By John Egbokhan
Those nursing any hope of a revival of sports in this dispensation have been told to snap up of their dream by a renowned sports administrator and former head of the Nigeria Football Federation, Anthony Kojo Williams.
Nigerians have been left in a state of uncertainty following the woeful performance of Team Nigeria contingent at the IAAF World Athletics Championships, ending tomorrow at the London Olympic Stadium.
Unlike in past editions of the Championships, where Nigerian athletes excelled in their various events, carting away medals that adorned their necks on the podium, beaming with wild smiles, as the nation’s anthem belted out from the loud speakers, the ongoing Worlds have been a sharp departure from the past routine, with no sign of any Nigerian in the finals of its usually strong sprints runs, where the likes of Blessing Okagbare crashed in the semifinal stage.
It has been a World Championships to quickly forget, more less so as the country is still grappling with the crunching effects of economic recession, all making for a deadly mix, threatening to rock the very foundation of our sporting sector.
Speaking with the benefit of hindsight, Kojo told Sports Vanguard that it was inconceivable, unbelievable and disheartening that our Nigerian athletes were now playing last fiddle to previously unknown countries, who in the past years, were seen as sporting lightweights.
He argued that a combination of administrative lapses, poor funding, unskilled technical hands and a lack of willpower were responsible for the downward spiral in our sporting fortunes.
“Our sector is in for tougher times because we facing economic recession, which has brought untold hardship to millions of Nigerians, making it near impossible for government to pump money into sports, or investors bringing out their hard-earned money to sponsor athletes.
“Our administrators are also not making the job easier for the athletes because it is the case of square pegs in round holes while the ones who deserve to be there are regrettably not up to date with the latest trends in the sector.
“It is the case of an analogue cable being used for a digital system, the outcome of which cannot be positive or classy. That is essentially the system we operate today and there is no way you can get distinguishing results under these precarious circumstances”, added Kojo.
He pointed out that as long as government remains the top funder of sports that Nigerian athletes will continue to totter in the backwaters of their respective events.
“As long as the government runs sports in our country, I do not see any hope of growth. Even when government was pumping so much money into our sports, it was never well used. It only benefited a few, while the main athletes, whose careers depended on it, were left to rot in penury”, Kojo said.
Going down memory lane, the astute football administrator recalled that the “only time we had it well in sports was during the late Aikhomu era, when those handing out the money were careful enough to monitor the way it was spent. Maybe, that is one lesson that we can learn from them that we should monitor how money is being spent and bring to book any person who misapplies or misappropriates funds meant for athletes.
“But today, there is no growth in the sector. It even goes beyond the current Sports Minister, Solomon Dalung, who has shown that he is a round peg in a square hole and is finding the roadmap rather too difficult to decipher.
“His case is worsened by the fact that the economy is down and we all know that even when our economy was booming that our sector was the last to get government funding. Now that things are tough, sports will suffer more”, he added.
The pictures of Ivorian and South African athletes being decorated with medals at the World Championships in London have left a scarred portion in the mind of not a few Nigerian sports buffs, who are incensed that we have ceded our status as the numero uno in African sprints to lesser known quantities, who are now shinning lights in the world game.
Kojo said for Nigeria to return to its Olympian heights that a clearing of the piles of rubbish was inevitable as he advocated for a clean slate with proven, forthright and dynamic leadership.
‘’I want a clean slate. But we must first clear the old mess that we have. I want a new development in place even though I can’t force it to happen. They keep giving us rubbish, with nothing changing and things continue getting worse.
‘’The sight of Nigerians excelling competing for other countries is disgraceful for our administrators because it shows that we have the wherewithal but lack competent administrators. It is all about administration. It is very frustrating and we can’t excel if this system continues to thrive. Our current administrators are not interested in developing our sports.
‘’In the 80s and 90s, we had at least two Nigerians in the final of the 100m and 200m at the Olympics but now, it is impossible to find even one athlete in the sprints finals . I don’t know how we are going to get out of the woods. Maybe, we need to hope for God to intervene but that is wishful thinking if we don’t put our house in order before God will help us’’, added Kojo.