The year 2010 went into history as expected leaving sour memories in the mind of the Nigerian athletes. It was a year that ended without the so-much-anticipated Presidential rewards for the Nigerian athletes that won laurels for the country in major international competitions for the year. There were high expectations that President Goodluck Jonathan would host the athletes in December last year and shower either praises or naira on them. Or both! But that rain never fell. Almost coming to the end of the first quarter of the New Year, not the slightest glimpse of hope has emanated from the seat of power as to when these great Nigerians will be decorated by Mr. President.
The excuse before the end of the year was that Mr. President was too busy to host the athletes since the National Sports Commission (NSC) came out with a uniform reward for all the country’s sports men and women. The Presidency bought the idea and a committee with the Secretary to the Federal Government as chairman and members from the Finance Ministry, NSC and other ministries. A letter was forwarded to the Presidency for a date in December but till date no reply has been sent to fix the date.
The anxiety of the Nigerian athletes was aggravated in November when the victorious Super Falcons who won the African Women Championship in South Africa for a record sixth time were given red carpet reception at the Aso Villa. Yet other heroes and heroines that went for the Commonwealth Games in India, the athletes that competed and did well at the IAAF and the African Athletics Championship in Kenya were kept waiting for the Presidential blessing which is fast becoming the endless wait that is common in Nigeria.
We can see the wisdom in the harmonization method proposed by the NSC but if the president’s wife received the Female Under 20 team that almost won the World Cup, at the goose should also be sauce for the gender. The other athletes deserve recognition from the government. The athletes that went to New Delhi deserve whatever the government can offer for a feat that was last achieved 16 years ago.
In a nutshell, year 2010 was glorious for Nigeria in terms of sports. It was a year that Nigeria made a bold statement that the country is ready to take her place in the community of sporting nations.
Leaving the athletes to keep waiting endlessly is not a good way to say thank you to the gallant citizens that have brought honor to the nation.
We are aware that the President is very busy with his campaigns. Yes, the President did not want to delegate the responsibility of receiving the athletes to anyone. But what happens after that. We feel that taking just an evening off to receive these athletes won’t in any way affect the outcome of the general election next month. In fact, it will simply be part of the victory celebration just as it will enhance better acceptance for Mr. President by the youth of this country who will now know that they have a future with President Jonathan in the saddle.
If the lawmakers are being celebrated at every stratum of governance in Nigeria, if the workers’ welfare package is being looked into by the government, then our athletes deserve a better treatment from the Presidency.
While we await the largesse from Aso Rock, we want to advise the government to pay more attention to sports especially this year that’s loaded with activities. Money for championships should be released as and when due rather than wait for the eleventh hour when it will be useless. We also want the National Assembly to be meticulous about the budgets for all the major events this year to forestall a situation where money will not be allocated for one event like the Singapore Youth Olympics last year. This year, we want to see more Nigerian athletes mounting the podium while the National Anthem is being sung. That can only be possible with the support of Aso Rock and the almighty NASS.
We hope the Presidential reward is not another white elephant project in Nigeria.