister of Power, Prof. Berth Nnaji, was shown the door, apparently for poor performance, Nigerians felt that Abudlahi had no moral justification to stay in office a day longer after leading us to the London disaster.
Divine intervention brought the paralympians to save Abdulahi’s job. Those we had dubiously defined as disabled turned round to show that, truly, there is ability in disability – perhaps another case of the proverbial rejected stone becoming the cornerstone.
Again, with the great performance of the Nigerian paralympians at the just-concluded Rio Paralympics, our Sports Minister, Solomon Dalung, has every cause to replace his Lamentations with the Songs of Solomon. Once again, the so-called disabled athletes have come to rescue.
We shall now pose the familiar question: Who is really the disabled – the self-defined able-bodied people who goes to the tournaments and return empty-handed or the so-called disabled who go there all the time and come home with all the laurels? Many would choose to be disabled if disability enhances performance while ability brings infamy.
Ordinarily, we do not need to justify telling the truth; but in every circumstance, we must continue to justify not telling the truth. In our failure, we are quick to point to Pierre Coubertin (1863-1937) – the founder of modern Olympiad – who believed that the original spirit behind the games was participation, not necessarily winning. Even at that, there must be evidence of participation. And the best evidence of participation is seeing your name on the medals table.
In just seven participations, Nigerian paralympians have moved the world. Between the 1992 Barcelona Paralympics, where Nigeria made her debut and the just-concluded Rio Paralympics, Nigerian paralympians have won 34 gold medals, 13 silver and 14 bronze, with the gold medals spread as follows: 1992 Barcelona (3); 1996 Atlanta (3); 2000 Sydney (7); 2004 Athens (5); 2008 Beijing (4); 2012 London (4); and 2016 Rio (8).
In the telling days of the NTA News-Line, Frank Olize regularly had a poser for Nigerian parents “It is 9 o’clock. Do you know where your children are?” We are today calling on Nigeria to answer this same question as it relates to the paralympians who have done us proud:
In the 1992 Barcelona Paralympics, Adeoye Ajibola won two gold medals in the men’s sprint event. He repeated the same feat at the 1996 Atlanta Paralympics, which means that Ajibola made the entire world to stand up for the Nigerian colours four times!
Monday Emoghawve won a total of 3 gold medals – one each at the 1992 Barcelona, the 1996 Atlanta and the 2000 Sydney Paralympics.
At the 2000 Sydney Paralympics, Tajudeen Agunbiade brought 2 gold medals to Nigeria in the men’s single Table Tennis event. At the 2004 Athens Paralympics, Adekundo Adesoji brought 3 gold medals to Nigeria in the men’s sprint event.
Eucaria Njideka won 2 gold medals at the 2008 Beijing Paralympics in the athletic women’s shot-put event.
At the 2012 London Paralympics, Nigeria thoroughly dominated the power-lifting medals table. In a single day, Yakubu Adesokun, the Ibadan-born athlete, beat his own record twice by first lifting 178kg before lifting 180kg – almost four times his own body weight. That was how he performed the type of feat that prompted the Greek philosopher, Democratus (460 BC-370 BC) to conclude, “To win oneself is the first and best of all victories”.
In the just – concluded Rio Paralympics, Josephine Orji shattered the world record with a lift of 160kg to win the gold medal in the women’s power-lifting event.
With a throw of 20.25 metres in the women’s javelin event, Flora Ugwunwa set a new world record to win the gold medal.
With age, the older achievers have disappeared from the games. Naturally, the current ones will soon follow suit.
It is now pertinent to ask: Nigeria, do you know where your heroes and heroines are? Out of sight should not be out of mind. After all, the respect we accord to past achievers remains the single strongest motivation for the present.
Again, the Bible is right that iron sharpens iron. Picking our Sports Ministers from our hitherto deprived population – the womenfolk and the physically-challenged – could be an idea whose time has come. Certainly, if we identity with success, success will rub off on us!