BY ERNEST OSOGBUE

I am still buzzing with excitement and joy at the recent feat of Nigerian hurdler Oluwatobi Amusan, in breaking the world 100mH record at the 2022 World Athletics Championships in Oregon, USA.

By breaking the world record in the semi-final, and going on to win gold in the final, the 25year old Amusan cemented her immortality in Nigerian sports history; becoming not only the first Nigerian to win a World Athletics Championship gold, but the first Nigerian, male or female to hold a world record in athletics.

While the Olympic Games may be viewed by many as the pinnacle of sporting excellence, for those in athletics, the World Championships is seen as the epitome of athletic excellence. This is because the World Championships are the representation of the best of the best in Track and Field, and in comparison, is ranked alongside the FIFA World Cup. This is the reason why a World Championship gold medalist is referred to as the world champion.

This scenario makes Amusan’s success even more poignant, given that in the last few years, she has been knocking on the door at both the Olympic Games and at the World Championships; events at which she experienced the heartbreak of finishing fourth and outside of the medals in her last appearances.

My delight in Tobi Amusan’s success however, transcends the realms of sports; my delight in her success encompasses the entirety of our nation Nigeria. In recent years, our country has been crying out for positive role models to no avail; role models who would silence the din of negative voices which have overthrown our moral space and laughed in our faces with their bloodstained wealth. Who would have thought that a young athlete from Ijebu-Ode in Ogun State would step forward to do us the honor?

Do not get me wrong; I know that over the years, Nigerian sports have provided us with both male and female role models. Who would forget how Chioma Ajunwa became immortal by becoming Nigeria’s first Olympic gold medalist at the Atlanta ’96 Olympic Games, or the Olympic gold won in football by the Kanu Nwankwo captained national U-23 football team. What about the mercuric football skills of Austin ‘Jay Jay’ Okocha, who remains immortal for dribbling the great German goalkeeper Oliver Kahn to submission many years ago in the Bundesliga.

What about Perpetua Nkwocha, a four time Queen of African football, and more recently, Asisat Oshoala, who not only equaled Perpetua’s feat, but went on to surpass it recently by becoming a five time Queen of African football. Outside of sports, there have equally been role models in the arts and sciences like Prof. Wole Soyinka, Chinua Achebe, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, Burna Boy, Wizkid, Davido and many others, who in one way or the other have showcased the indefatigable Nigerian spirit in their different endeavors.

While the above mentioned Nigerians and others have made their positive impact in our society, recent events in our country however have shown that their influences have been vastly undermined by the abject poverty and ignorance under which the majority of our people exist. As a result, charlatans and unscrupulous persons have taken over the moral space and corrupted our youths into believing that hard work and diligence have no rewards.

In the last few years, corrupt politicians, fake pastors peddling fake miracles, yahoo boys, high-end prostitutes, ritual murderers, 419 practitioners and all kinds of criminal elements have elevated themselves to positions of prominence in our society and in the minds of our youths. These elements flaunt their ill-gotten wealth in our faces, brandishing their exotic cars, palatial homes, private jets, expensive travels abroad and lavish parties, as a sign that they have arrived, and that they are the kings and queens of today.

With a morally bankrupt political class which has mostly been derelict in its duties to the nation, it has become overly difficult to call these marauding moral robbers to order. What with a broken down education system, and a collapsed family value system due to inherent poverty, these amoral operators ride roughshod on our African values and belief systems, stealing and corrupting the impressionable minds of our youths and upcoming generation.

For some time now, the average Nigerian youth has lost faith in the saying; ‘there’s dignity in labor’, all they desire is a quick road to success. Little wonder kidnapping, banditry and terrorism have become a pastime in our once peaceful nation. While it was a pride for youngsters to aspire to be teachers, doctors, lawyers, and even soldiers in time past, it is now common to hear children of today announce gleefully in public that they desire to be yahoo boys when they grow up. The ease with which kidnappers, bandits, terrorists and ritual murderers recruit their followers further buttresses the point of how morally bankrupt the society has become.

But just when I had come to believe that our situation was irredeemable, here comes Oluwatobi Amusan like an oasis in the desert to give us refreshment; to redirect the moral compass of our nation, and to shine the light and remind our youth and entire countrymen and women that hard work and diligence have their rewards.

The last time I checked, notable Nigerians, among them state governors, ministers, senators, musicians such as Banky W, Kizz Daniel, Tiwa Savage and a host of other celebrities were queuing up to congratulate and identify with Oluwatobi Amusan. This highlights the fact that her success transcends sports and has broken cross-professional barriers and spilled over to mainstream society.

No accolade is too small to shower on Oluwatobi Amusan, and no reward is too much to give to her. It is my hope that the Federal Government of Nigeria would showcase her to our youths, and shine her as a beacon of hope and a pointer to the fact that with hard work and diligence we as a people can succeed.

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