It is quite unfortunate that at every twist and turn, our actions and inactions are proving to the rest of the World that we are an ungrateful nation. Our reward systems which used to be the envy of the rest of the continent is now a source of mockery.
Our sportsmen and women after rigorous toil to win laurels in major international competitions are showered with tons of ingratitude with practically nothing to show for their efforts. The case of the Super Falcons has joined a long list of others still under focus.
In civilised climes, unlike ours, victorious teams are treated like royalty as rewards system are integral part of the sports policy and serves as a major source of motivation for sportsmen and women, which is not so here.
Before competition, athletes already know what accrues to them should they win or even lose. In fact, most of these incentives are usually built into their marketing package and it enables them to plan. This is not the case with Nigeria, where top administrators instead pre-occupy themselves with what they would gain.
This has resulted in the unfolding show of shame going on in Super Falcons Abuja camp, where they are protesting the apparent neglect and denial of entitlements talk less of compensation for doing the nation proud.
They are being treated like outcasts. Most often than not, the interest of these sportsmen and women who win laurels for the nation are relegated to the background with no one to speak on their behalf. It was apparent that our reward system peaked during the military era, because of their appreciation of the enviable role it plays as a unifying factor and instrument of international diplomacy.
No wonder, when Nigeria was declared a pariah nation, under the late General Sani Abacha, sports diplomacy was effectively deployed.
Under the democratic era, instead of deploying sports as a tool to engage our teeming unemployed youths that abound in all nooks and crannies of the country, the politicians who ought to know better prefer using them as thugs to cause mayhem, while the money budgeted for administration of sports are either mismanaged or out rightly embezzled in questionable circumstances.
A cursory look at the various sporting infrastructure scattered all over the nation shows that there’s practically no hope for our sports. The various stadia are in state of decay and decrepit, thereby making them unusable for possible preparations for major event.
These sportsmen and women bend over and backwards to prepare themselves against all odds yet, at the end government who ought to take the lead has nothing for them. The poor treatment of sportsmen and women was further magnified under the democratic dispensation, as the proverbial handshake policy (under early Obasanjo administration) was given prominence.
The underlying motive was that as youths, they should think of what they could do for their country, rather than what their country could do for them.
The proponents of this policy forgot that most sports people are products of either middle class families or outright poor family background. By extension, they are breadwinners, who see themselves through schools.
The policy is so flawed that it has done more harm than good to our sports. Of all the sports in the country, football used to be an exception in this regard.
This is due to the aggressive marketing strategy they used to deploy in the past, but of late, corruption, mismanagement, misapplication of funds, inefficiency and poor planning is almost crippling the game in the country.
It is either that coaches are yet to be paid, or the allowances of players and officials are outstanding. Unfortunately, no official is ever owed his or her estacode allowance for a day. This goes to show where their priority lies.
The unfolding drama involving the NFF and members of the Super Falcons that won the African Women’s Cup of Nations (AWCON) in Cameroun is a case in point. In spite of all the humiliations the ladies went through, preparatory to the finals by playing without common underwear and full compliments of jerseys, their winning bonuses are yet to be paid.
The indebtedness equally applies to all the other national teams as well. It is quite unfortunate that this is a competition every serious nation prepares for well ahead of time but our case appears to be different.
It is either the Federation never envisaged the victory or the Super Falcons gate crashed into the competition on their own. I was however further saddened to hear that the Honourable Minister of Youths and Sports Solomon Dalung together with the President of NFF, Amaju Pinnick and other government functionaries rather than think on how to address the plight of the players, had the effrontery to charter an aircraft worth N42million to Yaounde, Cameroun to watch the finals. Immediately after the match, they equally bolted away leaving the victorious players behind.
It might interest the authorities to know that majority of the players are now thinking of changing nationalities, to where their fortunes would be bolstered. The natural question that follows is for how long shall we continue to be an ungrateful nation?
Time has come to revisit our reward system to align it with what obtains all over the world. By so doing, our youths would be gainfully engaged.