With more Nigerian athletes seeking greener pastures abroad, the country might be left with little or no talents.
The 2012 London Olympics will be remembered as one of the worst outings by Nigeria, it will also go down as one that had a lot of Nigerian born athletes competing and winning medals for other countries.
Nigeria’s loss in the London, was the gain of other countries that could harness and put to proper use the talents of Nigerians scattered in the Diaspora.
Sadly, while the country is still hurting about medals that could have been won in her name, there are indications that even more athletes are considering adopting other nationalities before the 2016 Olympics.
One of the country’s top athletes who agreed to speak with PREMIUM TIMES only on the condition of anonymity revealed his ambition and that of some other colleagues who have been offered citizenship by an Arabian country. They plan to take the world by storm at the 2016 Olympics. Interestingly, the country already has a couple of Nigerian coaches in their employ.
According to the athlete, rejecting such offers might be difficult as he recounted his latest ordeal with the country’s sporting authorities.
“Sometimes you are left with no other option that to accept these offers from other countries that know the business of raising athletes and appreciate the hard work we do,” he said.
The athlete said that he won a scholarship in an American University, which has helped him improve.
“I was invited for trials prior to the Olympics with a promise of return ticket amongst other things. I know I did well at least beating my contemporaries here in Nigeria and even if I could not make it to the London Olympics I think it was only honourable for parties to keep their words and then plan for the future”
“That’s not the case with Nigeria, I had to find my way back to my base from my lean purse, so tell me if I now see a country that is ready to give me all I need or even more don’t you think it’s only normal to give it thought” the athlete queried.
A former European Champion, Francis Obikwelu, and Gloria Alozie, competed for Nigeria at the Sydney 2000 Olympics. When they were to return four years later at the world’s biggest sporting event, they had adopted other nationalities and performed creditably well at the Athens 2004 Olympics, winning medals; but this time not for Nigeria.
The country might be heading same way if the right things are not put in place, Lagos based athletics coach, Isaac Ikabomeh noted.
According to him, because the life span of an athlete is limited, the athlete all he or she can get before age catches on them.
“Beyond patriotism, these athletes have bills to pay, I don’t think anybody can stop them from competing for any county they choose to. The the law is clear; once you have stopped competing for a country in two years you are at liberty to chose another,” he said.
Coach Ikabomeh was however quick to also point out that while others are looking out at competing for other countries; some Nigerians born and bred abroad are falling over their heels to don the green white green colours.
“It’s not a one way traffic, we have had people like Gloria Asunmu that have competed for America and still retraced their steps to compete for their fatherland. A couple of others like that left what we may call their comfort zones, it always boils down to the athletes; they know what its best for them and they follow suit,” he concluded
On his part, former President of the Athletics Federation of Nigeria, Dan Ngerem, bemoaned Nigeria’s plight.
He described the country’s case as that of a child who is blessed but so confused as a result of poor planning.
“When you are that blessed, there is the element of confusion. If you don’t plan well, you will not be able to optimize that God-given talent. So when you talk of Nigerians in the Diaspora or athletes who are not willing to come back to Nigeria, it can be an advantage,” Mr. Ngerem said.
“I saw in Beijing some of the United States coaches were Chinese. But the Chinese did not lose a lot because they have internalized their problems, used their own people and believe in themselves.
“The Chinese are 1.2 billion and we are the Chinese of Africa. If we can learn from what the Chinese have done with the Beijing Olympics, we won’t bother if one Francis Obikwelu or a Glory Alozie leaves.
“What is happening in Nigeria is that the conveyor belt is not moving. There are no school sports. We have statutory money in the Universal Basic Education (UBE)
Scheme, from primary school to junior secondary school… but there is a disconnect between the Ministry of Education and the Ministry of Sports.
“The questions Nigerians need to ask now are, what is happening to that UBE money? Where are you going to get the Chioma Ajunwas or the Mary Onyalis if you don’t invest in the youths?, Our athletes will keep looking for greener pastures,” Mr. Ngerem said.
Below are some of the Nigerian born athletes that competed for other countries.
James Dasaolu, born in 1987 to Nigerian parents, Akintola and Abosede. He grew up in Loughborough, England and represented Great Britain in 100 and 4x100m sprints.
Andrew Osagie is currently the UK’s 800m Champion and British No. 1 on merit.
Lawrence Okoye: Born 6 October 1991, Okoye is an English track and field athlete who competes in the discus throw. He is the British record holder in the event.
According to the British Telegraph, his father is a Nigerian entrepreneur and mother a Home Office official.
Philips Idowu: His full name is Phillips Olaosebikan Idowu. Idowu was born to Nigerian parents and grew up in Hackney, in East London. He represented Great Britain in Triple jump.
Abdul Buhari: Born in Nigeria on the 26 June 1982, Buhari is a British athlete who competed in the discus throw.
Abiodun Adesola “Abi” Oyepitan: British sprint athlete, who specialises in the 100 and 200 metres. Abi was born in 1979 in Westminster, London to Nigerian parents.
Anyika Onuora: Specializes in the 100 and 200 metres, and also the 4×100 metres relay, She was a British sprint athlete to the 2012 Olympics.
Margaret Adeoye: Born 1985, we will be competing for Britain in the 200m.
Christine Ijeoma Ohuruogu: Born to Igbo Nigerian parents in Newham, east London, she was raised less than one mile from the 2012 Summer Olympics stadium in Stratford.
Christine Ohuruogu is another British athlete, who specialises in the 400 metres; the event for which she is the current Olympic and former World and Commonwealth Champion.
Marilyn Chinwenwa Okoro is also of Igbo roots. She represented Great Britain in the 4x400m race.
Temi Fagbenle: Born to a Nigerian father, Tunde and mother, Buki, Temi 19 year old was among a group of 12 players who were selected to represent Great Britain in the women’s basketball competition at the Olympics.
Anthony Ogogo: His fullname is Anthony Osezua Ogogo. Born to an English mother and Nigerian father, he represented Britain in Boxing and fought in the 75kg Middleweight category.
Anthony Joshua: His parents are of Nigerian descent. He grew up in Watford, but moved to London at aged 14 to live with his aunt, having spent six months in boarding school in Nigeria.
Eniola Aluko: Born in Lagos but moved with her family to Birmingham when she was one year old. Since she grew up in England, she chose to represent England at international level. She was a member of the English Olympic Football team.
Another member of the Britsh Olympic football team is Ifeoma Dieke who was actually born in Massachusetts, USA to Nigerian parents Ken and Edith Dieke in 1981. She moved to Scotland when she was three years old.
In Men’s Volleyball there are Dami Bakare and Peter Bakare. It is not clear whether or not both are related. While Dami was born Kaduna, Nigeria. Peter was born in London.