14 September 2012

Nigeria: Arise O' Compatriots


That was the mantra of the 2012 London Olympic Games. Volumes and many inches of print have criticised and also extolled what in many people's judgement was a well organised and superbly executed world festival called London 2012. Analysis and comments will continue for the foreseeable future.

This contribution which is confined to the Main and not the Paralympics will address a tiny aspect of the Games as they relate to Nigeria. Abinitio, let it be on record that if gold medals were designated for 'Criticisms', Nigeria would have excelled in that department. We literally have EMINENTLY QUALIFIED COFFEE POT SEMINAR EXPERTS who have at their finger tips solutions to every problem in the universe. Unfortunately, where it mattered most as in that celebration of goodness called Olympic Games, our dear country fell short and we were found wanting.

Several hearts bled, some a tiny bit, some profusely that in the entire period of 16 glorious days of beautiful British summer (that in itself a bonus), 'Arise 0' Compatriots', the Nigerian national anthem was not played at all from the Winners Podium. In Aro dialect, we will say 'odi omiko' (a thing of great grief).

Even Uganda with all their problems of world exclusion got world attention when their anthem was played for Uganda's gold. To make matters worse, we were not even strong enough to have our bland, rather uninspiring green, white, green national flag flutter from the winners flag stand.Briefly, let us rewind for a moment vis-a-vis some other African countries our medals performance. Kenya 11, South Africa 6, Egypt 3, Botswana 1, Uganda 1 (gold); Nigeria 0, Ghana 0.

As my friend, Professor Gaius Igboeli would put it, Nigeria scored naught. My fellow compatriots, the sooner we recognised that leadership is earned by hard work, dedication and commitment, the more circumspect we shall be in our claims. I have tremendous respect for the likes of Blessing Okagbere, and a few others who exerted themselves creditably inspite of inadequate preparations, which led to poor performance.

In plain English, what the Olympics have once again re-emphasised is that voodoo magic, talismans and their likes can never substitute for long and dedicated training in sports. Excellency, not only in sports, but in all fields of human endeavour will only emerge from a well rounded and properly executed training programme coupled with self denial. Success in life is disguised behind hard work.

The time to move forward and prepare for RIO 2016 is now. Henry Ford who pioneered development of the modern car and literally changed the face of modern civilization used to tell his workers: "Don't find faults, find remedies". I recommend this to every Nigerian.

All patriots, and one believes they are in majority, must say with one voice that the disgrace of London 2012 must never, never repeat. RIO 2016 must be the litmus test for this resolve. Reasoning along this line, one agrees with the highly intelligent and gifted Saint Thomas Aquinas who said: "For those with faith, no explanation is necessary and for those without, no explanation is possible". This piece is for those who still have faith in Nigeria.

Every student of military history knows that when a General losses a war, that General quits before being shown the exit door. In the Japanese army, the shame of losing was unbearable and defeated Generals usually committed hara-kiri. That saved the establishment the embarrassment of trials and further unnecessary expense. One expected that by now all those connected with the London 2012 fiasco would have quit honourably to save Mr President the embarrassment of inevitably flushing them out.

Mr. President Sir, your re-organisation programme for the Sports Ministry will not clean the stench. We must clean the Augean stable completely. The needful act is that this nation demands a clean sweep from the Minister down to the top echelon of that Ministry. Mr. President please do the needful NOW.

The President's advisers must wean him from this negative psyche that everyone is out to get him. Nothing can be further from the truth. Most of those who have interacted with Mr. President find him pleasant. The flip side of that coin is that for some of us, Nigeria is more important than just being pleasant. It is criminal to just look unconcerned while our country drifts.

It is nothing personal, Mr. President, as Nigeria just has to join the league of performing countries in the 21st century. The rest of the world is not standing still waiting for Africa to do catch up. That also is why there must be no pussy-footing on London 2012. Leadership is the ability to take fair, balanced but sometimes uncomfortable decisions in the greater interest of the nation. Our already damaged image was given a severe battering at London 2012. If we do not want RIO 2016 to be a repeat of London 2012, strong decisive action must be taken NOW.

For every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction and also consequences. Until we put in place adequate punishment for dereliction of duty, Nigeria will continue to waffle. The athletes were ill-prepared and some people are culpable and must be held accountable. The punishment for this has to be clear and unequivocal.

Having said that much and in the interest of justice and fair play, it is also useful to look at possible solutions by thinking retrospectively. To a large extent, the disgrace (for that is what it was) suffered by Nigeria at London 2012 is traceable to all of us, either as individuals or corporate citizens; we must all take a share of the blame. How many of us can beat our chests proudly and justify our contribution to sports? How many have articulated programmes for sports development? As 12 and 13-year- old' foxes' in the old government colleges, we recollect that games and sports were compulsory. Every student was forced to take part. The sports discipline inculcated in our formative years has translated to the discipline many students from the old government colleges show today in public life. You learnt -from an early age- that certain things were simply not done and that hard work has merit.

A good sporting nation is bound to be a good nation, for all sports have strict rules of engagement. Let us not wring our hands and say: "Aha, we knew they could not perform". Let us honestly answer how many of us have mentored or acted as role models to young people. What time have we committed to serve with the Boys scouts, Girls Guides, Rotaract, Interact, Rotary, Lions Club? Can we imagine what will happen in four years time if all those in authority, from the President down to local government chairmen, adopt, mentor and train one or two young persons interested in sports through college and university? State governments, universities and large corporations have to set up sports scholarships to attract and train the brightest and the best.

This is the norm in advanced countries. One can only imagine the aggregated gains from millions of such small incremental improvements. It will be easier to select and polish winners from this enhanced gene pool.

The likes of Usin Bolt and Mohammed Farah who were the toast of London 2012 come from this biochemical stock. Nigeria cannot continue to claim to be the giant of Africa only in name. Positive achievements in all fields of human competition will earn, maintain and retain that slot for Nigeria.

*Hon Mbadiwe is a member of the House of Reps

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