That Nigeria returned from the 2016 Rio Olympics without a medal is no longer news. Stakeholders and other Nigerians alike, have been dissecting the problem of sports generally and proffering solutions. Yours truly didn’t hear a word from Dan Ngerem, a former president of the Athletics Federation of Nigeria and therefore sort his opinion on why he thinks athletics returned from a consecutive Olympics without a medal.
He poured out his heart thus: Enjoy it!
“In athletics, can you imagine the precipitous decline and the amount of money we are paying to ‘clueless’ Americans in US dollars while our local coaches are languishing in penury and using their own scarce resources to support our athletes and this present board appear to be part of that arrangement/contract with the sub par Americans they brought here to work with our sports. And all we needed to do if we want foreign support is to dust up our bilateral agreement with Cuba. As you well know, the Ministry and civil service types may not be interested in that agreement if there is no largesse for the boys and the current Minister may not know where the ‘skeletons’ are and/or where to start looking for them. I empathise with the man as he may have underrated the ‘politricks’ in the Ministry of sports.
When I fought to bring back the Cubans many years ago (especially, coach George Diaz who worked with the likes of Mary Onyali, Chioma Ajunwa, Gloria Alozie, etc.) who wanted to come back to Nigeria from Spain, they claimed there was no money to give the Cubans modest accommodation and a small car for their run-around because under that bilateral arrangement Cuba will be paying the coaches salaries. I offered to accommodate the Cubans and provide them with the car and up till today nobody has replied my letter and/or advised me on next steps. That, regrettably, is our dear country and the way we want to run our sports.
The AFN also appear to be needlessly running athletics and washing their dirty linen in full public glare and portraying their ‘success’ on pages of newspapers and measuring their success not in medals won at the Olympics but on how many athletes that reached semi finals and finals when such armchair benchmarks should be largely reserved for athletes in development. It is a crying shame.
If one may ask, how many of those athletes that made it to semi finals and finals in London achieved the same thing in Rio? Regrettably in sports you are as good as the medals won and nobody uses such subjective benchmarks to prepare and sustain success at the highest levels of competition like the Olympics. We need to get serious.
On a secondary note, for the first time AFN Board members including the leadership are at each others throat on pages of newspapers and on social media and even dragged a former sports Minister in the negative vortex. In the best of times, getting sponsorship is not tea party, so, tell me who in his right mind and which serious company with a modicum of compliance/PR department will want to sponsor such a federating unit when all they do is fight shamelessly in the media? Who will want to drag their hard earned image and reputation in the mud by associating with such a sporting federating unit…?
Furthermore, all the cry by some of their leadership about using their personal money to run the AFN is a porous and fractured approach – all they need to do is to articulate a sustainable and enduring sponsorship interface from companies and high net worth individuals and , there are countless sponsorship and marketing companies that abound in Nigeria – the idea of waiting only for Government release of funds is a lazy and self serving approach to say the least.
Bottom line, AFN at this time needs to be cleaned up and new people with new initiatives brought on board to re-engineer and re-structure the place because with two Olympic cycles and no medals and the mutually assured destructive in-fighting amongst the AFN Board members including its leadership it is really time for fresh ideas. I have also decided to stop talking to deaf people until the place is cleaned up of hangers on, praise singers, the unemployed and people who are using the AFN to either launder their image and/or for hygiene issues like where the next meal will come from.
The Cuban bilateral agreement may still be there and people that are long term Nigerian partners in athletics like excellent Athletes Manager, Walter Abmayr and his wife based in Heidelberg Germany has worked with Nigeria, Nigerian athletes and athletics for decades (and, Walter was recently here for Okpekpe Road Race in Edo State) – the likes of Walter and others are all willing to come back and help Nigeria to bring back it’s lost glory in athletics because we have the God given talent base but the right things must be done and the right credible leadership must be in place for that to reach fruition.”