Whoever came up with the aphorism that “like attracts like” deserves a special place in the Guinness Book of World Records.
Our country Nigeria went to the Rio Olympics and came back with a bronze medal in football, looking really pitiable on the overall medals table whereas countries like Kenya, South Africa and Ethiopia tried to put up some struggle for Africa.
But now it is the Paralympics in the same Rio, Brazil, still in the year 2016, and Nigeria’s representatives are suddenly winning medals upon medals and breaking world records.
As at the time of this writing, Nigeria has won 11 medals at the Paralympics, and we are 10th on the overall medals table.
We have smashed at least two world records thanks to Flora Ugwunwa in Javelin and to Josephine Orji who shattered the world record with a lift of 160 kg in the women’s +84 kg lifting event.
I don’t want to imagine myself in the same room with Josephine.
Less than 160 kg as I am, she could lift me with a finger onto a bed, do what she likes with me, and no matter how happy the outcome of that imaginary encounter could be, she could still throw me out of the window with another finger.
Woman pass man! Res-pe-ct!
But that is not how she is applying her talents; she is winning gold for Nigeria!
A country where able-bodied men and women cannot achieve results but special persons go to the world stage and save the country’s face is what country: a country of specially challenged people.
We have finally found our level. We are a country of gifted, but challenged people.
We have economic recession at home. We are winning medals at a strategically recessed international competition.
We fail persons who are physically challenged at home. We treat them like they do not belong. We do not pay enough attention to them.
What is going on at the Rio Paralympics is a wake-up call on the need for government at all levels to pay better attention to the special people among us: they have always risen beyond their challenges to do this nation proud, but this nation has always failed them.
When our fit and capable men and women went to the Rio Olympics, they came back with not just a face-saving bronze medal, but also with a truck-load of scandals.
These include –
– kits that arrived terribly late,
– flights that had to be arranged through charity,
– a Sports Minister that perpetually kept his foot in his mouth,
– hotel bills that could not be paid and just pure shame upon shame,
– including the spectacle of a Japanese philanthropist, Katsuya Takasu, having to come to the rescue of the Nigerian football team.
When the main Olympics ended, the shame was so much, the athletes simply dispersed into thin air.
Nobody bothered to receive and thank them for their effort. State officials insulted the Japanese philanthropist who supported Nigeria.
Not even Chierika Ukogu, the courageous lady who represented Nigeria for the first time at the Olympics in rowing was remembered.
Samson Siasia, the man who led the Nigerian football team to a bronze medal was so furious he threw in the towel after the event.
We can’t say he has given up on Nigeria, but he couldn’t hide his disgust.
Golden boy, Mikel Obi used his own money to sustain the national soccer team at the Rio Olympics: he paid hotel bills, but nobody has deemed it necessary to send him something as decent as a letter of appreciation and commendation.
In the face of all that Solomon Dalung is still sitting tight as Nigeria’s Minister of Sports.
I am surprised he has not uttered a word to encourage our Paralympics representatives. No, I should not be surprised.
It must be that he does not consider the Paralympics important. He is too busy attending to the able-bodied athletes, for him the Paralympics must be a parody.
It is not like that elsewhere, though, not in Britain or the United States. Dalung must learn to be everybody’s Sports Minister.
The cold shoulder that the Rio Olympics Nigeria team got is unacceptable. Nobody invited the team for a handshake.
They were just allowed to disperse without ceremony. This speaks volumes.
Could it mean that we no longer consider sports important and strategic?