Nigeria has had enough embarrassment on the political front these past months. How else do one describe the news of stolen money by politicians both living and dead we hear almost every day.
The amount of money allegedly stolen from our country by public office holders is enough to sink a nation but that Nigeria is still standing beats every economic sense.
Leave the stories on stolen money and you talk about the attitude of politicians who have been engaged in one circus show or another, from the stealing of the Mace in the Senate to the suspension of members who speak against the bogus allowances of members to the mass defection of top Senators of the ruling party who turn around to accuse the same party of misrule.
Nigerians who have been groaning under bad governance of the country which has kept them suffering one hardship or another have taken to sports as the only source of happiness. That was why they supported the Super Eagles to do well at the recently concluded FIFA World Cup in Russia. But their joy was cut short as the team crashed out of the competition after the first round matches.
While they were still trying to overcome the shock of their team’s ouster, another wave of embarrassment hit them right here at home, in Asaba to be precise. It was the Confederation of African Athletics (CAA) Championships which was coming to Nigeria for the first time.
Days before the championship was to begin, yours sincerely wrote on this page that Nigeria was planning to fail. This was because while the Delta state government was beating its chest of completing the Stephen Keshi stadium, venue of the competition on schedule, not much was being done to prepare Team Nigeria athletes who were supposed to represent the country.
Therefore the failure expected was actually in the area of presenting quality contingent against other African countries, especially in our area of strength which was gradually being invaded by other countries like South Africa, Cote d’Ivoire and even Ghana.
It was shocking therefore when news of countries contingents who arrived Lagos for the competition being stranded for hours at the Lagos airport hit the air waves. Ostensibly no adequate arrangements were made to convey them to Asaba where the competition was to hold.
The sight of athletes sleeping at the airport waiting to be conveyed to Asaba was really embarrassing as foreign journalists who accompanied their teams to cover the event feasted on the shoddy arrangement and painted Nigeria in bad light before the international community.
The embarrassment did not stop there as the competition schedule had to be adjusted following the arrival confusion. Events time had to be adjusted or the events were entirely moved to the following day, making athletes to complain about how difficult it will be for them to give their best under such circumstances. Though the head of the Local Organising Committee, LOC, Solomon Ogba, a former president of the Athletics Federation of Nigeria, AFN, tried to explain what happened, the damage already done to the image of the country was incalculable.
One would however, not blame Delta state entirely for the hiccups experienced if the explanation given by the president of the sport’s continental body, CAA, Kalkaba Malboum is anything to go by. He disclosed that Delta was not the original host of the event but Lagos state which chickened out close to the date of the competition for inexplicable reasons.
According to the CAA president, “At the 2016 Lagos Marathon we met with the State governor who promised to host the event. But it became obvious they were not going to host. We invited them to Durban to take the flag but they didn’t show up. We couldn’t put pressure on the governor to change his mind. And I asked Solomon Ogba who was AFN president then what is going to happen. Then it he told us Delta was ready to host and even at that we didn’t want to take the championships from Nigeria.”
While exonerating Delta state, Malboum hit hard on Nigeria, suggesting that the Nigerians who were saddled with the responsibility of organising the event did not show enough commitment as the CAA have not encountered such problems in other countries that have hosted the championship in the past.
Malboum said matter of factly that “We didn’t have this kind of problem in previous championship. We have been to Addis Ababa, Nairobi, Marrakesh and Durban. The people there (unlike in Nigeria, my words) showed commitment and things went on well. We didn’t envisage this problem, but it depends on the kind of problem that presents itself and there is nothing the CAA could do,” said the CAA boss. Truth is, if Delta knew they didn’t have enough capable hands to host a hitch-free comptition, why didn’t they ask the continental body for support, moreso as they were hosting it for the very first time?
Lagos state must also not be absolved of blame for embarrassment cause the country by the shoddy arrangement put up. If the government knew it would not host, why did it promise to host? The worst of it was not even showing up in Durban where the flag of hosting was to be presented to the state after an invitation was extended to it.
The action of Lagos state government put Nigeria in bad light as a people who should not be taken for their word. It was to save Nigeria from that embarrassment that Chief Ogba committed Delta state government.