Jide Ojo is a Nigeria based Public Affairs Analyst with over 500 published commentaries in about 25 Nigerian and Ghanaian national newspapers and has been a guest analyst on Africa Independent Television(AIT), Channels TV, NTA, Hot FM, Vision FM, Radio Nigeria,VON, Ray Power and OGBC 2 FM.
Jide, a trained BRIDGE Facilitator holds first and second degrees in Political Science from Universities of Lagos and Ibadan both in Nigeria and is currently a Development Consultant.
Wednesday, September 23, 2015
Kudos to gallant Team Nigeria!
Each time there is positive news on
Nigeria, I like to celebrate it. Yes, the nation faces enormous developmental
challenges in virtually all facets of human endeavours. Yet, it is not all
negative news about my fatherland. We are a great nation of good people. The
sad thing is that a handful of bad people give the country a poor international
image. Nigeria is a giant, not only because it is the most populous African country,
it is also a ‘Goliath’ in the sphere of entertainment. By this I mean in music,
acting and sports. On this page, I have previously saluted the immense
achievements of our music icons, our Nollywood
artistes and our sports men and women. It is time again to celebrate our sports
Kudos to Team Nigeria’s contingents to
the 2015 Afrobasket in Rades, Tunisia as well as 11th Africa Games
in Congo Brazzaville. It would be recalled that our teams to the two competitions
did the nation proud by coming first and second respectively. It was a sweet
revenge when Nigeria’s D’Tigers beat its arch-rival and several times nemesis
in Basketball, Angola 74-65 in the final of Afrobasket 2015 on August 30 to
claim their first-ever continental championship. It was also a double victory
because; aside being crowned African champions, the Nigerians also qualified
for the 2016 Rio de Janeiro Olympics. Furthermore, Chamberlain Oguchi scored 19
points and was voted the Most Valuable Player of the tournament. Another high point of the competition for
Nigeria is that it produced two out of the five best players in the
tournament.Oguchi was named among the
All-Star Five which also included his Nigeria team-mate Al-Farouq Aminu, Morais
of Angola, Tunisia's Makram Ben Romdhane and Gorgui Dieng of Senegal.
At the just concluded eleventh African
Games in Congo Brazzaville (September 4 to 19), Team Nigeria placed second with
47 (Gold), 56 (Silver) and 44 (Bronze) medals behind Egypt’s 74 (Gold), 56
(Silver) and 63 (Bronze). The last time we came second was 12 years ago which
thus make this year’s performance outstanding.
A breakdown of Team Nigeria’s medals
showed that Athletics accounted for more medals recording 10 (Gold) 9 (Silver)
and 5 (Bronze) medals with Wrestling in the second position with 9 (Gold) 5 (Silver)
and 4 (Bronze) medals. Weightlifting finished third with 8 (Gold) 18 (Silver)
and 9 (Bronze) medals while Powerlifting accounted for 8 (Gold) 7 (Silver) and
2 (Bronze) medals. It was a pleasant surprise that Cycling gave Nigeria 1 (Gold)
1 (Silver) and 1 (Bronze) medals.
Among the high points of Nigeria’s
performance at the African Games in Congo Brazzaville was the several World
Records broken by our Power Lifters. Yakubu
Adesokan, competing in the men’s 49kg category, lifted 182.5kg to win gold and
also set a new world record in the process. Another Nigerian, Esther Oyema, set
a new world record in the women’s 55kg category when she lifted 133kg to erase her
previous 126kg record. The trio of Bose Omolayo, Loveline Obiji and Precious
Orji also set new World Records. Omolayo lifted 137.5kg in the women’s 79kg
while Obiji lifted 149kg in the women’s 86kg category, before Orji, competing
in the women’s 86kg, lifted 164kg to complete five world records and gold
medals for Team Nigeria in Congo.
Ironically, football (male and female)
accounted for the low points of Team Nigeria’s outing in Congo with the male
team finishing with a bronze medal. Basketball, against high expectation, gave
Nigeria 1 Silver (Women) and 1 Bronze (Men). Overall, am very proud of the
sterling performance of all our sports ambassadors as none of them was found to
have failed dope test.
Are there any lessons from these two
events – Afrobasket and African Games 2015 – for Nigeria? Plenty! These noble
achievements are not by fluke. It came as a result of right investment, careful
planning and transparent administration. For instance, D’Tigers had to hire
foreign coach, William Voigt, in order to break a 50 years jinx in African
Basketball competition. Not only that, the leadership ofNational Sports Commission, under its current Director
General, Alhassan Yakmut ensured that Nigeria only participated in games where she
can win medals. This ensured that it was not a jamboree or all comers’ affairs.
Yakmut also run open and transparent
administration. He announced to the public that N2.9bn was given to the
commission for the Africa Games by Federal Government and tasked all
participating sporting federation to account for monies disbursed to them.
Yakmut also made sure that athletes’
allowances were promptly paid to them. $2,000 was paid for each gold medal won
at the Games while each Silver and Bronze medalist got $1,500 and $1,000
respectively. In the team events, each member of the team, for example, cycling
involving six cyclists received $1,000 each, while beach volleyball involving
two players were paid $1,500 each for winning gold medal. Each Coach was paid
$2,500 for guiding their athletes to a successful outing in the Games. This swift
payment of winning bonuses was a morale booster to the athletes and a clean
break from the opaque past when there were issues with payment of camp
allowances, accommodation, kits, winning bonuses, etcetera.Am putting this on record so that Nigerians
would not think that coming second in African Games was a happenstance.
I also recalled that Team Nigeria
contingents left for Congo in batches based on the start-date for their respective
competitions.This not only ensured that
the country saved foreign exchange they would have paid on accommodation andallowances, the athletes were also able to
round off their trainings in Nigeria without distractions.
Am happy that NSC Director General has
vowed to take Nigeria off playing second or third fiddle in African Games. What
he needs to do is to build on 2015 achievements and ensured proper planning for
the 2016 Rio Olympics. If we fail to plan, we are planning to fail. Am happy
that President Buhari has promised total support for Nigerian sports, he needs
to do more than talking. Adequate funding and prompt release of earmarked resources
to the NSC is vital. Nigeria also needs to start grooming athletes that can
bring us laurels in high medal games such as Swimming and Gymnastics as well as
next generation of track and field athletes that will take over from our aging
and less productive ones. We need to start fishing for new breed sportsmen and
women from our inter house, inter collegiate and national sports festivals. NSC
and its sports federations need to roll out plans that will attract private
sector investment. Sports, we must note, is a big business. While we go about
that, let’s savour our recent successes, congratulations, Team Nigeria!