After two weeks of enthusiastic competition among 206 countries including Nigeria, with 11,091 athletes, the Tokyo 2020 Olympics ended on Sunday, August 8, 2021. The next host city of the 2024 Olympic Games is the quaint city of Paris in France. Nigeria sent 60 athletes to the Olympic Games which some stakeholders considered not good enough for the Giant of Africa.
Indeed, it was a spectacular, entertaining and successful Olympics, despite the delay, absence of spectators at event centres, restrictions imposed and inconveniences placed on the athletes by the International Olympic Committee and host country, Japan, owing to the Covid-19 pandemic that continues to ravage the world. Japan is to be commended for a well-organised global sporting festival.
Nevertheless, The Tide was disappointed with the deplorable performance of Team Nigeria. To say that Nigeria’s exploit at the Games was a perfect disaster is an understatement. This is one off the Olympics many Nigerians would like to get their chest quickly. Not because the athletes were not prepared to compete, but for the obvious reason that the sports managers demonstrated an unprecedented lack of earnestness that rubbed off negatively on the confidence of the entire team.
This is in contradistinction to Nigeria’s best outing in the 1996 Atlanta Olympics when the men’s football team named Dream Team won the gold while Chioma Ajunwa also clinched gold in the track and fields event. Nigerian sports have been in decline ever since. Unfortunately, the men’s and women’s soccer teams failed to qualify for the Olympic Games. For most Nigerians, it is an unpardonable blunder.
Rio 2016 saw a stronger performance with Nigeria finishing 74th (with Jordan and Malaysia) in the medal count. In Rio, Nigeria only got a bronze medal, but an extra silver medal in Japan cannot mitigate the huge setback. This silver medal, which was Nigeria’s first wrestling medal, did not punctuate the country’s abject failure on the biggest sports scene that has just come to an end. In all of its supposedly well-known prowess, Nigeria fell with a rebound.
Shockingly, virtually everything went awry on Nigeria’s way to the Olympics. First, 10 of the 23 track and field athletes in the country were disqualified because they did not meet the minimum requirements of Rule 15 of the Anti-Doping Rules. The athletes did not receive the least number of out-of-competition testing prior to the Games. There is no explanation for that and it is shameful.
Within days, the country suffered a further humiliating concussion. Blessing Okagbare, a medal prospect, was suspended by the Athletics Integrity Unit (AIU) for failing a drug test. It was alleged that human growth hormone was found in the specimen she submitted on July 19, four days before the Games. All these happened mainly because of the battle for control of the Athletics Federation of Nigeria (AFN), which has been in the midst of a succession crisis since 2019. Currently, there are two AFN factions, one of which is furtively backed by the Federal Ministry of Youth and Sports.
Well before the Olympics, PUMA reached a sponsorship agreement with the AFN in Doha in July 2019. The deal was valued at approximately N1 billion ($2.76 million). Other benefits of the contract included providing free clothing for all age categories to the Nigerian athletic team for four years. The Games’ gold medallists would win $15,000, the silver would receive $5,000, and a bronze medallist would earn $3,000.
However, for some reasons, Nigeria’s athletes did not wear the brand at the Tokyo 2020 Olympics propelling PUMA to announce the termination of its four-year contract with the AFN. Following the breach of contract, the sportswear company indicated that it would take legal action against the AFN and the Federal Ministry of Youth and Sports. The Ministry of Sports, regardless, stated that it was not aware of any deal with PUMA.
Another ignominious happenstance at the Olympic Games was the protest by disqualified Nigerian athletes who had to take to the streets of Tokyo carrying numerous placards with inscriptions such as “We are not just alternate but are potential medalists”, “All we wanted to do is to compete,” “Why should we suffer for someone else’s negligence?” The demonstration was held against the administrative incompetence of the Nigerian officials.
A most embarrassing situation was captured in a trending video showing Nigerian shot-put athlete, Chukwuebuka Enekwechi washing his jersey before his next outing at the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games. The athlete stated that all he received was a jersey. He said, “When you make the Olympic finals but you have only one jersey, you have to wash it”. This is certainly one of the reasons why Nigeria performed so badly in the competition when the likes of Enekwechi would use time meant for practices to wash his only jersey. The predicament is extremely unsettling and bewildering.
Interestingly enough, San Marino, with a population of 33,860 (2019), presented five athletes in Tokyo and won three medals. But Nigeria, with an estimated 202 million people, presented 60 athletes and won only two medals for its troubles, including 11 suspensions for drug-related offences. This is one big scandal. It is time the Nigerian authorities took the bull by the horns and employ a transformative and comprehensive approach to resolve the challenges hampering the country’s successful outings at the Olympics.
Ironically, nothing is going to happen and nobody is going to resign, after all. No one gets fired. And maybe there will be no investigation to get to the bottom of the matter. The government has to appoint professionals, people who are good enough to be in charge of sports in the country. Personal interests cannot be placed above the nation, which is what happened here. It is depressing that a Nigerian Olympic medal prospect was found washing his jersey in Tokyo.
Characteristic of our government officials, the Minister of Sports, Sunday Dare, has been diverting blames. His defence sounds empty. His pledge that preparations for the 2022 Commonwealth Games would begin immediately is an empty promise. This repudiates the structural issues that plague sports in Nigeria. After each major international sporting event, all sports ministers vow to do so. That is just on paper. Dare’s fantasy is indistinguishable.
We strongly urge the Sports Minister and officials to apologise and immediately follow up with resignations for the disgraceful show at the world sports tournament. As usual, in a short time from now, Nigerians will move on till the Paris Olympics in 2024. But, early preparations are advisable while a massive investment in sports is needed. Most importantly, President Muhammadu Buhari has to launch a special inquiry into the representation of the Nigerian contingent. Of course, we insist that heads roll.
Towards Violence-Free Poll In Rivers
some imprudent politicians in the state of enlisting political thugs, cultists and ex-convicts to cause pandemonium in furtherance of their political yearnings for 2023, as the general election draws nearer. This call is timely because it had paused our progress in the past.
Speaking during a statewide broadcast, the governor asserted that the state had also gleaned intelligence reports to the effect that some hoteliers and proprietors of entertainment spots had also been contacted to permit the use of their premises as bases for the convergence of the political thugs in the State. This is a scary revelation, requiring urgent measures to contain it.
In the broadcast statement published by his media aide, Kelvin Ebiri, Wike assured that he would not take the intelligence report lightly, and cautioned that his administration would never authorise any politician, regardless of status, to fiddle with the prevailing tranquillity and security being savoured by the people and residents of the state.
Hear him: “Similarly, we will not allow any political party, be it All Progressives Congress (APC), the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) or the Social Democratic Party (SDP) to threaten the safety and security of lives and property during the campaigns with mayhem, thuggery, or violence. Accordingly, we have already alerted and set the security agencies on the trail of these misguided politicians and leaders of political parties and stop them on their tracks with the full weight of the law.
“We also wish to warn owners of hotels and proprietors of relaxation centres to take notice and desist from releasing their facilities for politicians and party leaders to use to meet and plot against the peace, safety, and security of our state.” He further stated that any hotel or entertainment outfit found to be linked with any such criminal activities in the state would be pulled down.
As a government that should safeguard the sanctity of lives and property of the Rivers people, the governor could not have responded to the threat in a small measure. Moreover, as the Chief Executive of the state, he must have got his facts right. The unbridled lust for power by these politicians has reached a crescendo, causing serious concerns. Their latest move must be crushed to prevent frightening consequences for the state.
Nobody can equitably blame Governor Wike for being partisan in this matter. That is because when he made reference to the guilty parties, he did not exonerate his political party, the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP). Although we believe that the governor can manage the threat effectively given his thoroughbred political will, Rivers people must be vigilant and aware of safety.
While everyone is advised to be circumspect, questionable tendencies and gatherings should be communicated to law enforcement agents for quick action. These are very tumultuous times for our country, as the level of insecurity everywhere has never been worse. The state government and security agencies have been labouring inexhaustibly hard to guarantee the peace we currently relish for the wellbeing of our state. We must not truncate it.
Rivers’ politicians should abide by the rules and guiding principles of politicking and elections set by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) and the Electoral Act. They must refrain from violence, especially the type that was witnessed in previous elections. Unfortunately, it is in plain sight that some exceedingly perilous politicians have vouched to constitute themselves into a cog in the wheel of democratic advancement in the state. Such persons must not be spared the repercussions of their actions.
As the chief security officer of the state, the governor has acted rightly by letting out the vicious plot of politicians with something frantic in their gaiety. It is, therefore, the task of the police to investigate the allegations and possibly bring the culprits to justice. Offences, such as the one plotted by the political actors seeking to cause trouble in the state, should be positioned on a similar pedestal as electoral infractions.
With the political ambitions of some politicians in convulsion, we implore them to let peace reign in Rivers State. They should play the game of politics with faith, love for one another and ensure that none of their supporters is involved in breaching the peace and unity. There is a need to promote harmony and mutual understanding among themselves, both at state and local government levels. Let us accentuate the things that bind us.
It is pertinent for families to educate their youths on the necessity to shun overtures to be used for violence by disreputable politicians, who might have securely kept their children and wards in foreign countries to get quality education. The government, religious organisations and stakeholders have a huge responsibility to disseminate the culture of political tolerance. Peace-building process should be led and driven by youths at the grassroots level.
Young people in Rivers State are expected to vote for candidates with integrity, credibility and good character in the 2023 general election. Nigeria is currently facing a challenging situation with poor leadership choices. Citizens should always vote for politicians who have good personalities. Now is the time for the young to build the future they want. This is about ensuring that every vote counts, recognising the problems that affect our state and our country.
Hotel and entertainment hangout owners in the state should not contemplate that the Rivers State Government’s stance on the security threat unfairly targets them. Instead, they need to work together and assist the government as a proactive means of checking the breakdown of law and order. They should not authorise their establishments to become locations for sullen politicians to conscript thugs and cultists to engender anarchy.
While political actors have every right to articulate their discontentment through legitimate and valid channels, the state government should not countenance destructive protestations, and the use of cultists or thugs to impede the rule of law. The authorities should put an end to planned activities to inflict a breach of the peace, a violation of the rights of citizens and a threat to the security of people and property. That is the reason we have a government.
IYD: Tapping Youths’ Potentials For Dev
Likewise, the occasion concentrates on the troubles that some young people are experiencing throughout the world. Half the children between the ages of six and 13 lack basic reading and mathematical skills, and childhood poverty is still a prevalent problem globally. Hence, IYD was established to help draw awareness to these issues. It is a day for reflection and acting.
In 1965, the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) began making a collective effort to impact the youth. They endorsed the Declaration on the Promotion among Youth of the Ideals of Peace, Mutual Respect and Understanding between Peoples. They began devoting time and resources to empowering the youth by recognising up-and-coming leaders and offering them resources to meet global needs.
On December 17, 1999, the UNGA endorsed the recommendation made by the World Conference of Ministers Responsible for Youth, and IYD was formed. It was first marked on August 12, 2000, and ever since the day has been used to educate society, mobilise the youth in politics, and manage resources to address global problems.
The theme of this year’s IYD is “Intergenerational Solidarity: Creating a World for All Ages”. It aims to enhance the message that action is needed across all generations to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), leaving no one behind. The day also raises awareness of certain barriers to intergenerational solidarity, notably ageism, which impacts young and aged people, while having detrimental effects on society.
Nigeria also joined other nations in the celebration. Sadly, an increasing number of youths in the country continue to face economic uncertainty and social exclusion, compelling the majority of them into gambling and crimes, while the rest languish in penury and deprivation. While the multitude of youths entering the labour market yearly increases, the economy’s job-creating capacity is on the decline.
Nigeria was ranked 161 out of 181 countries on the 2020 global youth development index, which measures the status of young people around the world. In 2016, the nation ranked 141. According to the triennial report released by the Commonwealth Secretariat, Singapore rated top, followed by Slovenia, Norway, Malta, and Denmark. Chad, the Central Africa Republic, South Sudan, Afghanistan, and Niger took the last five positions, respectively.
The index ranks countries according to development in youth education, employment, health, equality and inclusion, peace and security and political and civic participation. It looks at 27 indicators, including literacy and voting, to showcase the state of the world’s 1.8 billion people between the ages of 15 and 29. This year’s IYD offers Nigeria an opportunity to implement timely policies to harness the innovative talents of the youth for advancement.
With increasing technology, the resourceful minds and skills of young people can serve as the energy for development. Youth unemployment is a global challenge. Even the International Labour Congress (ILC) estimated that employment among the demographic dropped by 8.7 per cent last two years because of the COVID-19 pandemic. However, Nigeria’s challenge far exceeds the global average. Youth development in the country is horrendous.
Nigerian youth comb the streets for jobs in vain. As the old saying goes of an idle mind being the devil’s workshop, some have taken up arms against the state while a large number have found solace in Internet scams, otherwise called “Yahoo Yahoo” or “Yahoo Plus”. Others have embraced quick-rich gambits such as sports betting, and risky investments like cryptocurrency and Ponzi schemes.
Young people face a catastrophic situation that could push the country to a cliff. Unfortunately, the government recently started actions to make life more difficult for them. For example, the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) cracked down on digital currency investors last year as it prohibited financial institutions from facilitating transactions. The Federal Government then banned Twitter, where thousands of youths make a living through content management.
With no less than 10.5 million children missing from school, Nigeria has the largest out-of-school population in the world. Poverty, insecurity, and gender barriers are among the reasons for this worrying record in a country where primary education should be free and compulsory. If quality education is provided to Nigerian youth, it will be difficult for them to be influenced by the selfish interests of the political elite, and thus have a positive impact on the growth of the country.
State governors should show greater commitment to youth empowerment and poverty eradication. They can partner with global financial institutions like the World Bank in providing sustainable development projects for young people, among others. They should consolidate youth-focused programmes to accelerate endurable growth and development of their states.
Rivers State is doing well in this regard. Governor Nyesom Wike, through critical investments and comprehensive empowerment programmes, is positioning the youth. The governor’s vision has always been to restructure the state to a phase where youths would grow with the assurance that their future is secured. Currently, they are being built up with critical life skills in sports, communication, and needed entrepreneurial leadership skills.
Before formulating development policies, the needs of youths should be considered. Young people and their organisations should be given grants. What this accentuates is the need to get the youth to utilise their enormous potentiality, priorities, and passion to deliver the SDGs. Young people can change our world. And this moment of ‘Peak Youth’ can be a historic opportunity for that positive change.
Kudos To Wike On Projects Delivery
last Monday, as the state government started another round of projects’ commissioning and flag-off across the state. The inauguration started with the unveiling of the Orochiri/Worukwo (Waterlines) Flyover in Port Harcourt City Local Government Area by the Lagos State Governor, Babajide Sanwo-Olu.
Similarly, Governor Nyesom Wike’s administration unveiled the Ogbunabali-Eastern Bypass Road, also in Port Harcourt. The former Sokoto State Governor, Senator Aliyu Wamakko, performed the commissioning. On August 11, the Director-General of the National Youth Service Corps (NYSC), Brig-Gen. M. K Fadah, unveiled the 5,000-capacity NYSC auditorium, while the new State House of Assembly Quarters would be inaugurated by the Speaker, House of Representatives, Rt. Hon. Femi Gbajabiamila today, August 12.
Recall that last Wednesday, August 10, the former Ondo State Governor, Dr Olusegun Mimiko, flagged off the dualisation of Azikiwe-Iloabuchi Road at Diobu in Port Harcourt City. Between August 16 and 26, 10 more projects would either be commissioned or inaugurated across the state. They include the Government VIP Lounge at the Port Harcourt International Airport, Omagwa, in Ikwerre Local Government Area on August 16.
Others are the unveiling of the remodelled Waterlines Building on Port Harcourt/Aba Express Road by Waterlines Junction in Port Harcourt on Wednesday, August 17; flag off of the construction of the 11th flyover at Ikwerre Road by Rumuokwuta/Rumuola Junction in Obio/Akpor Local Government Council on Thursday, August 18; and the inauguration of the 12th flyover at Mgbuoba-Ozuoba/Ada-George Road by Location Junction in Obio/Akpor Council on Friday, August 19.
Additional milestone projects lined up for special commissioning or flag off are the construction of Omagwa internal roads on Saturday, August 20, flag off of Igwuruta internal roads on Monday, August 22, both in Ikwerre Local Government Area, and unveiling of land reclamation, shore protection, road network, drains, power station and water reticulation, as well as housing complex at Ogbum-Nu-Abali sand fill, Port Harcourt, on Tuesday, August 23.
The others are the unveiling of a police station at Ogbum-Nu-Abali sand fill Eastern By-pass area on Wednesday, August 24; Eneka internal roads in Obio/Akpor on Thursday, August 25; and Community Secondary School, Obuama (Harry’s Town), in Degema Local Government Area, Friday, August 26.
Remember that last year, Rivers State was enthralled for about three weeks as distinguished Nigerian citizens joined Wike to either commission or flag off projects in 11 local government areas of the state. They included the Abonnema Ring Road in Akuku-Toru Local Government Area, Bolo internal roads in Ogu/Bolo Local Government Area, Isiodu Road in Emohua Local Government Area, Isiokpo internal roads Phase 2 in Ikwerre Local Government Area and Aluu-Rumuekini Road in Obio/Akpor Local Government Area.
Others were the Mother and Child Hospital, Real Madrid Academy, the 16.6 kilometre dual carriage Saakpenwa/Bori Highway in Khana Local Government Area, and the Sime-Nonwa-Kira Road in Tai Local Government Area, among a host of other projects. Several others were also commissioned. This remarkable development, taking place at a time when most governors use politicking, insecurity, dwindling economy and COVID-19 as excuse for non-performance will remain legendary.
All completed projects are milestones that support meaningful developments. They stand out and have continued to garner credit for the Wike administration from well-intentioned Nigerians and residents of the state. The flyovers, especially add beauty to the Garden City and its surroundings, and their unveiling accentuates another dream realised by the government. They will end the long struggle against the severe traffic congestion at their locations.
Undoubtedly, the projects would restore activities in the inert localities. To claim that the entire people of Rivers State are better off with these projects is to specify the obvious as they would go a long way to promote their socio-economic well-being. Indeed, walking in such splendid structures evokes euphoria and fulfilment in the subconscious of Rivers’ people.
Indeed, The Tide is satisfied with the unfettered initiative by the state governor. We recount how the shattered walls of development and brotherliness were revamped in Wike’s first tenure with sectorial performances and services furnished by strategic institutions of government which have remained efficient under his leadership into his second tenure without any relapse.
The various projects initiated and executed by Wike’s government in parts of Rivers would create employment for a good number of youths in the state. The quantum of civil construction work undertaken by the present administration in developing the state might be cost-intensive, but the overall benefits remain a driving force.
Anyone in the state can attest that the construction of strategic road projects and flyovers has progressed despite Nigeria’s fiscal crisis. We sue for understanding and cooperation from all Rivers people who desire good governance which Wike provides, and urge them to remember the inglorious past when the state was on its knees from where the governor took it up to chart a new course.
Obviously, the government is not neglecting any effort to improve Rivers State. To say that Wike is rapidly transforming the landscape of the state with its gigantic development steps is to affirm the tangible. Within a limited time, the governor has whirled around the entire state into a massive construction site that in every path, substantial development projects are either ongoing or have been finalised.
We join all well-meaning people of Rivers and Nigeria, business organisations and individuals in saluting and exalting the governor in this auspicious celebration of commissioning and launching of projects. The projects on the ground so far indicate an unprecedented transformation of the state, making it a preferred refuge for investors. This gesture is proof of His Excellency’s determination to leave Rivers State better than he met it.
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