It was the victory of the Nigerian male Basketball team, Dâ€™ Tigers over their Tunisian counterparts in the ongoing Olympics games that gave rise to this discussion. The discussion started while I was sitting afar, but listening to the discussion going on. As they analyzed the chances of the various teams in our group, I mean the group to which the Nigerian Basket Ball team belongs in the ongoing Olympics. The group which comprises the USA, Lithuania, France, Argentina, Tunisia and our own Dâ€™ Tigers was described as the group of dead owing to the caliber of teams that make up the group.
As we talked on, we kept changing topics, but never deviated from sports as our attention was on the ongoing Olympics. We talked much on the US team knowing full well that they are the world leading Basketball nation.
Later we changed the topic and started weighing the African countriesâ€™ capabilities of hosting the Olympics in the nearest future. I now remember an Olympic logo I saw on the internet with an inscription carrying Warri 2052. I laughed when I saw this logo. But while the discussion went on, I told them about the Olympic Logo I saw on the internet with the Warri 2052 inscription. Suddenly one of us shouted no! And continued that only South Africa has the prospect of hosting the Olympics in futureâ€™ he said he could have included Egypt, but for the political unrest in the country, which battered their reputation in the eyes of the world and this serves as a minus for them, but for Nigeria he never gave us any chance.
The reasons he gave for vouching for South Africa, as the most prepared nation in Africa to host such a gigantic event was based on their ability to successfully host the whole world in the biggest soccer fiesta in 2010. The successful hosting of the 2010 FIFA World Cup and strength of its economy is a sign that the South Africa is prepared to host any of these great events in the world.
I was not too pleased with his stand that Nigeria cannot host the Olympics in the nearest future. I started an internal discussion while the present discussion was going on.
I tried my best to be very objective and at the same time wanted to be patriotic. But I realized that I cannot be any less patriotic by accepting the truth.
Yes the truth must be told, we are not ready to host any mega event in the world now. You will want to argue that in 1999, we hosted the World Youth Championship. But I know for those who care to remember, they will not forget the many embarrassment that accompanied the hosting, I cannot forget in a hurry the power outage in some stadia while games were going on at night and many logistic problems. And if you remember very well that the 1999 hosting right given to us was as a result of unpreparedness in 1995 to host the world at that particular year, before luck shone on us in 1999.
Donâ€™t even talk of the embarrassment and the apparent shoddy arrangement that resulted in the poor organization of the event. But talk of how corruption and backyard business of some government officials involved in the organization of the event robbed the nation the gains that usually accompany hosting events of such magnitude. Many nations that had in the past hosted sporting events like this, usually expressed happiness over the obvious boost in their economy.
But ours was not like that. In 2003 the name of the nation was dragged into the mud, through shoddy arrangement of the organizers of the All African Games hosted by Nigeria tagged COJA 2003.
The colourful opening ceremony was rubbished by poor logistic problems that saw many dignitaries from outside and within the country stranded for lack of proper transportation arrangement. Despite the huge money budgeted for transportation and the BMW purchased to ease transportation problems, transportation became an issue. A prominent casualty of COJAâ€™s shabby transportation arrangements was Jean Claude Nganga, Congolese Sports minister and head of the organsing committee of the inaugural All African Games held in Brazaville in 1965. Nganga a member of the Supreme Council for Sports in Africa, SCSA, complained of being left stranded in a hotel because no car was provided to convey him. He also complained that the COJA officials failed to provide vehicles for many other officials.
There was also Alpha Ibrahim Diallo, president of the Association of National Olympic Committees of Africa ANOCA. Diallo was sighted searching for a taxi to take him out of the NICON-HILTON Hotel after a long but fruitless wait for a car that was to take him to one of the venues. Virtually all the delegates had to suffer from the inadequate transportation arrangement despite the 990 BMW cars provided for COJA by the Federal Government.
Sources revealed then that the BMW cars provided for the games were not made available for the purpose for which they were provided. It was reported that some COJA officials had as many as three (3) cars attached to them while dignitaries hired cabs.
Many controversies, a lot of embarrassments with plenty of protests characterized the Nigeriaâ€™s hosting of All African games. Nigerian athletes had earlier planned to boycott the opening ceremony over disagreement of daily allowances promised them. Also among other controversial issues that trailed COJA 2003 was the Peugeot/BMW contract problems, the South African Chef contracted to feed participants at the event. The Ghanaian Under 23 football team had to complain of the quantity and quality of the food served them. Yet huge sum of money was expended on this chef whose foods were rejected by participants including COJA officials.
The creative team that made the only colourful event in the games was not left out in the maltreatment meted to almost every participant. Professor Wole Soyinka Chairman of the COJA Creative Taskforce openly expressed his disappointment with COJA officials over the poor treatment of the dancers and other performing artistes that took part in the event.
The question of what happened to the 990 BMW cars after the games is still begging for answers. How the game village was disposed of still remains unclear to many Nigerians, the state of the Abuja National Stadium built for the events remains an eyesore to all Nigerians. In fact many of us believe that COJA was organized to enrich very few individuals in the country. Not to talk of the mess that took place in 2009 during the hosting of the FIFA Under 17 World Cup.
How millions of naira were used for sweet and chewing gums, FIFA souvenirs was used as gift during the wedding of the daughter of one of the members of the Local Organising Committee (LOC) and so many unacceptable arrangements. Empty stadium made state government to use tax-payers money to pay for gate fees or subsidize it to save the nation embarrassment owing to the problem.
Nigeria is not ready to host Olympic in the nearest future. No doubt about this. It is a statement of fact that we are not prepared for big events like the Olympics. Not with the present situation in the country. Even our corrupt tendency is a militating factor. We had failed in several attempts, to host other nationals in an event like this not because we are lacking in human and material resources to meet any standard in the world, but corruption has been the main problem.
For instance, COJA is a perfect example. The huge amount of money budgeted for the games in order to make it colourful were diverted to private purse while the game suffered, thereby, portraying the nation in bad light.
If by 2012 we are not categorized among countries that can successfully host an Olympic game, which is very true. And we are still claiming to have a vision of being among the 20 top economies in the world, 8 years from now. We must be joking and not sincere with ourselves. Aside the inability to host an Olympic, so many other factors stand between Nigeria and the hosting of Olympics.
What is even vision 20:2020? How did we even come about it? And many other questions are worthy of consideration before we continue to hope that one day we will be rubbing shoulders with the likes of China, USA, Japan and many other big economies in the world, including Brazil with which we started together.
The key goal of vision 20:2020 is to shoot Nigeria into the league of the first global 20 economies by the year 2020. This idea is traced to the research conducted by some American economists who predicted that based on the abundance of human and material resources; Nigeria will be in the team of 20 top economies in the world. Provided the resources are properly managed and channeled towards attainment of a defined economic goal. Central to this vision is poverty reduction along the line of NEPAD and Millennium Development Goals.
The private sector will be the engine room of the economy. Government roles are to provide the enabling environment, while the private sector facilitates the running of economy, by investing the resources into productive use.
If we want to be sincere to ourselves, we know we are far from attaining this. This vision is not near us now. Aside the several challenges facing us, rate of poverty in the country despite abundance and huge revenue from oil wealth, calls for worry. In spite of the oil wealth, there is an alarming increase of poverty, which has turned the country into harbouring 6% of the core chronically poor in the world. This means that Nigeria currently hosts the third largest percentage of poor people in the world after China and India and is among the top 20 countries in the world with the widest gap between the rich and the poor.
It was also revealed that out of 1.2 million applicants for university admissions annually, only 148,323 places are available.The 26% per cent of national budget recommended to be devoted to education by UNESCO has never been met by all levels of government, particularly from 1999 till date. Between 1999 and 2010, the budgetary allocations to education ranged between 5.09 and 13 percent, without discounting for inflation.
It was also revealed that government per capita expenditure on health has been less than US$5 compared to the $34 per capita recommended by the World Health Organization for developing countries. Average life expectancy in Nigeria is estimated to be 43. Data from Federal Bureau of Statistic revealed that only 10% of graduates released annually into the labour market from tertiary institutions in Nigeria are employed.
Attainment of this vision 20:2020, which ideals were called neo-liberalism, is seen by some experts to have negative effects. Alleging that it was sheer imposition of the west on developing economies, therefore, it is not a guarantee that most of the problems and issues highlighted above will be solved. But will only provide the platform towards providing solutions to the myriad of problems facing the country, depending on the disposition of the operators of the system and the regulatory agencies.
The question of ability to host an Olympic games in the nearest future cannot be divorced from the strength of our economy. The level of growth and development attained, the level of awareness, can only be reached through proper and judicious use of available resources geared towards attainment of those goals.
NASIRU SULEIMAN is a Public Affairscommentator residingin Kaduna and can also be reached on 07030476699
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