Olympics and the giant
Nigeria's performance (or lack thereof) at the recently concluded London Olympics provides not just another sentinel event (since sentinels warn of approaching danger) but rather, a confirmation and affirmation of an already failed and self-destructing state. Leave it at that and move on to other unimaginable woes, without comment and without noticing, as the hapless masses suffering in Nigeria are wont to. But the hypocritical, sycophantic and empty cries are filling the media space: leadership failure, this; lack of patriotism, that; runaway corruption, this; incredible incompetence, that. After all, Nigeria is the “giant of Africa”—self-styled and all. Part of their knee-jerk reflexive call: Nigeria's President has to sack this or that responsible functionary; he may yet (in typical Nigerian action-tradition and response) oblige them; though, keep in mind that from some quarters, the call is also for the President to sack his own self!
How many times have these same “ideas” been floated, bandied around, preached about and harped on, as the magical medicine for Nigeria's ills? Such empty noise and sham ululation! Supposing for one moment anyone would really take these ideas seriously and work them to their logical conclusion. At the bottom of it all is what the peoples languishing in Nigeria already know: the structure which attempts to (is supposed to) sustain Nigeria is flawed; it did not, does not and will not work. No one needs analysis to arrive at that really obvious conclusion. These peoples are afraid to change that structure and correct the problems, but are seemingly content to hear shouts about the difficulties arising from such an unworkable structure, pretending that somehow, magically, such behavior would change their lot and situation.
Take the Olympics, for example. This is a collection of sporting events built around individual effort with regards to strength, strategy, endurance, determination, performance and skill, in all out competition. The Olympics seeks and rewards the best in these games. Countries which are successful in the Olympics seek out, support and reward the best successful competitors to represent them. By observation and experience, some sports picked by the Olympics naturally favor the Black race, and some the White race; yet others favor pure skill over genes. Successful countries, if they have a diversified population, will field the best athletes in the particular event, even if means an all-Black or all-White group of eligible contestants, to represent the country. Countries lacking such diversity will focus on sporting areas where their genes make them favorites; and all strive to make a showing where skill alone determines the outcome.
In the end, the Olympiads see themselves as vying with and for the best that Humanity has produced, the only Race in question being that on the proving fields, the only Race represented being the Human Race, their support coming from the world's humanity and especially from their individual human families aggregated as nations and countries, whom they are proud to represent. They fly not genetically determined colors, but the colors of their countries' flags. As it should be…
Athletes and contestants alone are almost, but not quite, the entire story. The Olympics demands (not just requires) excellent managers in the role of coaches. Successful countries or Olympic clubs find and retain the best coaches available. Coaches do not have to have the litheness of the athletes to do this job well; they have to be motivators at the very least. However, trainers, another group playing an important role here, need to be able to keep up with the athletes and keep them in competition-shape: they need to know the particular sports extremely well and should have successfully participated in it to be able to act as effective trainers. There are of course other significant factors in the Olympics, such as opportunity and sponsorship, which will not be dealt with much in this obviously neither definitive nor exhaustive write-up on the subject.
How does Nigeria fare in these areas? Nigeria's Olympics process deliberately and almost completely works against the above. Nigeria does not seek the best athletes in their respective fields because, often, that naturally favors particular ethnic groups in Nigeria. If such endowed groups are not the “right” ethnicity, then, the athletes they produce, best in their class, will have a hard time making it into Nigeria's Olympics team. These slots not competitively filled are available for favoritism and nepotism practices and then, to the highest bidder.
It is the same bedeviling process for and in Nigeria when it comes to the selection of coaches and managers and trainers. In Nigeria, it starts with the so-called “Minister of Youth and Sports” or some such appellation. It is not competence, not performance and certainly not qualification, that determines who fills this and other administrative or managerial positions. First and foremost, Ministries in Nigeria have been classified according to what is considered important for power, prestige and dominion by the ethnic groups / region which has ruled and still rules Nigeria. If this ethnic hegemony decides that the Ministry of Youth and Sports is important to it in this scheme, then, only it can hold and fill that ministry. If the ministry is classified as “not important” by this all-powerful group, then any one can fill it, exciting a scramble among the other and lesser ethnicities to fill a non-important ministry with their own man or woman. The selection of coaches generally follows the same pattern; in the rare instance when an “outside” coach is hired, it is only at the pleasure and mercy of, and meddling by, a Nigerian official picked in the manner described above.
The Olympics recognizes and rewards individual youth effort and achievement; it provides opportunity for aspiring youths on the world-stage. Most countries in the world recognize and embrace that. Nigeria, on the other hand, cannot bring itself to do what is right here, because most of the best athletes will come from a particular region or ethnicity; unfortunately for these talented youth, they belong to the “wrong” ethnicity or region, even if their region produces the so-called wealth of Nigeria. They cannot possibly expect to be beneficiaries of Nigeria's Olympics support and largesse, or expect deserved opportunities where the ruling / preferred ethnicities / region are outclassed. Even designated funds coming from the World Olympics organization for Nigeria's athletes' training and development reportedly disappear as soon such funds cross the money-borders into Nigeria.
So, how could any sensible person expect more from or for Nigeria in the Olympics? How can any honest or serious person expect better from Nigeria in anything? The Olympics just served as another reminder that Nigeria is dying of its own ills. What is killing Nigeria Nigerians do not want to address. They pretend it is not fundamentally about ethnicity and yet all their decisions are based on the same ethnic calculations, only in a sickening, negative, nepotistic and racist manner. Such pretense has become nauseating.
No one practices such pretense better than the hypocritical and shameless (mis)leaders and ex-leaders of Nigeria: the Obasanjo's, Babangida's, Buhari's, Danjuma's, Gowon's and their ilk, persons corrupt with money and power, liars and criminals to whom the word and concept of HONOR or HONESTY mean exactly nothing. Jonathan has recently been trying so hard to join their pretense-club.
Hear Jonathan explain why he pretends that already divided Nigeria is “indivisible”. To him, since Nigerians own property in other parts of Nigeria outside their own particular enclave, everything must be pointing towards unity. So uninformed! What proportion of Nigerians actually own property outside their own village, anyway? For those who do, the Igbo rank highest. Where are the Igbo today? For owning property and dispersing themselves into and among other parts of Nigeria right from the start, did they not get murdered in the “Mother of all ethnic cleansing exercises”—the 1966 crime against humanity mostly by Northern Nigerians, later, joined by the rest of Nigeria? Is that the mark of unity? Nigeria will not even admit its own crime here, never mind show remorse. What is the story of “Abandoned Properties”? Is that not the reward of the Igbo owning property outside of Igboland, or even within Igboland forcibly taken away by Nigeria from the Igbo—obviously another reminder of “unity of Nigeria” by President Jonathan? Today, the foolish Igbo who, it appears, never learn, are running away from all those other places where they own property, especially in Northern Nigeria. They have been forced to sell off their property at desperate give-away prices, or abandon it altogether, as they run for their lives, specifically targeted for destruction by their “fellow” “united” Nigerians. This is unity at work, Nigeria-style? Owning property in Nigeria outside of one's area is not a proof of unity of Nigeria; it is proof of idiocy and expensive pretense, because one-Nigeria has only guaranteed that such property will be destroyed or dispossessed, and the owner will lose his or her life defending it, else abandon it and run for dear life. Let the President continue to pretend.
In this connection, how convenient it is to state that the Biafra war was fought to keep Nigeria one, especially by President Jonathan who, after studying the mayhem in the North with the usual victims and “the usual suspects” earlier had pointed out correctly what actually caused the war and why Biafra seceded and fought back. Facts will show that Gowon, who never believed in the unity of Nigeria because he knew it was not possible—“no basis…”—and had already stated so publicly, leading Northern Nigerian Military putschists whose operation was named “Araba” (secession of the North from Nigeria), supported by the British government (against the protest of the British people) whose only interest as clearly articulated in declassified UK documents was, not the unity of Nigeria, but solely the economic interest of Britain, waged war against Biafra in 1967 to punish, subjugate, degrade and debase the Igbo. It was not “to keep Nigeria one.” If, as President Jonathan and his fellow pretenders believe—with pride and satisfaction, as it were—that they fought the war to keep Nigeria one, how is it that Nigeria is even more divided today than it was before the war, and they still pretend that it is one?
Nigeria could not win any Olympics medals or honor by pretending and by wishful thinking; pundits, mired in the same pretense, may now do their usual song-and-dance, but it is not going to help anyone, especially the youth who have lost out again. Nigeria cannot win anything of value any time because it is an unsound arrangement wherein the peoples are being forced to stay away from addressing the fundamental problem with Nigeria.
There are of course Olympic–class athletes here, but they cannot shine while under Nigeria wherein they are guaranteed nothing but pretense and subjugation. This is the same metaphor for the rest of life; there are decent and aspiring normal peoples with potential for ordinary and even spectacular success who are presently dispossessed and smothered under Nigeria. They perish under Nigeria. They can shine—they will shine, but—only once out of Nigeria.
The fundamental problem with Nigeria is “one Nigeria”. Nothing else. The solution is obvious.
How fortuitous! How prescient! As I was putting finishing touches to this article, Dr. Reuben Abati's “Jonathan And The London Olympics By Reuben Abati” was published.
I can only say, “I rest my case!” Pretenders continue to defend pretenders in a culture of pretense. No fundamental problem, even when well-understood, will ever be solved until we face the solution which we all know well.
Oguchi Nkwocha, MD
A Biafran Citizen