Daily Trust (Abuja)

16 September 2012

Nigeria: In Search of Something to Cheer

opinion

Have you noticed that these days the people's mood is buoyant?, No, I've not. Where did you see your own buoyancy?

I was at the fuel station the other day, there was a long queue but apparently no one seemed to bother. While we waited for the fuel station to start selling fuel, car owners formed a cluster discussing the commendable feat of Nigeria's paralympians and I joined in. Boy! The views were elevating and... what do they say? .. Em.. Infectious.

And I imagine while waiting at the fuel station, you all broke into a dance to celebrate the feat of our paralympians, and in the sun too.

No, it did not actually get to that but it was good to see Nigerians becoming heady with joy on account of our performance in the Olympics for the disabled in London. Government has ordered that everything must be done to welcome the heroes, including ministers mounting a parade in their honour.

It is going to be a lot of exertion on everybody's part then. Tell me, how many medals did they win in all?

I know you. So don't tell me you were not counting.

True, I wasn't counting, and I have good reason for not bothering because since Nigeria's contingent in the earlier one came back home empty handed, I never thought their less endowed cousins would do any better.

Sshh! don't let them hear you refer to them as less endowed; you could be sued for ridiculing them, for libel specifically. Anyway, if you insist, our contingent won a total of 13 medals comprising 6 gold, 5 silver, and two bronze. If you ask me, they constitute a great haul placing Nigeria 22nd in world ranking and 3rd in Africa. Impressive isn't it?

Yeah impressive, considering the barren harvest of their able bodied cousins. But what is wrong with referring to them as "less endowed," isn't that so obvious? And I just heard you refer to them as "disabled" which in my view is even worse.

Well, don't say I did not warn you. While the games were going on in London the issue of nomenclature--that is, how to refer to them appropriately became a big issue. Terms like physically "challenged," "disabled," "impaired" and so on were considered and rejected. The organizers and officials, many of them with one form of ---that word again,-- disability or the other kept hammering on the fact that the athletes gathered are not disabled. They are just you know...

Well, may be we can settle for the word "special," I have seen where they are being referred to as "special athletes". That should offend no one, particularly where in this circumstance they are being eulogized for doing so well and bringing home laurels.

You can never tell, people can be so tetchy these days. A small thing and they come at you with a sledge hammer!

But you started by saying Nigerians are in a buoyant mood, chasing people around with a sledge hammer is not my idea of a happy people. You are a bundle of contradictions; you say one thing now only to change it the next moment.

Don't be naïve; I see no contradiction in what we have been discussing now. Nigerians were happy that they have something to cheer when the special athletes brought home medals. All I am trying to say is they should not be referred to in a demeaning manner otherwise you could find your self paying hefty damages. And that would be good money thrown down the drain.

Well, to think that we are cheering a few medals won by a country beaten to the 3rd place in Africa, and 22nd in the world on which account everyone, including ministers would be lining the streets in celebration, surely, standards and expectations have hit the bottom.

Now, don't mount your usual moral high horse because I would take offence and go away.

Go on, go. But not before you have heard me out. Many years ago, in the real Olympics, sorry the major one, I mean the one for the able bodied Nigeria.

Go on before you bite your tongue, I understand what you mean.

Yes, Nigeria had always registered on the medals table. Indeed in track and field only the United States, Jamaica and a few countries posed any threat to us then. Those were periods when Nigeria brought home laurels in the short and medium distances after having keenly contested against the US and Jamaica. From what has transpired in this year's Olympics those two countries have put day light between themselves and Nigeria. Indeed Jamaica has concentrated on only tracks and field events and it has excelled astoundingly.Yes, Usain Bolt and all those comely ladies that won almost everything in the tracks and field are indications of Jamaica's dominance.

Good, but the achievements did not come easily. They are a result of painstaking planning and execution, so much so that Jamaica now easily dusts the US in a competition the latter had dominated for so long. I say that is the result of hard headed commitment to planning and execution, as opposed to fire brigade, last minute manner that has become second nature to Nigeria. The sad thing is that the syndrome is not only in Nigeria's sporting life, it has permeated every aspect of national life.

Now, if you go on so, in that train of thought you would spoil the euphoria with which we started the discussion. I am sure those charged with sport administration could go to Jamaica to borrow a leaf from the method that has resulted into the phenomenal success in the production of a long line exquisite sport men and women that have brought it fame, which I presume may not entail throwing too much money at the problem as we are wont to do. Meanwhile however we should all be ready to welcome the paralympian heroes for doing Nigeria proud and line up behind the ministers when they arrive to welcome them home. You would be there, wont you?

I reserve my comment.

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