By Solomon Nwoke
The woeful performance of Nigerian athletes at the just concluded 2017 IAAF Athletics World Championships in London has come under severe scrutiny from former commissioner of sports in Edo State, Brown Ebewele.
Team Nigeria, once a powerhouse in world athletics has suddenly turned to a mere shadow that countries that dreaded them in the past now overwhelm them. London World Athletics championship was a typical example. London, no doubt, has become a place of sorts for Team Nigeria. It was at London 2012 Olympics that Team Nigeria started its ignominious outing. Five years after the hues and cries that attended our disgraceful Olympic outing, Team Nigeria returned yet again to London exclusively for Athletics only to tow the shameful part of its predecessors – without a medal.
Brown Ebewele, one of the aficionados of athletics took a cursory look at the performance of Team Nigeria and said that those entrusted with the management of sports have turned out to be the ones destroying our athletics. Ebewele should know because he was former national decathlete, former Technical Director of Athletics Federation of Nigeria. He was also former Sports Commissioner in Edo State. Excerpts.
“Well, I’m not surprised at the performance of our athletes at the London Championships. It has been so for a while. Our performance is nothing to write home about because the way and manner we do things here is enough for us not to achieve anything. Before now, there were people who were committed and had the interest of the sport at heart and they were getting results. But now, we have a bunch of hustlers and fraudsters that are participating in the industry. If you are in Nigeria, you’ll know that Nigerian sport is a joke. As far as I’m concerned, it is what we sowed that we are reaping. We don’t deserve to do well and we are not going to do well until we do it correctly.
There were ominous signs of doom for this championship when at the eleventh hour, the team had not gotten visas to travel to London. There were no flight arrangements made for the team if they get visas’’.
It is what you sow that you reap. Athletics is practical. If you prepare well, you achieve good results. I make bold to say that Nigerian athletics will suffer more damaging results in the coming days because the government seems to have lost everything.”
Our Sports Minister, Solomon Dalung abandoned his athletes who were stranded in Nigeria without tickets, visas and ran to London. Was there a conference of Sports Ministers in London for the World Athletics Championships? How many Sports Ministers from other countries attended the World Championships? Have you ever seen or heard of a General going to the war front without his troop? It is only in Nigeria that these things happen. Questions should be asked about the shameful outing of Nigeria in London. Our sports is dead. I plead with the Presidency to wade into our sports before things get out of hand’’.
Ebewele exonerated the athletes from any blame in London. ‘’Nobody should blame the athletes for the shameful outing in London. What was their preparation like? Did they prepare like other countries?
“Now tell me, we are going to the Commonwealth Games next year and from what we are seeing, it’s very obvious that there’s no serious preparation on ground. Our special athletes have been doing well internationally. And for them to participate in next year’s Commonwealth Games, they have to go for qualifiers. Nobody in the ministry is aware of that. If we don’t go for qualification between now and the next few months, Nigeria automatically will not be at the Commonwealth Games. So tell me, what do we have the ministry for if at their level they do not have the calendar of events?
The National Sports Festival has been in the doldrums for a couple of years. This is our mini Olympics where athletes are discovered. All we hear is that there’s no money to prepare the athletes for international championships, but the money they generate from the stadium in Lagos is enough to prepare and send the athletes for an international event to represent the country. The money they realize from the Liberty stadium in Ibadan is enough to camp the athletes for an international event. We have the Ahmadu Bello Stadium in Kaduna. We have the Nnamdi Azikiwe Stadium in Enugu. We have stadia all over the federation and they all generate money from activities going on there everyday. So where does the money go to? If you go to the National Stadium in Lagos, apart from the shops and kiosks, some part of the edifice is rented out to Churches. Don’t they pay for the usage?
I went to Ozoro Polytechnic in Delta state during the last national competition that held there. That stadium in the Polytechnic was built by money from IGR of a Polytechnic. And we have bigger stadia in Lagos, Kaduna, Enugu, and Port Harcourt.
The way forward is that some people must be sacked in the sports ministry and if you cannot sack them for one sentimental reason or the other, move them to another ministry. How many former sportsmen are working as staff of the sports ministry? All you have are relatives of top officials. Most of them know next to nothing about sports. They have no passion for sports. They are only interested in their monthly salaries and fall-outs from their master’s table. But if sportsmen and women are employed at the Sports Ministry, the foundation will be better for our sports’’.
Ebewele also did not spare the athletes and coaches. ‘’Before, we had athletes who traveled abroad on scholarships. Now, we have all manner of pretenders running because of money. And to cap it all, our coaches are bereft of ideas. You can only impact knowledge on what you know.