They say logic in Nigeria works in reverse to what happens in the progressive world and for me, nothing explains this better than countries like Nigeria and Togo participating in this yearâ€™s winter Olympics in PyeongChang. As far as Nigerian sports go, the euphoria that has surrounded the four ladies representing Nigeria can only have been matched by the popularity of the Super Eagles in a World Cup tournament where they have progressed beyond the group stage and there is a real chance of them reaching the quarter-finals. Just six months ago, no one in Nigeria knew about the existence of this quartet. Today, they are a fairytale for all: fans and sponsors alike. I can accept this as a brilliant self-promotional gimmick by the ladies. But to pass it off as a patriotic adventure just does not cut ice with a bad belle guy like me
Let me illustrate what this piece is about with two analogies. Firstly, I swim for exercise and have done so at the same sports club for about 15 years. Recently I arrived at the pool and saw that someone had erected two water polo goalposts. I asked what that was about and was told they wanted to introduce water polo to the club. I was amused. We wanted to practise water polo when we did not even have a swimming team, let alone one that could compete.
My second is about when the legendary Singaporean leader, Lee Kuan Yew, visited Ghana in January 1966. At a dinner where he was a guest of the famous Kwame Nkrumah, the former Ghanaian president gushed about the prospects of post-colonial Ghana and the brilliance of a 30-year-old compatriot, also a guest, who had achieved a first in Classics from Oxford University and was the vice chancellor of the University of Ghana. Indeed Yew said he found the young man to be bright, but wondered why a country that was overwhelmingly dependent on agriculture would send its brightest minds to study Classics!
Let me start by addressing the patriotism issue. Maybe these ladies are born-again, but the fact as we know it from the admission of at least two of them, is that these are athletes who not too long ago were competing for places in the national teams of the United States of America and the United Kingdom. Had they succeeded, there would be no Nigerian team at the winter games today.
As for being models for achieving the impossible, how about we aim to win gold in the 100m of the summer games first? Does that not look like an impossibility for us at this time? How about we aim to be a leading nation in the sports for which we at least have a chance – like the sprints, wrestling, boxing, long and triple jumps etc. How about the patriotic sponsors of this marketing spectacle put some money behind real Nigerian sports so we can actually become competitive in a way that our country can be respected.
I can actually see non-Africans being amused by this, but I canâ€™t see them respecting us for it. The famed Jamaican bobsled have already secured the patent for the novelty. The world knows it does not snow in Africa; the world knows that as long as Africans romanticise about events like this they would always dream of a life away from Africa; the world knows this that the fallout of this can only be the deepening of immigration concerns in the west.
Like my water polo aficionados, the novelty of this adventure will pass in Nigeria and the winter games will become what it should be for us â€“ a non-event. Even if some copycat patriots rise up in the future, they cannot be world class. It takes much more to be at the top tier of any sport in todayâ€™s world, and even if you find a Nigerian crazy enough to commit their lives from a very early age to winter sports, chances are that the flag they will hoist at the games would be more blue and red than green white green.
We must not confuse the quest to do the impossible with the quest for the unreasonable. However Iâ€™d be surprised if these ladies do not become celebrities with fat contracts and contacts in Nigeria. They deserve that for their marketing savvy and industry. But that is where it ends for me. The reality is that we have real athletes in our country who have devoted their lives to the Nigerian dream. Support them, celebrate them, donâ€™t rubbish them as this unwittingly does.
I imagine this would be an unpopular piece, but I really do not mind being on the less favored side of this debate. They say the only race that understands how we approach things is the black race. How we can make a great show or this and make it a model for our children and still expect to succeed at anything locally, beats the hell â€œouttaâ€ me.