Public Commentary

LESSONS FROM THE RIO OLYMPICS

What astounds me about Nigeria, this 56 year old ‘Lugardian’ contraption, is our seeming inability to get both simple and complex tasks done. Simple, innocuous tasks such as training our athletes, paying them their due allowances, and transporting them to sporting events are bungled such that one has to caution against Nigeria ever sending astronauts to the moon in future.Those poor souls will never get there.

 

Talk of complex projects like power plants, railways and bridges; our failure becomes even more apparent. In Nigeria; we spend more than what the Chinese spend on roads of equal length. For context: the recently commissioned Abuja-Kaduna rail line took 10 years to complete, spanning four different administrations (from Obasanjo- Buhari). Not to mention the billions or trillions (considering this is Nigeria) wasted on the project. Which begs the question: what exactly can we do or get done in Nigeria? In all my ruminations about the nature and character of the Nigerian state; I have only found one: corruption

 

 

One need not be a sports aficionado to know that the Olympics games are highly competitive. This proceeds logically, that only well trained athletes supported by a serious ministry of sports stand a chance of winning medals. Every country seems to have understood this, except, of course Nigeria. It is a well-documented fact that Team Nigeria has never been prepared going into any sporting event, but this year’s Olympic Games ranks as our worse outing. Our football team was stuck in Atlanta because the plane that was supposed to transport the team was too small. It took the graciousness of delta airlines to fly our players to Brazil on credit. They arrived in maneaus, Brazil, the venue of their game just about four hours before their match. Chierika Okogu, a Nigerian athlete who represented the country in rowing had to fund herself to the Olympics. She had no support whatsoever from the sports ministry. Segun Ogunlewe, the fastest Nigerian sprinter also took to social media to beg for funds because the ministry of sports absconded from their responsibility. All these sorry tales and many more, has been the norm for athletes who give their sweat and blood for this country. Solomon Dalung, the minister of sports, must apologize to Nigerians for this disastrous outing. But to lay the entire blame on him, as some Nigerians have done, would be an ignorant and obscurantist position. The problem is systemic, as most of our problems are.

Solomon dalung is a reflection of the poor state of our society. We are a society that values incompetence over hard work, one that always seeks the easy fix rather than take the difficult route, and that’s how we got here. Nigeria has not won a single medal at the Rio Olympics as I type this, and it is entirely not surprising. We didn’t win any medal at the last Olympics either. And our only hope of a medal, a bronze medal in fact, now lies solely with the football team. Divine Oduduru, Aruna Qadri, Chierika Okogu and other talented Nigerian athletes ultimately failed because talent is never enough.

 

Talent and preparation is what brings success. That they were even able to make it this far says a lot about the ‘Never say die’ attitude of Nigerians. Our ‘can do’ spirit in the face of overwhelming odds stacked gigantically against us. But why should this always be the norm? Why must we always make it against all odds? Why are the odds never even? Although this piece borders majorly on our disastrous preparation and the even more disastrous result we got from the Rio Olympics; the same attitude is what applies in our national life. Fact is: we are an unserious nation. We want to reap where we did not sow forgetting the law of harvest. We expect prayers to build our economy, fight boko haram, curb corruption and even give us 24 hour electricity. But all these will not happen until we embrace science and technology.

 

We will continue to be a nation of backward and poor people until we stop giving dollar concession to mecca and Jerusalem pilgrims, and start giving grants to our physicists, biologists, engineers, writers, and all those whose art advances the cause of society. China didn’t bring 400 million people out of extreme poverty by praying. South Africa didn’t become the most industrialized African country by praying. And Nigeria will not be an exception, because there is a place for prayer, and there is a place for hard work, dedication and seriousness. A word, they say, is enough for the wise. Will we learn?

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