President Goodluck Jonathan wants five gold medals for Team Nigeria at Rio 2016
By Tunde Sulaiman
It is very sad that it needed Team Nigeria’s embarrassing showing at London 2012 to bring to the fore to the highest levels of government that something was just not right with sports in the country.
And nothing was more obvious that it had hit right home was the way top government officials, including Mr President reacted to the fact that of the 204 nations that were in the British capital for two odd weeks, the so-called ‘Giant of Africa’ failed to gatecrash the 79 countries that made the medals table at the end of the fiesta – not even with a bronze medal.
Four days after the curtains fell on the 30th Olympiad, government spokesman, Labaran Maku, who is the Minister of Information, told State House correspondents after the weekly Federal Executive Council (FEC) meeting that President Goodluck Jonathan has directed that the entire gamut of the sporting sector of the country should be re-organised.
He further said that the president had indicated that some key sports administrators will be affected by the changes being proposed but he did not give names of those that will be affected.
The Information Minister concluded by saying: "So in the next couple of weeks you are going to see action in this area as we prepare to work and ensure that Nigeria in subsequent events, in continental and global takes it proper place within the continent and globally in sporting competitions."
By my rudimentary knowledge of English, a ‘couple’ means ‘two’ which means that going by the Information Minister’s comments, by this week we should see ‘action’ from government as regards their plans to ‘transform’ sports in the country; because even as you read this piece, 14 days have already passed. And before we know it days will turn into weeks (which has already happened), weeks into months and months into years! And bingo Rio 2016 will be just be a few hours away.
However, ever the cynic (after all we have long been hearing government promising one thing or the other), I put a call through to a highly placed government official seeking to find out if this (transformation of Nigerian sports) was for real (or just another slogan) and if possible to learn a little bit of the details of what was actually being planned.
While the official did make some revealing statements, which unfortunately I’m not at a liberty to reveal (in deference to the official’s explicit request) he did, however, touch on another issue which I believe I can comment on; and this is the issue of sincerity on the part of government.
I put it bluntly to the official: “Is it not another knee jerk reaction from government to a topical issue only for nothing to be done once the issue drops off the radar?”
“TS please why are you so cynical?” was the official’s reply.
Pointing out that another senior colleague (I won’t mention his name) had also raised the same concerns with him, the official said: “Look you guys (media) should give government a break. Why are you so sceptical? Mr President has spoken lets give him a chance afterwards if he doesn’t deliver on his promise then you can criticise him. But I can assure you this time he (Jonathan) does mean business!”
Incidentally, Presidential Spokesman, Dr. Reuben Abati also painted the picture of an angry president in an article he penned captioned: “Jonathan and the London Olympics”
The official I spoke to went on to explain that perhaps one of the positive things from Nigeria’s poor London 2012 outing was that it has brought to the fore the problems bedevilling sports in the country.
“Had we won even a bronze medal nothing would have happened because the cracks would have been patched over with the medal. Now that we have nothing to cover them with it is clear to all that we have a problem that needs to be addressed,” said the official.
Unfortunately for him government does have an image crisis especially after the citizenry are still waiting for many of previous promises to materialise.
However, with 1441 days to go before the start of the next Olympics in Rio, there is still time for government to put Doubting Thomas’s to shame by transforming the President’s charge of winning five gold medals into golden reality.
Only time will tell.