“THE labour of our heroes past shall never be in vain”. How much importance do we, the government and people of Nigeria, really attach to this line in our national anthem? Shouldn’t the inspiring words of our national anthem which we recite at the beginning of formal and public events be so deeply etched in our hearts and consciousness as to reflect in our routine behaviours and attitudes, especially towards one another?
Just 11 years ago, Miss Gloria Kemasuode, the Bayelsa State-born sprinter who represented Nigeria at the 2008 Summer Olympic Games in Beijing, China in the 400 by 100 metres relay (along with Halimat Ismaila, Oludamola Osayomi and Franca Idoko), is today wandering the streets of Yenagoa, according to credible media reports. Gloria, who is reportedly a staff of the Bayelsa State Sports Council, is said to be suffering from a mental disorder.
In Nigeria and most parts of sub-Saharan Africa people react to mental illness with automatic stigmatisation and abandonment. Instead of victims of this form of health challenge being taken to appropriate specialists for medical attention they are abandoned to suffer and die in the streets. This is linked to the superstitious belief that mental illness comes from witchcraft, past evil deeds, personal indiscretions (such as weed smoking and drug addiction) and ancestral curses.
Even individuals who are supposedly educated still allow themselves to be ruled by this negative sentiment though mental disorder is merely an illness that affects the brain.
It is unfortunate that even an individual who represented Nigeria and won a silver medal for the country could be so easily abandoned at the time she needs our assistance and solidarity the most. It is unfortunate that, even in this social media era, no blogger or credible media house has seen it fit to highlight the plight of this 40-year-old Nigerian Olympic heroine to enable good Nigerians to come to her aid. We also wonder aloud how come the Bayelsa State Government has managed not to notice the pathetic situation she is facing.
We call on the Bayelsa State Government, the Federal Ministry of Sports (especially the Athletics Federation of Nigeria) and our public-spirited compatriots to please rise and help check Gloria into an institution where she can be nursed back to normalcy.
When people give their best talent and energy in the juice of their youth to serve this country and make us proud with garlands of accomplishments we owe them our eternal gratitude. We must return the favour when they fall into health challenges or destitution. When people know that Nigerians value their sacrifices they will be more eager to serve the country and make her great.
Let us save Olympic Silver medalist, Gloria Kemasuode TODAY!