Temple Chima UbochiMonday, September 3, 2012
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Bonn, Germany




Continued from Part 1

any athletes who won laurels for Nigeria were products of grassroots development that has since ceased to happen in Nigeria. That's the bane of sports in Nigeria. Hitherto, our sports heroes and heroines were discovered at the primary and secondary schools level (grassroots), but, nowadays, that avenue for the early identification of talents has ceased to exist as the primary and secondary schools in Nigeria are barely functioning, the structures are dilapidated, the teachers are demoralised, only the children of the wretched Nigerians attend those schools as the private schools owners connived with the authorities to kill our public schools. This writer nostalgically remembers that Dele Udo, Chidi Imo and other Nigerian athletes who hit the limelight in the 1980s were products of the grassroots as he knew the two above mentioned world class athletes personally during their days in Aba. Unfortunately, Dele Udo, who was discovered at National High School Aba, and who hit the limelight from there, was killed by a police in Lagos when he came back from his base in the United States to prepare to represent Nigeria in one of the International Association of Athletics Federations Championships held in early 1980s (The 3rd IAAF track and field sporting event held on September 4-6, 1981, at the Stadio Olimpico in Rome, Italy). This writer remembers the sadness that enveloped National High School Aba that day Dele Udo was killed. The school's Games Master, Mr. Onyewuchi (Afo Ukwa), was that day inconsolable as he was the person who discovered and trained Dele Udo before he became a world class athlete. Chidi Imo started at Eziukwu Aba Secondary School, and, when Osusu Secondary School was created out of it, he became one of those sent to the new school as a pioneer. Innocent Egbunike, Mary Onyali etc were products of grassroots. Chioma Ajunwa, although a policewoman, was also from the grassroots.

Let's look at what some of above mentioned athletes achieved.

Dele Udo was about to hit the limelight before he was "mowed down" by a trigger-happy policeman at Ojuelegba, Lagos, as he was training for IAAF event one early morning in 1981. At the 1980 Summer Olympics in Moscow, USSR, Dele Udo and his mates (Sunday Uti, Hope Ezeigbo and Felix Imadiyi) reached only the semi finals. The quarter finals were held on 28th July 1980. The top four in each heat advanced to the semi finals. Dele Udo was about reaching his peak before his death; otherwise, he could have won a gold, silver or bronze for Nigeria in subsequent games.

Chidi Imoh (born on August 27, 1963) won an Olympic silver medal for Nigeria in the 4 x 100 metres relay at the 1992 Summer Olympics in Barcelona, Spain. He also won a 60 metres bronze medal at the 1991 World Indoor Championships, and he became African champion in 1984 and 1985. He won the 100 metres race in the 1987 All-Africa Games.

Imoh, also a former runner for the University of Missouri in Columbia, holds the records there in the 200 m outdoor with a time of 19.9, the 100 m outdoor with a time of 10.00 and in the 55 m indoor with a time of 6.10. His personal bests were 100 metres - 10.00 (1986) and 200 metres - 21.04 (1985)

Innocent Egbunike (born on November 30, 1961) won an Olympic bronze medal in 4 x 400 metres relay in Los Angeles 1984. In addition, he won a silver medal in the 400 metres at the 1987 World Championships in Rome. He also won the gold medal in the 200 metres at the 1983 Summer Universiade in Edmonton with a personal best of 20.42 seconds. He also won the Soviet 100 metres in 1983. According to Wikipedia, he studied at Azusa Pacific University, where he still holds the school record at 400 metres and the automatically timed NAIA (National Association of Intercollegiate Athletes) meet record at 200 metres. Two years later at the 1985 Summer Universiade, he won the 400 metres. At the regional level, he won the 1987 All-Africa Games in Nairobi, as well as three gold medals at the African Championships.

Mary Onyali (born on February 3, 1968) was raised in Lagos. She won the bronze medal in 4x100 metres relay at the 1992 Summer Olympics in Barcelona and in 200 metres at the 1996 Summer Olympics in Atlanta. She also won the 1994 Commonwealth Games. According to Wikipedia, she performed especially well in the All-Africa Games, winning a total of 7 individual medals in the short sprints. She won 100 metres in 1991, 1995 and 2003 and took a bronze medal in 1987. She took Gold medals in 200 metres in 1987, 1995 and 2003. Furthermore, the Nigerian 4x100m relay team, she was part of, won all races between 1987 and 2003, at the African Games. Her consecutive Olympic appearances from 1988 to 2004 made her the first Nigerian to compete at five Olympics.

Onyali's personal bests were 100 metres - 10.97 (1993), 200 metres - 22.07 (1996) and 400 metres - 54.21 (2000).

Chioma Ajunwa (born on December 25, 1970) from Ogbe, Ahiara in Ahiazu-Mbaise Local Government Area of Imo State, initially played football for the Nigerian women's team but then made a transition into athletics. Ajunwa performed notably as a track and field athlete at the African Games and African Championships between 1989 and 1991. Ajunwa went on to become the first West African woman, as well as the first Nigerian, to win an Olympic gold medal in a track and field event. Ajunwa emerged victorious in the women's long jump event at the 1996 Olympics in Atlanta, Georgia, with a jump length of 7.12m (for her first attempt) during the final. She won silver in Long Jump at the World In-door Championships held in Paris in 1997. Chioma Ajunwa is a policewoman by profession.

Charity Opara (born on May 20, 1972 in Owerri, Imo State) competed in the 400 metres. She was in particular a successful relay runner, winning the silver medal at the 1996 Olympics in Atlanta.

Falilat Ogunkoya (born on December 5, 1968): According to Wikipedia, Falilat attended Mississippi state from 1987-1992 and graduated with a degree in Education. She was inducted to the Hall of fame in 1998 after she became the first person in the school history to win an Olympic medal. In her collegiate years at MSU, she made All-American honors several times in the 100, 200 and 400 meters. Ogunkoya has won a number of national championships, including a Gold medal in 1996 in the 400 metres, gold in the 200 metres and 400 m in 1998, and gold again in 1999 and 2001 in the 400 m. At the 1987 All Africa Games in Kenya, she won the silver medal in the 200 m. In 1995 at the Zimbabwe Games, she won the silver in the 400 m, and at the 1999 Games in South Africa, she won a gold medal in the 400 m. At the 1996 Summer Olympics, she won a bronze medal in the 400 m, in a personal best and African record of 49.10, which is currently the twelfth fastest of all time. She also won a silver medal in 4X400 meters at the Atlanta Olympics in 1996, making her the first and only Nigerian to win double medals in one Olympics. She was also the first ever Nigerian to win an individual Olympic medal in track and field.

Her records (Wikipedia):
*General ranked number one in the world in the 400 meters in 1998
*Ranked number two in the world in the 200 meters in 1998 (behind Marion Jones)
*Ran the fastest time in the world in the 400 meters in 1999 - 49.62s.
*Ranked among top 10 in the 400 meters since 1995
*African record holder in the 400 meters (49.10s)
*Former Nigerian 800 meters record holder at 2:04.57s
In Ogunkoya's words: "I started athletics in High School in 1983, in Ogun state of Nigeria, under the watchful eyes of Coach John Afuwape".

The Vanguard of Sunday, July 29, 2012 wrote: "The opening ceremony of the London 2012 Olympics captured this setting from the beginning and moved on to touch every generation from those ancient times to now. And in doing this they featured some scenes and the people who have been part of their history in a showpiece of creativity culminating in a great display of art and entertainment. In a way, it was a powerful message that Nigerian leaders should and must note. About five governors from Nigeria were here to watch the opening ceremony.

And it is hoped that they got the message when, in lighting the cauldron, seven great Olympians nominated seven youths to do that. The message is about preparing the youth and handing over to a new generation. The youth, they say, are the leaders of tomorrow. And if you don't build legacies, prepare the youth to takeover and continue building legacies, you are destroying your future".

What has Nigeria put in place to help its youth? Franklin D. Roosevelt (1882 - 1945) noted that "We cannot always build the future for our youth, but we can build our youth for the future". In other climes which take their youth serious with the notion that they are the greater tomorrows, the youth receive qualitative education as that prepares them for the task they would face in future; indigent students have access to study loan which they pay back after graduation and upon securing a job, but, Nigeria cares less about the quality of education its youth are receiving, and, its indigent students are not succoured. John W. Gardner (1912-2002), wrote "Much education today is monumentally ineffective. All too often we are giving young people cut flowers when we should be teaching them to grow their own plants". Graduates in some other climes, where things are done as they are supposed to, have access to loan to establish at least a small scale business that can employ few people, which they can pay back when the business picks up. In Nigeria we hear about this or that loan, but, only the youth who are highly connected get it. Government doesn't create job, but, it "should create" policies which enable businesses to bloom (boom) and employ people. In Nigeria, the government is the highest employer of labour, and that's not the way it's supposed to be. The private sector, enabled by favourable government policies, is supposed to be the highest employer of labour.

In Nigeria, the rulers have so devitalized Nigerian youth that they are almost worthless. Recently, Dangote Group decided to employ Nigerian graduates as truck drivers. The company advertised it; then read what happened. The News Express of August 31, 2012 wrote how "University graduates rush to work as truck drivers at Dangote". According to the Paper:

"Contrary to the expectations of many Nigerians, a deluge of applications has followed the recent advertisement by Dangote Group for university graduates to work as truck drivers at the group's cement manufacturing subsidiary. "We have received about 13,000 applications and we are looking for just 2,000 people," a top-level management staff at the Lagos head office of Dangote Group told News Express. "It tells you how bad the unemployment situation in the country is," the source added. News Express recalls that the advertisement by Dangote Group for university graduates to be trained to work as truck drivers had elicited negative reactions in several quarters, with many respondents wondering if graduates would be willing to condescend to work as truck drivers".

This column thinks that not all the graduates who applied dreamt of becoming a truck drivers after acquiring a university education, but, because, the Nigerian rulers made no provision for them, the graduates must do something to earn a living, afterall, some of their parents suffered to see them through the university, and they are supposed to take care of their younger ones or their aged parents thereafter. Since no decent job is there for the majority, they have to take up a make-do job, assuming they're lucky to get the demeaning job afterall. That's why crime rate is high in the country; those youth with dreams can't go on being dependent on others after graduation, so many succumbed to temptation by engaging in criminal activities to survive. To make two points clear here: this column doesn't support evil in any way, and, graduates doing menial jobs is not out of place considering the fact that many Nigerian graduates abroad do engage in them to survive in foreign lands (a factor in immigration), but, for the majority of Nigerian university graduates to engage in menial and degrading jobs in their own country shows that the Nigerian rulers are not getting it right and deserve condemnation for their actions and inactions.

Friedrich von Schiller (1759 - 1805) wrote "Keep true to the dreams of thy youth", but, Nigerian rulers kill the dream of our own youth. Henry David Thoreau (1817 -1862) wrote "The youth gets together his materials to build a bridge to the moon, or, perchance, a palace or temple on the earth, and, at length, the middle-aged man concludes to build a woodshed with them". The Nigerian rulers are behaving as if they weren't once youth, they also forget that no matter how old one is, there's always this nostalgic feeling about the youthful era, otherwise, they should have planned better for the Nigerian youth. As noted earlier, every adult was once a youth, and, William Shakespeare (1564 - 1616) confirmed it when he wrote "We have some salt of our youth in us". The youth are like babies learning how to walk whenever they face the world for the first time out of the watchful eyes of their parents and guardians. This gives them the opportunity "to break out of their shell". Johann Wolfgang Von Goethe (1749 -1832), in the book "Great Quotes for Great Educators" wrote "Everyone believes in his youth that the world really began with him, and that all merely exist for his sake". The youth want adventure and want to try so many things the watchful eyes of parents, guardians, or even siblings have denied them hitherto. James M. Barrie (1860 - 1937) captured it here when he wrote "I'm youth, I'm joy, I'm a little bird that has broken out of the egg". The youth live in a dream land and for them nothing is impossible, although the actual realisation of the dream is another thing, as rulers like the ones we have in Nigeria always snuff out those dreams. Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr. (1841-1935), former US Supreme Court Justice, also known as "The Great Dissenter", wrote "Young man, the secret of my success is that at an early age I discovered that I was not God". Nicholas Sparks (1965), in the book "The Rescue", wrote "Youth offers the promise of happiness, but life offers the realities of grief." Also, C. B. Langston, in his book "My Boyish Days" wrote:

"Thus youth passed by--a happy time!
Still ringing in my ears, a chime
Of sweet familiar tone!
Life never will, or can bestow
A time so blest, and free from woe,
As that delightful one!"

To be continued!


* Vanguard of Thursday, August 9, 2012 (By Is'haq Modibbo Kawu) wrote, as the Olympic Games were going on:

The sports bureaucracy is hopelessly corrupt; the systematic programme of development, which the late Chief Isaac Akioye elaborately prepared for our sports in the early 1970s, saw young athletes from all over Nigeria go through phases of conscious development, along with their education. That process laid the basis for Nigeria's continental dominance in track and field; table tennis; lawn tennis and several other sports.

Undermining the system

Chief Akioye's system, emphasised the deliberate development of a national sports infrastructure, but it was undermined by those determined to manipulate the Nigerian love for sports, to become fabulously rich. So in the context of the corruption associated with military dictatorship from the mid-1980s, a new set of sports administrators emerged and the emblematic representative is Amos Adamu.

Adamu bestrode our sports like a colossus, planting his cronies in the sports federations, while the essence of our sports turned to the entrenchment of a corrupt oligarchy, which became richer than the sports associations themselves. No more the development of our youth in a well-run process; they substituted with cheating, by fielding over-aged players in age-grade tournaments. For as long as Nigeria won dubiously, the nation strutted in delusion about its sporting prowess. The corrupt sports administrators smiled to the bank, just as the leading Mafiosi, created a whole career in WAFU, CAF and FIFA. The man had the ambition to takeover from Issa Hayatou at CAF while his place in the corruption-infested world of FIFA was assured, until he fell for a sting operation set up by a London newspaper.

As they pursued personal enrichment (Amos Adamu became arguably, one of Nigeria's richest civil servants!), Nigerian sportsmen and women became increasingly frustrated and many of our best talents shipped out to represent other countries around the world. Francis Obikwelu was perhaps the most famous of them all, becoming a representative of Portugal and European sprint champion. Others like Gloria Alozie followed.

Sports is one of the greatest expressions of modernity and a veritable platform of creating a patriotic ethos among young people; but in Nigeria, it was hijacked by conmen and crooks and in the process, the nation lost the opportunity which well-organised sporting platforms can give a country: we couldn't give our young people the avenue to strive or create dreams and achieve them; the business side of sports was underdeveloped, because the individuals creaming off our sports hold almost a monopoly control of the avenues of sports business.

It was head, Nigeria lost; tail, they won! This is the broad ambience within which our Olympics outing must be appreciated. It was a recipe for disaster!

Nigeria's refusal to do the right thing or plan systematically within the cycles of sports ensures our regular failure in these major tournaments. Take one example. The young South African swimmer that defeated Michael Phelps in the 200meters Butterfly event was in a 6year development programme. That was how long it took him to defeat the greatest Olympian of all time!

Unless a miracle occurs, and we still have a few days to see such a miracle (and it will be most fitting for a country that feeds on religious frenzy; metaphysical mumbo-jumbo and other mind-bending, anti-science and irrational surrenders to superstition!), this might very well turn out to be our worst Olympics outing ever! Such failure will be fitting epitaph to the state of our nation; its tragic deterioration in every field of human endeavor and the unacceptable propensity to kill dreams and lofty ambitions. When Segun Odegbami wrote recently that all the great sprinters are from West Africa, he was referring to the genetic pool that links us with the Tyson Gays, Usain Bolts or Asafa Powells. It was a statement for the potentials locked away in our young people, but not allowed to flower. The Olympics Games speak to the state of our country. Things are so desperately bad we cannot sustain the ambience which made even the Americans respect Nigerian sprinters, up to a few years ago. It is a reflection of how bad things are today, that we now go around the world collecting children born by Nigerians in other climes to represent us in tournaments.

Training with public funds

The entire starting line up of our Basketball team was born in the USA! Many of the parents of those young athletes were trained with public funds when Nigeria worked reasonably in the recent past, but out of frustration, many joined the Brain Drain! Corruption, irresponsibility; inability to sustain practices of excellence; short-sightedness; personal greed and a hopeless ruling class conspired to destroy the sporting architecture of Nigeria.

If we win anything at the London Olympics, then miracle has triumphed over systematic planning. Whichever way we look at it, it is still a national disaster. Of course, the poor athletes will return to despair and try to pick up the pieces of their ambitions. As for the officials, they will unpack huge suitcases from weeks of shopping in London, as they await the next international sporting event through which they can fleece Nigeria, for the umpteenth time. Some noise will be made about the need to begin early preparations for the next Olympics, but not much will be done until the eve, when huge sums will be taken out for 'preparation'. It is a vicious cycle left to fester, like gangrene, for so long!

* Hear these:








Continued from Part 1