Any student of politics or history who desires to get a deep insight into the workings of our nation state only needs to take a deep look at unfolding developments emanating from team Nigeria at the Tokyo Olympics in Japan which is nearing its end.
The Tokyo Olympics will run for just over two weeks with the closing ceremony on August 8th at approximately 20:00 local time.
By and large, we have less than six days until the end of the Olympics in Japan but a peep at the medal table means a spectacle of nightmare for any patriotic Nigerian because the nation that has the largest black people in the World, is trailing behind.
Worst still, the membership of the team Nigeria depleted at the Olympics village with the disqualification of ten athletes for not meeting up with the basic medical requirements for participation.
To add salt to injury, Blessing Okagbare who is Nigeria’s brightest hope for a medal got disqualified for failing a drug test and then another of the runners in whom Nigeria had hoped for brighter prospects, got disqualified in the 100 metre men’s race for an alleged false start.
These litany of disasters did not end as narrated above because there are two more things that would inevitably tell any observer that Nigeria has rapidly deteriorated in professionalism, leadership and standards of performance.
These are the public protests by the Nigerian athletes who, due to no fault of theirs, got disqualified even before they competed at the Olympics proper because the Local Organizing Committee did not follow the thresholds of tests recommended by the International Olympics Committee.
What that means was that team Nigeria were composed by officials of the Nigerian Athletics Federation but largely made up of participants who were actually not adequately tested in line with the prescriptions of the International Olympics Committee’s benchmark.
The second drama was the illogical excuse that the sports minister offered for Nigeria’s poor performance at the Olympics which shows that even when the leadership of the sports sector have failed on a colossal scale the minister who should apologize for his abysmal failure is busy giving some lame excuses.
What this attitude of the sports Minister shows, is that since we are not even aware that there is a problem, it then becomes very difficult to work out a solution.
This means that Nigeria’s vicious circle of errors and incompetence has only just started.
Here are the comedy of errors that have marred Nigeria’s performance at the Tokyo Olympics in which even smaller African nations like Uganda has excelled beyond expectations and has grossed illustrious medals.
First major administrative malady and gross incompetence was the internal factional battles within the Athletics Federation of Nigeria which has lingered for years even before this Tokyo Olympics happened with the minister of youths and sports endorsing one faction whereas the other faction has not accepted the political decision of the sports minister. The case is still at the level of litigation.
This fundamental error of lack of a consensus on the leadership of the Athletics Federation may have occasioned the poor preparation for this Olympics which has indeed turned out as a fiasco with Nigeria having the largest number of unqualified athletes flown into the Tokyo Olympics but who were rusticated officially.First and foremost, Nigeria’s preparations as I said was marred by political squabbles for who runs the athletics federation.
The other important thing is to ask what was budgeted and released for the preparations including what kinds of corporate funding supports did Nigeria attract for this Olympics which is rated as the most expensive Olympic as would be seen below in a publication last year by the British based television- Sky News.
Estimated cost of staging Tokyo Olympics has now risen to £11.5bn after the Games had to be put back a year due to the coronavirus pandemic; Olympics due to open on July 23 2021, followed by the Paralympics on August 24.
In an online news conference, organisers said the Olympics will now cost $15.4bn (£11.5bn) to stage, up from $12.6bn (£9.4bn) in last year’s budget.
The added $2.8bn (£2.1bn) is the cost of the one-year delay due to the coronavirus pandemic, with added expenses coming from renegotiating contracts and measures to combat COVID-19.
Also on Friday, 18th December came the report that UK Sport has today signalled its intent for the UK to become successful in a wider range of sports and build a high-performance sports community which reflects the diversity of British society. The shift is supported by a plan for investment of £352m into an increased number of sports (43) in the build up to the postponed Tokyo Games, through to the 2024 Paris Olympic and Paralympic Games and beyond.
Today’s welcome news provides certainty of funding for Olympic and Paralympic sports in the build up to the Tokyo Games, ensuring athletes can focus on their preparations, ready to make us all proud in Tokyo.
The support provided by the Government and the National Lottery also allows UK Sport to look to the athletes of the future who are targeting success at the Paris 2024 Olympic and Paralympic Games and beyond. This is the UK and their wise investments paid off with their athletes netting dozens of medals and breaking World’s records.
Not so for Nigeria the self acclaimed giant of Africa. For instance, in the last Olympics in 2016 The Nigerian government admitted its failure to properly prepare the country’s representatives to the 2016 Olympics which cost the country the chance of winning medals.
Nigeria could barely win a medal with the Rio Olympics almost coming to a close.
The then Sports Minister, Solomon Dalung, said the performance so far reflected the level of preparations Nigerian athletes received.
“It takes a minimum of four years to prepare for an Olympics. We have seen that the likes of Divine Oduduru, Blessing Okagbare, Aruna Quadri, Efe Ajagba, Ese Brume, Chierika Ukogu and others would have made the desired impact if we had done the needful after the London 2012 misadventure. Success in sports no longer depends on skills and determination,” he said.
“Sports has become scientific. It is time now to develop sports from the grassroots using sports science. It is not just to compete but we need to be in tune with modern day sports. We can also start to develop other sports like water sports, gymnastics, long distance races, etc.”
Mr. Dalung promised to establish a system that will enable early preparations for the next game in Tokyo, Japan.
From this news story of 2016 and going by the repeat of the poor performance in the 2021 Tokyo Olympics it is evidently clear that the former minister failed.
Sunday Dare who is the current Minister has his own lame excuse.
He said the representatives of Nigeria at the Tokyo Olympics were too young and inexperienced and that their young age brackets is a plus for Nigeria.
This is reckless, irrational and illogical.
Most other nations also went with inexperienced and young athletes but the difference is that those nations are not as confused as we are in Nigeria.
This confusion became obvious when after ten of her athletes were declared ineligible to compete at the ongoing Tokyo Olympics Games by the Athletics Integrity Unit, the image of Nigeria suffered further battering a few hours back when some of the athletes took to the streets of Tokyo to protest their fate.
The media reporter said while other countries were celebrating heroic feats and struggling for more medals in Tokyo, Team Nigeria‘s situation took a turn for the worse as the athletes protested the ‘shame’ brought upon the country by negligent sports administrators.
Ten of the country’s athletes were disqualified from taking part in the Olympic Games due to their failure to undertake the mandatory three out-of-competition tests expected of athletes taking part in a competition of this magnitude.
The Sports Ministry had labelled those affected as ‘alternate and foreign student-athletes, whose tests did not meet with sample collection and analysis standards’.
The consistent poor performance of Nigeria in virtually all the previous and the current Olympics reflect the internal dysfunctionality of the sports sector. Nigeria has also failed to work out corporate funding support for such a global sporting tournament like the Olympics which is one of the oldest sporting competitions in the World as we will later recall in this piece.
This show of shame and the consequential rendition of illogical reasons and the cock and bull story from the minister should ordinarily call for national rebirth. But as we all know with President Muhammadu Buhari’s administration which is averse to merit, competence and professionalism, it will be business as usual even with this disgraceful outing at the Olympics in Tokyo.
The Olympics is about the oldest living competition. Historians say that on April 6, 1896, the Olympic Games, a long-lost tradition of ancient Greece, were reborn in Athens 1,500 years after being banned by Roman Emperor Theodosius I. At the opening of the Athens Games, King Georgios I of Greece and a crowd of 60,000 spectators welcomed athletes from 13 nations to the international competition.
The first recorded Olympic Games were held at Olympia in the Greek city-state of Elis in 776 B.C., but it is generally accepted that the Olympics were at least 500 years old at that time. The ancient Olympics, held every four years, occurred during a religious festival honoring the Greek god Zeus. In the eighth century B.C., contestants came from a dozen or more Greek cities, and by the fifth century B.C. from as many as 100 cities from throughout the Greek empire.
Initially, Olympic competition was limited to foot races, but later a number of other events were added, including wrestling, boxing, horse and chariot racing, and military competitions. The pentathlon, introduced in 708 B.C., consisted of a foot race, the long jump, discus and javelin throws, and wrestling.
With the rise of Rome, the Olympics declined, and in 393 A.D. The Roman Emperor Theodosius I, a Christian, abolished the Games as part of his efforts to suppress paganism in the Roman Empire.
With the Renaissance, Europe began a long fascination with ancient Greek culture, and in the 18th and 19th centuries some nations staged informal sporting and folkloric festivals bearing the name “Olympic Games.” However, it was not until 1892 that a young French baron, Pierre de Coubertin, seriously proposed reviving the Olympics as a major international competition that would occur every four years. At a conference on international sport in Paris in June 1894, Coubertin again raised the idea, and the 79 delegates from nine countries unanimously approved his proposal. The International Olympic Committee (IOC) was formed, and the first Games were planned for 1896 in Athens, the capital of Greece.
Pierre de Coubertin became IOC president in 1896 and guided the Olympic Games through its difficult early years, when it lacked much popular support and was overshadowed by world’s fairs. In 1924, the first truly successful Olympic Games were held in Paris, involving more than 3,000 athletes, including more than 100 women, from 44 nations.
The first Winter Olympic Games were also held that year. In 1925, Coubertin retired. The Olympic Games have come to be regarded as the foremost international sports competition. At the 2000 Summer Olympics in Sydney, more than 10,000 athletes from 200 countries competed, including nearly 4,000 women.
In 2004, the Summer Olympics returned to Athens, with more than 11,000 athletes competing from 202 countries. In a proud moment for Greeks and an exciting one for spectators, the shot put competition was held at the site of the classical Games in Olympia. These facts were generated from online research from authorities in the Olympics.
Olympics sports are the best global sporting event in which the strength and weaknesses of nations are known. Nations do not joke with the preparations for Olympics the way Nigeria does, and this should worry us. But this confusion is exactly who we are at the moment with abysmally poor political leadership that has virtually grounded all facets of Nigeria.
Patriotic Nigerians must speak out and act to change this retrogressive trajectories.
EMMANUEL ONWUBIKO is head of the HUMAN RIGHTS WRITERS ASSOCIATION OF NIGERIA (HURIWA) and was a federal commissioner at the National Human Rights commission of Nigeria.