Many people gave Nigeria's medals hope up in the just-concluded 2012 London Olympic quite early--latest time for this category of hopefuls was when Okagbare came last in the 100 metres race. There were some incurable patriots though who gave up only when the game was up--when our girls came fourth in the 100 x 4, the very best in a string and regime of colossal and dismal failures. It was right at the very end, after which a nightmare descended, signalling the very end of hope. After the gloomy curtain was drawn, what followed, still follows, from these complete humiliation was widespread outrage, total denunciation and condemnation, first of the Nigerian team and its officials, and then, of course of the government of the nation. Yes, it was (is) criticism, rage, vituperations galore.
This feeling of national disgrace and unmitigated disaffection with the sporting community is certainly justifiable. There is hardly any reason advance-able for this woeful performance in the Olympics. The country has been participating in the Olympics long before the nation's independence and, therefore, ought to have grown a national Olympian culture. We have won medals before, even if none of the outings have manifested our enormous potentials, but at least there was something to show for our huge investments in the Games.
We came back home from the 2008 Beijing Olympic Games with four miserable medals, and we felt, naturally deflated by that performance as a nation. But there was nothing to prepare the nation for this roundly and totally disastrous outing. The poor show of 2008 did not leave behind any lessons for self-redemption through adequate preparation, more structured and more disciplined engagement in such a global event. We did not return with even a consolatory bronze; we returned empty-handed, some even say it was accomplished by empty-mindedness. Watching a little seventeen-year old proudly dangling four gold medals, or a tiny nation like Jamaica producing a Bolt with three Gold medals, smashing at least two of the world records, which he had himself set before, the performance of Team Nigeria became totally unforgivable.
What did we lack and why is our country unable to get it right in almost any department of national endeavours--political, economic, social and sporting--in spite of the intimidating human development index that the nation enjoys? We are the most densely populated country in all of Africa and the seventh in the whole world. Many of the nations that won numerous Gold medals in the 2008 Olympics and improved upon the performances in the London Olympics do not enjoy the endowments--human and natural-- that Nigeria is blessed with. Look at Britain. She proved that while it is important to concentrate on hosting the world impressively, she was cognizant of the fact that she must justify the huge capital outlay that she has invested in the Games by winning laurels. She has recorded perhaps the best- hosted Olympics in decades.
Look at the technological wizardry and spectacle of the Opening and Closing ceremonies! In spite of this, the country massively improved on its performance, carting away 26 Gold medals compared to the 19 it took away in the Beijing Games, four years ago. South Africa and Ethiopia, with populations of 50m and 84m respectively, ran away with three Gold medals each. Even Kenya, with a population of about 40million and a nominal GDP of about $34m won Gold medals and have done that repeatedly in three consecutive Olympic Games. Compare Kenya's statistics with our 162milllion people and about S240m nominal GDP! These three nations have properly structured out their participation and thoroughly and aptly envisioned their engagement such that they concentrated on the narrow areas of their endowments and perfected their outing to beat the rest of the world where they are at their best. Jamaica, Kenya, South Africa and Ethiopia all came away from the games with the pride of their nations buoyed and exalted through the performance of their athletes. Our sportsmen and women came back home with their tails behind their legs to a humiliated nation. How did we deserve such national misery?
Already there are analytic post-mortems of this sad show at London. Even though some of these analyses are self-interested, especially those from partisan political angles, there is no question that, like our social and political economy, our sporting sector needs to be fundamentally re-envisioned, more effectively structured, with a more patriotic (less greedy) leadership and greater aspiration and inspiration for citizens patriotism. Just imagine the number of Nigerian citizens flying the flags of other nations, proudly, to sporting triumphs!
As I said above, some of the partisan analysis from political parties are skewed for political capital; scoring cheap political points rather than making objective deductions, recommendations and strategies for implementing them in the future. For instance, the ACN capitalized on this woeful Olympic outing to dress down the PDP government taking it as a mere symbol of the failure of governance of the Party. It was of the view that no dysfunctional government can get it right, even in the sweating industry.
As far as it was concerned, the performance at the London Olympics is another instruction of the unmitigated disaster that the present government epitomizes and the only way for that government is out--in sync with the impeachment clamour out there. After this, reasonable and politically expedient as it sounds, and there is rhyme and reason in that position, the analysis offers little else to address the problem at hand.
The Press Conference issued by the CPC was a shade better, even sounder, save its undisguised political bent and colour in which it was efficiently couched. Coming after the unhidden wish of the El Rufais of the world that the government be shown the way out, it takes only broad discernment to pick the very valid propositions embedded in the CPC statement to the press. What does it say in earnest? It canvassed for a drive at excellence by a national leadership that is committed, with a sense of purpose, a determination to erect strong national structures, with a well-designed monitoring and evaluating strategies of the policies it puts in place. Chief Fashakin, the CPC spokesman, went down memory lane--back to the 1964 Tokyo Olympics, when Nigeria won a bronze medal in boxing through Nojeem Mayegun.
By way of statistics, he asserted that Nigeria has won a total of twenty-three medals out of which three were gold medals, in all previous Olympics before this zero-laurel outing. His argument is that Nigeria has done nothing in its strong sporting departments--sprinting, football, boxing, weightlifting and taekwondo to 'intensify our global mastery and dominance' in these sporting strong-holds of the nation? He went on to lay a square blame at the door-steps of the nation's Sports administrators ; their laissez faire approach to serious sporting debacles and their ignoble sit-down position when they should honourably quit after a witless performance. He lampoons the Minister of Sports, Bolaji Abdullahi, who offers comical and escapist excuses for the 'colossal failure' of the team. He aptly exemplified the structured and meticulous outing of Jamaica and her 'mercurial performance' in the track and field events--this in spite of the similar socio-cultural challenges' that she faces as Nigeria does. One instructive solution that Jamaica found was to structure her programmes of her educational institutions into the national programme for sporting excellence.
On a very positive note, Chief Fashakin, like most informed analysts of the Nigerian realities will do, believe that Nigeria is capable of achieving excellence in any areas of human endeavour--be it science, technology, infrastructure, sports, and so on-- if 'there is visionary, committed and purposeful leadership at the different levels and stages' of national and sectoral development drives.
No doubt, in spite of the political tone of the offering of the CPC chieftain, the points he raised are good menu for national thought. We can hardly divorce our dismal showing at this year's Olympic from the crippling national decadence that has ravaged our country these many decades after independence, such that our startling national potentials remain potentials, only.