Do you remember growing up looking forward to the Olympics, Nigeria used to feature in finals and win medals. Names like Innocent Egbunike, Mary Onyali, Fatilat Ogunkoya, Peter Konyegwachie, Oliver Orok, Atanda Musa, Sunday Bada, David Izorinte, the Ezinwa brothers, Olapade Adeneken et al, were household names, not to mention the amazing record breaking exboy Aniefiok Udo. Fast forward 2 decades and the decline is staggering.
One of the men’s 100m heats at the Rio 2016 Olympics featured 4 Nigerians on the starting line up all running for different countries other than Nigeria. Sportsmen are usually disciplined and dedicated individuals hence it takes a lot for a sportsman or woman to switch allegiance. This speaks volumes about the lack of commitments to encourage, support or promote sports by national institutions.
Chierika Nkogu brought a breath of fresh air to the 2016 games by sponsoring herself to represent Nigeria in rowing though based in the United States. Without a doubt we have the talents locally and in diaspora. Instead of padding budgets with impunity and reckless abandon without remorse, wouldn’t it go a long way to invest in athletes to project a better image of the nation rather than being classified as fantastically corrupt?
Alas, we made an entry on the medal table with a bronze medal in football. It was a relief not leaving Brazil empty handed. However, the relief of this achievement was drowned by the account to of events and situations the football team had to endure. Having an individual and coach bear the expenses of the team on national assignment is incredibly disgraceful at best.
Sports, particularly in a nation like Nigeria with its diverse tribes and tongues, is one thing that unites and brings people together. Just looking at the make up of the football team that made the nation proud in Rio, you’ll find players from the North, South, East and West all playing together under the direction of their coach executing instructions for the sole purpose of scoring a goal, after wish every member of the team celebrates together genuinely without bitterness, jealousy or malice. Would it be fallacy to expect the same from our politicians, leaders, senators and representatives in the house of assembly, should it take a Japanese business man to show appreciation while the nation folds its hands?
We all have roles to play in projecting Nigeria in a good light wherever we are, at work and play, locally and in diaspora in whatever little way we can. Just like Chierika took it upon herself to play her part no matter how little it may seem – an act worthy of emulation. Also kudos to the para-olympians who always make Nigeria proud at olympic games.
We have 4 Years to the next Olympics in Russia, therefore let us ask ourselves, what we can do as individuals or organisations to make the situation better. This could include:
- Supporting a talented sportsman
- Organising or sponsoring sporting events and competitions
- Donating sporting equipments, sportswear and kits to schools
- Donating medical equipment or volunteering professional medical services during sporting events including first aid
- Encouraging and recognising sportsmen and women in our society.
- Organising charity events to raise funds and promote sports awareness
- Nigerians in diaspora with access to good training facilities could be encouraged and encourage their kids to participate in sports and represent Nigeria
- For bloggers, media houses and individuals with large online foot prints could use the tools and resources available to them to promote, support and encourage sports in Nigeria.
- Retired sport mens and women should be vocal, promote their sports and be role models to emerging talents.
Let us all in our own little way contribute to promoting sports and thus improving the image of Nigeria globally.