By Suleiman Farinwata

IAAF TT

Blessing

Blessing Okagbare, leader of team Nigeria

IAAF is the international federation for athletics administration responsible for organizing athletics championship for elite athletes at both junior level which is the under- eighteen years category and the senior level for the more matured athletes.

London championship of 2017 holding from 3rd to 14th August is the 15th edition having had the maiden edition in the year 1983 at Helsinki, Finland. Nigeria had participated in all the editions and had won total of eight medals comprising of four silver medals and four bronze medals. For the 2017 edition Nigeria had dispatched a contingent of 12 athletes to represent the country in the championship, led by Blessing Okagbare who was making her 4th appearance in the present championship having earlier won 2 medals in the previous championship held in Moscow, Russia 2013.

Other winners of medals in the previous championship organized by IAAF were Ajayi Agbebaku who won a bronze medal in long jump (1983 edition) and the relay quartet led by Sunday Bada won Bronze medal in 4 x 400m (1985). In the 1987 edition of the championship held in Rome Italy, innocent Egbunike won silver medal in 200m sprints and Francis Obikuelu had bronze medal in 200m while Glory Alozie had silver medal for hurdles all at the 1999 edition held at Seville in Spain.

The Nigerian contingent led by Blessing to London championship heavily populated by foreign based athletes hoped to do better and to improve on the medals haul in the 15th edition. But, pundits had a different opinion on the prospects of team Nigeria doing better than their predecessors and their views was that Nigeria hope for more medals should better remain as it was “hope” just as in hope, no more no less, they pointed out that at day 9 of the championship Nigeria is yet to win a medal in fact Nigeria is nowhere near the podium. The country registered for 9 events, Sprints, Hurdles, Long jump, middle distance race and Shot Put. So far, team Nigeria had participated in 5 events and crashed out in all the 5 events. Blessing was a medal hopeful in 100m sprint but failed to make the finals, another medal potential was Chukwuebuka Kelechi the shot put thrower who was only able to make a distance of 19.27m with his final throw that placed him at 25th position in the overall ranking. Nigeria 400m champion Samson Nathanial could only managed 5th position with a time of 46.63 in Heat number 6, while Edose Ibadin crashed out in 800m men finishing 6th position with time of 1:48:87.

The remaining 4 events that the country registered comes up in the remaining days before the championship close on 14th August 2017. The question is how do we find ourselves in this quagmire?……. and a honest answer to the question is ………. We have been there for quite some time and the narration is bitter  

In the year 2009 Nigeria noticed a defined consistency, of poor performance by our athletes in sporting competitions within the country and internationally and came up with a development plan to remedy the situation, the plan document is titled vision 2020 for sports development. The plan, if implemented is supposed to make Nigeria the best sporting country in Africa, the hub of sporting nation in Africa and be among the best sporting countries in the year 2020. For Nigeria to realize this noble dream, the document suggested that Nigeria should at least n be allocating  not less than 3 percent of its national budget for sports development and the country should  develop sports centers in all the 774 local government areas and in all the educational institutions among several other recommendation. Now this is not a tall order for a country in dire need of sports resuscitation.

Interestingly, what was allocated to the entire ministry of youths and sports in 2017 budget was just a paltry sum of N7.7billon which was far less than the N22.23billon that represents 3 percent of the N7.44 trillion budget for the year 2017. Please, tell me how N7.7billon will do the work of N22.23billon.

After the country’s embarrassing campaign in Rio 2016 Olympics with only a bronze medal to show by team Nigeria of more than 76 sportsmen that represented the country, there is no effort either deliberately or otherwise to address future occurrence of such poor outing. In fact, the regular competitions that supposed to be forums for athlete’s development in the country were not held and the federations we were unable to participate in those   competitions organized by the international federations outside the country.

The Nigeria under-eighteen athletics championship which was supposed to hold in July 2017, failed to hold because of issues related with sports federation elections. Again, Nigeria was not able to be at the under-eighteen African athletics championship held in Nairobi, Kenya in the month of July 2017 and the youth games in Bahamas. The non participation of Nigeria in the world under eighteen championships was as a result of the country’s failure to participate in competitions that serve as qualification process to the world events of the same age group.

The sad story continues, not until recently when the Federation of the International Basketball Administration (FIBA) gave a reprieve to the country, otherwise the country was denied participation in the FIBA 3 x 3 qualifying stages to the world FIBA 3 x 3 championships held at Nantes, France.

So with problems of this magnitude surrounding our sports development, there is little hope for the 12 athletes contingent in London to make it to the medal table. But, we should not lose hope because it is possible to be back on track in near future, if at all we were there before! The proposal of allocating 3% or more of the national budget for spots development should be adhere to by the relevant authorities or we can slightly review the 3% downwards to reflect the trying moments of the country with an option of sourcing the balance and more from the corporate  bodies.

 

It should be noted that corporate bodies are ever ready to support sports development financially and otherwise, provided the sporting federations had credible leaderships. Credible leadership knows that it must hold regular Annual General Meetings, published their Audited Accounts annually, and be fair in their dealings with athletes.

For the country to always win medals in championships, we must have world class athletes that were off shoot of strong grass root sport development for the purpose of continuity. In a situation where the country’s representatives in championship is populated by foreign based students athletes is not sustainable way of winning medals in competition.

Since it is our desire to win laurels in world competitions, our sporting federations must at least organized three competitions annually (that is what the vision 2020, on sports development suggested) for its sportsmen and women, remunerate the athletes adequately and their welfare should be of paramount concern – specifically their heath and injuries. A federation should not miss out on any international competition organized by its respective international body.

The issue of paucity of funds must not be a constrain, because in this world today, there is no sport that cannot be run profitably as a business if the leadership knows their onions. It is a known fact that most of our sport administrators are short of ideas on running federation with financial autonomy, they should seek advice from their continental and international affiliates for the blue print on running sports federations sustainably.

On a light note, just look at the quantum of money involved in football, golf, tennis, basketball globally is more than enough to finance the annual budgets of several countries in Africa. For Nigeria sports to be at that level where such monies are realized there should be credibility in the affairs of the federations. Less we forget, the present administration of President Muhammad Buhari had warned that government will no more give freebies to indolent sports administrators. Hence the need for them to think creatively but legitimately to run their federations.

Going back to our topic LAAF 2017 London, with few days to the end of the champions none of the 12 athletes is near the podium, team leader Blessing is making her final jump and there is no glimpse of hope she will make the medal list.  This is because the jump that qualified her to the final was just 6.51m that placed her 7th position in the group and her compatriot long jumper Ese Brume could not make it to the final stage.

It is my strong prayers that we do not witness a repeat of Rio 2016 Olympics where team of 76 athletes returned with a bronze medal which the ministry of youths and sports christened it “golden bronze” whatever that is…….. And team Rio 2016 had earlier told Nigeria that they were prepared, ready and roaring to go get medals for the country.

Finally, I think our lack of success at international championship shall come to an end very soon….. Because minister of youths and sports Solomon Dalung said   that good sporting facilities are sin qua non to success in sports. The minister was aware of this when he commented that the death of training facilities in Africa was responsible for the young talented athletes migrating from Africa to Europe, America, Asia and Middle East. Solomon Dalung said this while paying a visit to a Lagos Recreation Center at Uruga Real Estate, sometime in May, 2017.

So, Minister Dalung, please do the needful …………………………….Q.E.D

TAURARUWA