Current issues in Nigerian sports: Matters arising

By Daily Sports on April 24, 2017

We crave your indulgence dear readers to shift a bit from our traditional rule of the thumb today by going straight to the topic for the week. As the above topic states, you may not have come to terms with the reality on ground. It is not mere alarm but trust those concerned, they will quickly dismiss with even a wave of the hand.  That is the way Nigerians are, they can never own up to their wrong doings, especially people trusted with national, state or local council responsibilities. Without much ado about it, Nigerian sports are heading for extinction. But hold your breath. 

It has been bastardised to stupor by the so called administrators who knew next to nothing about the sports they claim to be at the helm. In terms of sustainable programmes, competitions, financing, development of athletes and sundry it is zero verdict return.

It has never been this bad in the history of sports administration in the country. Yes, we continue to grapple with maintenance culture that the nation failed woefully on, but sports have not witnessed lack of quality athletes that go to championships and win laurels for the country.

True, in the recent history of Nigeria’s sojourns in the Olympic Games, 2012 London Games marked the beginning of the steady decline in our prowess in international sports when our athletes had made strong statements that Nigeria has come.

A recap: Preparatory to that year’s Games, Bolaji Abdullahi, current National Publicity Secretary of APC, was Sports Minister. He was Mr. Know All and acted like an emperor. He surrounded himself with cronies; he had a hidden agenda and ran sports as he deemed fit.

Nobody queried him, he had a field day and like a bull in a China shop, he took so many wrong steps. For instance, go and ask what is happening in the so much hyped Abuja High Performance Centre, Abdullahi single-handedly set up with our multi-million dollars. The story of sports and the Abuja High Performance Centre would bleed your heart. Foreigners were employed to manage it but such investment never made any difference in our sports and the performance of our athletes, if it is ever there not for mere paper work backed up with media blitz.

The story of Abuja High Performance Centre would be told soon. Now Abduallahi like his bed mates that jumped from PDP to APC are indeed ‘saints’. That is an irony called Nigeria. Sports are having free fall. No one sport is spared. Bolaji Abdullahi left the ruins, and then Solomon Dalung a Minister that talks on drop of hat who also jumped ship has worsened the whole situation.

Sports in Nigeria are on the throes of death. Dalung has no antidote for it. He is overwhelmed. He could be comfortable discussing National Sports Festival and federations elections than finding solution to the current dangerous slide all sports in the country are undergoing.

The state of sports is so bad that Nigeria, blessed with raw and abundant naturally talented athletes solely depends on her Diaspora athletes that did not switch nationalities. All sporting federations are guilty as charged. They failed to pay the deserved attention to the grooming of athletes but depended on the foreign ones.

Solomon Ogba, of Athletics Federation of Nigeria is the culprit in chief. He not only relied on Blessing Okagbare to harvest the fortunes of female athletics category, he paid no attention at all on development of home grown ones in his eight years of waste in AFN. Home grown athletes have over time proved to be where our strength lies. He quickly went for the Diaspora athletes who he thought would deliver gold to him in major international events like the Olympics so that he would be boasting he made it.

They proved to be kill sports. They were not good enough to beat their counterparts. They failed beyond expectations and Ogba in particular is walking the street, dejected and dishonourable. He lied to Nigerians that he had a messiah that would break our Olympics gold track jinx. When he told the unsuspecting athletics bluff, I said it’s a lie. The athletes he so much had high hopes on, had no such capacity. He used them in London 2012 and Brazil 2016, and the result was the same. Thus Ogba became a chronic liar who ate his words. He was the one that introduce such inglorious thinking to other federation chairmen, thereby relegating to the background our resilient and success thirsty athletes.

Ogba murdered athletics. Dan Ngerem and ex- international, Violent Odogwu-Nwajie left depth blue print for the steady growth of athletics in the country.  Ogba took over as AFN President and brought the present mechanic kind of administration that snuffed life off the once bubbling and hope filled sport. Mary Onyali-Omagbemi, Falilat Ogunkoya, Chioma Ajunwa-Opara, the relay teams men and women placed on high pedestrian just a little push by an insightful administrator would have the close notch for gold, but Ogba squandered them and rather brought once high flying athletics on its knees today. He failed to build on the solid foundation he met on ground, he resorted to his sandy soil method and this is the kind of result on our hands today.

However, this cluelessness is not peculiar to Ogba, AFN and athletics; it cuts across other sporting federations. Athletics was next to football in terms of crowd in the good old days before this misnomer took the centre stage. It is instructive to note that while Bolaji Abduallahi initiated the undertaking ceremony of the continued diminishing status of sports, Solomon Dalung is currently presiding over the funeral rites.

Let us go further, as we have now established, it is not normal time for sports in the country. The king of sports is not faring better either. As usual, it’s from one damning controversy to another. Let me be honest with you, it is as if sanity has returned between the NFF leadership, technical crew led by Gernot Rohr and the players judging from the news zooming out.

Before the rapport kind of trust between the above, reports said the NFF already owed its technical adviser over three months’ salary and players several match bonuses and allowances. Though, there was no denial from the NFF, Rohr came out to dance around the issue but those that read his lips knew something was amiss.

Respite came shortly after the international friendly game against Senegal in London. NFF Supremo and CAF executive committee member, Amaju Pinnick, held elaborate parley with the Eagles where they arrived at far reaching agreement to play whole heartedly and qualify for both AFCON 2019 in Cameroun and World Cup in Russia in 2018.

It was cemented. Hope was rekindled, Amaju’s heart that was in his hands pronto jumped back to normalcy. He had the confidence of the players to bring out their all and qualify and get their pay later because NFF like other federations is broke. He also got the nod from Rohr that he would work hard to pick the tickets and get his pay later. That is a gentle man’s agreement which must be respected to the letter. There must not be any breach from any angle. It’s like a bond no party must go contrary. Rohr has often, after that London interactive session restated his resolve to be steadfast and qualify the Eagles to both tournaments.

Pundits, despite the assurances and reassurances from those concerned are still very sceptical about the whole agreement. They have advised the NFF to go all out and source for funds to off- set debts owed these people to ensure they will show more commitment, tenacity and full sense of responsibility in this urgent national assignments. They also warned against complacency in both qualifiers, especially the World Cup game against over confident Cameroonians.   

As if to strengthen the agreement, vice-captain of the team, Ogenyi Onazi put firm seal to it as reported by Daily Sports ( on Saturday last week. Read the headline, “Eagles motivated to qualify for World Cup, AFCON”. The story:

“Super Eagles’ deputy skipper Ogenyi Onazi has stated that he and his teammates are motivated to ensure Nigeria qualifies for both the 2018 FIFA World Cup and the 2019 Africa Cup of Nations final competitions. 

“The three-time African champions will open their quest for qualification for Cameroon 2019 with a game against South Africa’s Bafana Bafana in June, before switching attention to the “FIFA World Cup Russia 2018 qualifying double-header against Cameroon in August.

The Eagles lead Group B of the final qualification series for Russia 2018 with 6 points from two matches, 4 points ahead of reigning African champions Cameroon.

“President of the Nigeria Football Federation (NFF), Amaju Pinnick recently reiterated his board’s desire to ensure that the Super Eagles don’t miss out of the tournaments, and the 24-year-old Trabzonspor FC of Turkey midfielder says the team is ‘on the same page’ with the CAF Executive Committee member.

“We are on the same page with the NFF President. Of course, everyone wants to go to the World Cup and our desire to go to the FIFA World Cup is very high,” the former Golden Eaglets and Flying Eagles star told an online publication.

“For the African Cup, we also want to qualify. The spirit (in camp) is so high. We have missed out of two consecutive African Cup finals, and this time around, we don’t want to take chances. And, as you can see, everyone is fighting to make sure we qualify first in the group.

“Everything we are doing is to put our best to make sure that we get there first and not only getting there, but getting something from the tournaments we are going for, even in the FIFA World Cup.

“We are motivated and ready for every challenge in front of us,” the ex-Lazio star stated.

Nigeria failed to qualify for the last two editions of the Africa Cup of Nations and will have to overcome the likes of South Africa, Libya and Seychelles in Group E to make it to Cameroon 2019.

Let me confess, that I admire Amaju Pinnick’s bravery because of his ‘cat with nine lives’ character. Though, he is my in-law by virtue of the fact that his beautiful wife is a daughter of Abia State, yet, Daily Sports has been his greatest friend, ensuring we kept him on his toes, which is the beauty of this profession. If you like call it publish and be damned or to put it mildly, not bordering whose ox is gored. The Warri born sports administrator knows what I’m saying.

My in-law enjoys the heat. He developed thick skin and a great shock absorber. He seems to be an unrepentant optimist too. He has this spirit of not relenting getting to his goal or target no matter the level of hiccups on his way to get to his destination. That singular act distinguishes him from the rest of his fellow sports federation colleagues. It won’t be out of place to liken his heart to that of a lion or steel. It worked wonders for him. Ask him, he would acknowledge. We have disagreed often times but that does not keep me off his activities. He is dogged as I am too. It has warmed him even into the hearts of his most critics, because of his nature of setting his eyes on something tangible, strategises and grabs it. He has a way of making friends. They said he has infectious character and smiles. He has displayed that much. Methinks he will honour his obligations with the Eagles players and the technical adviser. The fate of the indigenous coaches with the team has been silent.

We will as usual continue to be on top of this development and disseminate same hot and fresh as it develops, but something tells me it remains an agreement cast on diamond that would be honoured. We should back it with prayers that enemies within and without won’t put banana peels on the way.

We continue discussion on WhatsAPP, Facebook, and Twitter. Keep shooting hard, till next week!!

Source Daily Sports

Posted April 24, 2017


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