Commonwealth Games to National Sports Festival – Withal Athletics?
by Orode Moses Oyiki
I have been inundated with several messages in my Facebook inbox, dwelling on the recruitment by the Athletics Federation of Nigeria (AFN) of newly found Nigerians, mostly of Delta State origin from the USA: Mark AMAJU Jelks, Monzavous JOLOMI Edwards, Robert TUOYO Simmons, Lindsay Lindly becomes Lindsay Weyinme, Tyron TORITSEJU Akins, Alex Al Ameen, Nicole Denby, etc.
I have grave reservations when a national federation spends so much money on recruiting athletes for Nigeria when there are no funds available to develop local athletes. I met Solomon Ogba in Glasgow and confronted him with the facts. His argument was lame, namely that it is a challenge for the home based athletes to beat them. He gave the example of Funke Oshonaike in table tennis that she will continue to represent Nigeria until someone beats her. On the face of it his point seems valid, but when looked at critically it is an admission of failure by the federations concerned to draw out and execute programmes to discover, nurture and maintain the Funkes of Nigeria.
This response is lame in that the home based athletes are discriminated against in terms of allowances, welfare and access to officials. There is no level playing ground. It is very coincidental that they are of Itsekiri origin, recruited by Victor Omagbemi an ex-international athlete for Nigeria, Itsekiri and husband of our golden ex-athlete Mary Onyali both living in the USA. The Chairman of the DSSC is Amaju Pinnick, an Itsekiri, whose name is adopted, coincidentally, by one of the athletes. I have nothing against the Itsekiris, but they should work hard like Blessing Okagbare, Devine Oduduru and Ese Brume who are coincidentally Urhobos. Do not twist the argument here as tribal, It is just a coincidence the way the facts have panned out.
The reason the Americans were recruited has to do with the National Sports Festival which has been declared opened for foreign based Nigerians for the very first time in its history. The obvious conflict of interest is not evident to Ogba, As President of AFN he is exercising undue influence by using his powerful position to influence these athletes to compete for Delta State at the NSF in Calabar in November 2014. Solomon Ogba doubles as a consultant for the Delta State Sports Commission, his own creation. The allegations of victimisation are rife by athletes who were compelled to compete for Delta State but refused. This was allegedly the trend locally before the present foreign-connection. The question is why should so much scarce financial resources be expended on a glorified inter house sport? Why would a sane and astute business man pay money to obtain what he has in abundance? When it comes to public money business decisions are negligently and deliberately taken for selfish interest – stomach infrastructure! Athletics happens to be one of the sports at the NSF. Is Delta State recruiting other sportsmen and women FOR THE OTHER SPORTS from abroad too?
The objective of the NSF would be defeated if the Minister of Sports and Chairman National Sports Commission does not put a stop to this fraudulent and dubious scheme to further impoverish gullible and long suffering Nigerians especially Deltans. It is a quick fix exercise which would ultimately destroy our sports. With over six mini stadia, Delta State has more and better sports facilities than the federal government. What are the coaches and management teams doing? They are allegedly sidelined by these scheming officials of the AFN, DSSC and the NSC. They found out allegedly that opening the festival to foreign based Nigerians would attract more hard currencies into their filthy bank accounts. They as politicians are amassing money for the 2015 Elections, a source confided in me. The speed with which these prodigal Children were issued Nigerian passports, though widely shocking to most people, was not a bit surprising to me as elephants fly in Nigeria. Not when the name of the federal government is invoked. Ordinarily, the Immigration Service is known for issuing passports at breathtaking speed if the price is right.
The issues highlighted here are those of National security as if anybody cares, eligibility of these Americans to acquire Nigerian citizenships at lightning speed and obtain passports to boot, the issue of the products and ingenuity or otherwise of the decision to take coal to Newcastle. This is scandalous but we are impervious to scandals when we are SCANDAL personified. My sincere and honest advice is for Nigeria to look inwards. We have abundant talents. It is ‘money-miss-road’ to invest in athletes that have passed their sell-by date. Even if conceded that they are budding athletes, it is still defeatist to look abroad for a messiah when we have them around us.
The biggest way to divert the attention of our restive youths from crimes and dubious activities is for stakeholders to publicise the recent feats by our children in Glasgow, Scotland during the Commonwealth Games. Blessing Okagbare’s achievements are not being given the requisite publicity. We are not keying into the numerous positives they would engender in our country, State and her community. Devine Oduduru won a silver medal at the World Junior Championships in Oregon, USA. Ese Brume won gold in Glasgow in the long jump and replicated the feat in Marrakech, Morocco at the 19th African Athletic Championships. These athletes should be honoured in their communities and by their communities.
I will advise that Olympic size swimming pools and other water sports like canoeing should be built and introduce in the restive riverine areas. We must keep our youths positively engaged. The idle mind cannot be the case of our youths. We have no Devil’s workshop if they are kept busy. It must not always be what one can gain from this exercise. Let us render selfless service to our fatherland. A word is enough for the wise.
- Orode Moses Oyiki is of Aaron Solicitors, 40 Arran Quay,Smithfield, Dublin 7 – www.aaronsolicitors.com