Stopping the rot in Nigeria

Nigeria: Checking the Rot in Nigeria’s Track And Field

This Day (Lagos)

August 21, 2006
Posted to the web August 21, 2006

Duro Ikhazuagbe

The performance of Nigeria’s team to the 15th African Athletics Championships in Mauritius has again exposed what many aficionados of track and field in the land have all along suspected was in the waiting for us.

Yes, administrators of the sport are beating their chests for the five gold or so that we won in areas dominated by our athletes in the past. Of course, that pushed Nigeria to the third place but certain questions remained unanswered as to why we have been unable to explore medals from events outside the sprint.

Saved for the personal efforts of Commonwealth silver medallist, Olusoji Fasuba and Uchenna Emedolu, three of the gold medals would have been impossible given the renewed push by other African countries to have a fair share of the medals in the short distances.

The 10.37secs posted by Fasuba, though against a headwind, may not be too fantastic, it never the less ensured that Nigeria’s anthem was played.

Same with Emedolu’s 20.61secs in the 200m dash. Their combined efforts fetched the gold from the 4x100m.

And the pair of Vivian Chukwuemeka and Toyin Augustus made it five from shot put and 100m hurdles respectively.

The question then is what has happened to the boasts of the present board led by Mrs Violet Odogwu-Nwajei to revolutionise track and field in the country?

Were are the programmes aimed at giving the country the expected breakthrough in the track business?

Nothing on ground at the moment points at the dawn of a new era for athletics in the country.

Honest followers of the sport in the country know this fact and it is a development that is frightening as the Beijing Olympics beckons in just two years time. Even before then, the All Africa Games in Algeria next Summer is barely a year away and there is nothing to show the seriousness of the Athletics Federation of Nigeria to show that Nigeria, is indeed, in serious contention to win the Games back-to-back.

For the records, while Nigerian athletics appears not to be making any headway, our neighbours like Cameroon, Ghana and Benin Republic (can you imaging) have started to reap from their years of investing in youth development programmes.

Ghana’s Vida Anim was the most successful athlete of the championship. She won all three events she entered, the 100m, 200m and 4x100m relay. Yet. Our supposed more established runners like Endurance Ojokolo failed to stop the Ghanaian. Despite a strong headwind (-2.6), Anim clocked her season best of 22.90 en route to winning the women’s 200m. Defending champion, South Africa’s Geraldine Pillay (23.11) settled for the silver medal as third placed Fabienne Feraez gave Benin their only medal of the championship. The best Nigeria had to show for her supposed superior strength in the women sprint was Ojokolo’s miserable bronze in the 100m.

Senegal’s Amy Mbacke Thiem (52.22secs) won the quarter-mile with Amantle Montsho (52.68) of Botswana picking the silver while Louise Ayetotche (52.92) of Cote d’ Ivoire settled for the bronze. In the past Nigerian ladies dominated this event with the likes of Falilat Ogunkoya. Delta girl, Christy Ekphuhon who had showed so much promise failed to make it to the podium for medal of any colour in her individual event. Though she later got a silver through a combined strength in the 1600 relay.

With allegations of dope case hanging on Mercy Nku and no clear and sustained talents in the horizon to take over and be able to face the African challenge, the prospects of Nigeria dominating as a leader in tack and field appears to be in the balance. In the triple jump. Otonye Iworima, the River state-born graduate of Fine and Applied Arts from the University of Nigeria, Nsukka, who early this month set a new 14.05m national record was unable to reproduce the feat from a formidable field comprising Yamile Aldama, the Cuban girl who won a World Indoor bronze for Sudan, her adopted country last March in Moscow and Senegal’s Kene Ndoye picked a silver in both Long and triple Jumps. Aldama was clearly the leader with her 14.71m.

Relevant Links

West Africa

The story is not different for the men also. The quarter-mile was the most disappointing of all the areas where Nigeria failed in her specialty to pick gold medals. With better managers, the likes of Godday James, Saul Weigopwa, Bola Lawal and Musa Audu are materials for any good federation to harness their potentials. Nigeria had a reputation in the quarter-mile, way back to the era of the Innocent Egbunike up till when Sunday Bada quit the stage. All that is now history with our fortune disappearing with every passing day and there are no prospects of a turn around.

Though many have blamed the slide on the lack of focus on the last board that concentrated energy in developing long distance races to the detriment of local programmes like the monthly Classics, the Nwajei led board has nothing to show for now as the new direction track and field is heading. Nothing may have come out of Dan Ngerem’s affinity to marathon, the businessman sure left a legacy which may culminate in Nigeria making headway in the middle distances with better attention in the future. What then can we say of this present board?

Running a federation goes beyond postulating theories of how to be Olympics champion on newspaper pages. Something concrete has to be on the ground to show that, yes, progress is been made. Until such evidences begin to manifest in good results for Nigeria in continental and global sporting championships, it is not time to say uhuru yet for Nigerian track and field. That is the stark reality staring us in the face as stakeholders in Nigerian sports. Otherwise, the likes of Benin, Ghana, Senegal and even Cote d’ Ivoire who have started their incursion into the sprint and quarter-mile will sooner or later rub into our face that Nigeria no longer have the exclusive domination anymore. Now is the time to check the rot.

Copyright ©

Let’s face reality, when Nigeria gives less than 500 USD for an African Championship title, how can the athletes be motivated ? I’m sad for them.

Yet the officials probably have US and Swiss bank accounts with substantial funds.
No wonder Obikwelu switched to Portugal.

Thanks to Portugal Fed, Francis was able to go to Canada for injury treatment some years ago, if he had stayed in NGR he would have to pay himself, or actually could’nt have, and his career would have be ruied.

I am not sure what is happening over there but they appear to be out of touch with a range of things. They had two leading hopes in the 200m at the World Juniors and for some reason both athletes failed to be registered for this event. Anyone know why?