In every sphere of human endeavours, it is always good to strive for equal treatment of people in a society. Administrators in politics and every area of human life make efforts to give equal treatment to people. In cases where attention gets to one person or the other, it has to be marginal and there should be a good reason for it.
In sports, recent trends have shown that athletes are not being treated equally in terms of remunerations and rewards.
Sad enough, we observed that some individual athletes excel in various ways but they are not rewarded as expected or celebrated by the ministry or the Federal Government. For example, wrestler Odunayo Adekuoroye has been very consistent in the past two years. She has won many global events including about four this year alone. In her category in wrestling, she is Number 3 in the world. It also means she is a medal prospect in the sport at the Tokyo Olympics in 2020.
Aruna Quadri is also consistent in table tennis. He has won African title and excelled at ITTF circuits such that he is number 19 in the world according to the latest rankings of the highest table tennis body in the world.
Adekuoroye and Quadri deserve commendation from the very top for their exploits for the country in the past two years in their respective disciplines. They are also quiet achievers that get results without controversy.
We call on the new Minister of Sports and Youth Development, Mr. Sunday Dare, to look into this because there should be a system to deal with rewards across all sports plus football to further motivate athletes to perform much better in various sports disciplines.
It is important to state that the issue of policy has been a big subject in the sports sector due to poor planning and other strange ways things evolve in the sporting arena. There is no template to execute various administrative aspects in sports. The federations and athletes are not sure of attending competitions outside the country no matter how important and they have no guarantee on what the government will give them after performing well at international meets. At the just concluded African Games, it was great that the ministry of sports maintained a system that started few years back by rewarding athletes for medals won in Morocco. A cash reward of $3,000 was given out to every gold medallist, $2,000 for silver winners and $1,500 for bronze medallists. Also, gold medallists in team events got $6,000, bronze got $4,500.
However, we frown at the fact that there is no standard way of dealing with athletes and this is so sad and could be counter-productive. Some of the country’s top athletes are feeling so unwanted to the extent of threatening to switch allegiance to other countries. Some of them believe the country is not worth the stress of putting up a good performance. For example, the grants for elite athletes did not get to them until shortly before the just concluded African Games while some received it during the competition in Morocco and, in fact, some are yet to get the grants. Those who received were given $3,000 instead of the $5,000 they were promised.
We commend the sports ministry for the instant cash reward of the athletes in Morocco but it would have been perfect to ensure they had a dinner with President Muhammadu Buhari shortly after arrival. If they are not going to be given further cash rewards, there should be words of encouragement from the number one citizen to further motivate the athletes for future performances.
We make bold to say some athletes work hard to excel at competitions simply because they look forward to getting a presidential handshake someday. If money or rewards come, it could be a bonus but many athletes cherish having a dinner with the President in Aso Rock. This is fast becoming a thing of the past because it was not done for the Team Nigeria contingent after placing overall second in Morocco.
Another big setback was the neglect of the national women’s basketball team, D’Tigress, who were in Senegal last month and they defeated all teams including the host Senegal in the final to retain the AfroBasket title. It was a big feat because the AfroBasket title is equivalent to African Nations Cup trophy in football. It was a shock that the victorious ladies were not taken to Aso Rock for a reception with the President. Clearly, this cannot happen to football. Same happened to the Super Falcons after winning the AWCON title. If the Super Eagles lift AFCON trophy, it is likely that the team moves straight to Aso Rock after arrival.
We insist that there should be equal appreciation for our athletes and national teams. If football gets huge attention, at least other sports should not be treated with disdain. We charge Sunday Dare to deal with this situation and create a template for reward system in sports.