The republic of Kenya has a population of only about 46.7 million while Jamaica has that of about 2.8 million, this almost equates with the population of Abia State in Nigeria, which is 2,833,999 according to the 2006 national head count. The concluded 2015 world athletics championship in Beijing, China left little to write home about a regards the performance of Nigerian athletes. Where our fellow African country, Kenya topped the medals table, followed by Jamaica, a small Nation whose population is a little below that of the 28th state by population in Nigeria, leading great countries like Britain and USA. The outstanding performance of Kenyan and Jamaican athletes in the male and female categories 100m,200m and relay can best be described as spectacular and outstanding.
The abysmal performance of Nigeria athletics is a pointer to the fact that a lot is still wrong with us and we are yet to learn anything from the mistakes of the past. Rather than do things right by mapping out strategies that would effectively identify the abundant talents that are abound across the country, sports administrators have turned Nigeria's participation at international athletics championships to mere avenue to gallivant and lavish the resources of this country abroad. It is a shame that a country which prides itself the “giant of Africa” would always attend international sports engagement just to complete the numbers.
The need for us to learn from Kenya and Jamaica and focus more on our areas of strength is evitable at this moment. Its not as if Jamaica do not have athletes competing in other athletic sports, but the fact that they are fully aware of their potentials to consistently rule the world in the 100m, 200m and relay at the men and women categories has made them to channel most of their resources in this area. Kenya which has always taken a leadership role in Africa in athletics and has consistently made us all proud had always focus much of their energy and resources towards the 400m,1600m and cross country races, being their areas of strength.
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If the revelations of the yearly outcome of the Obudu mountain race is anything to go by, the fact that indigenes and inhabitants of plateau state always gives the visiting East Africans a good run for their money is a pointer to the fact that we will do well in the cross country race if the right people are selected and moneys meant for training and preparation of athletes gets to them and on time. Nigeria is blessed with agile youths from the country’s Niger Delta region who swims and virtually lives in water as a hobby. If these youth are carefully selected and given the adequate technical training they could surpass the records of Micheal Phelps of the United States of America.
It is no longer news that some of the athletes who usually represents countries like Great Britain and U.S.A bear Nigerian names. It is also true that our athletes are being poached to change their nationality to other countries, as a result of the poor conditions and failure of Nigeria to do the needful in ensuring that the welfare and re-training of athletes becomes a top priority. The success and consistency of the Kenyans and Jamaican athletes is what the National sports commission and the relevant unit that is in charge of selection, training/re-training and the general welfare of Nigeria athletes should crave in order to put an end to this consistent failures at international athletics championships.
The 2006 census reveals that Nigeria is a youth nation, with almost 60% of her citizens within the youthful age bracket. It is then disturbing and worrisome that it has been tasking for us to effectively channel these youth resources through sports to achieve National glory and reclaim our pride of place among the committee of nations. Rather than duel on the bitterness and disappointment of having participated in the 2015 world athletics championship in Beijing, China without winning a single medal, this is the time for us to go back to the drawing board and reflect on a way forward.
We have no excuses for not being the world leader that we should be in sports, because we have the people and resources, just that corruption, favoritism and nepotism has bastardized every facets of our national life, and unfortunately the sports sector is not immune to this. If a tiny country like Jamaica can have their country’s national anthem sung consistently at every athletics championships then Nigeria should better brace up to the challenge of proving our real worth at international sports arena. We cannot continue to pride ourself "Giant of Africa" in sports when it is glaring that Kenya has successfully removed the G and I, leaving Nigeria with only 'ANT' . Obviously, Kenya and Jamaica are doing rightly what Nigeria keeps doing wrong.
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