By Yemi Olus
It’s been over 20 days since the 2018 African Athletics Championships hosted by Nigeria, ended. The dust seems to have settled, and everyone is now focused on the IAAF Continental Cup coming up in Ostrava, Czech Republic, next month.
However, there are indications that all is not well, especially with regard to the treatment of our athletes who represented the country at the five-day championship.
Earlier this week, I came across the interview Ese Brume had with The Guardian Newspaper. For those who do not know, Brume is Nigeria’s leading Long Jumper in recent years. She won Gold at the 2014 Commonwealth Games in Glasgow, and was Nigeria’s best individual performer in Athletics at the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio where she finished 5th in the women’s Long Jump final.
Brume has won three consecutive Long Jump titles at the African Championships, Asaba 2018 inclusive. Her feat in Asaba makes her the first ever athlete (male or female) to win three consecutive Long Jump titles at the African Championships. This is what she had to say in her interview:
“I am really sad at the moment. The Asaba 2018 African Senior Athletics Championship was an international event, and every athlete, who represented Team Nigeria was supposed to be given international treatment. We were told that our daily allowance was $100, which should translate to $700. That was aside the $3,000 each Gold medallist was supposed to get.
“It was a rude shock for some of us to receive just N107, 000 as total allowance for the duration of the game. That is rubbish. Some of us had to reject it because we considered it as an insult.”
In my years of knowing Brume, I have never heard her complain, because she is one athlete who tries to stay away from the spotlight as much as possible. And so it is certainly a big deal to hear her voicing out her displeasure at this unfair treatment.
Findings suggest that asides Brume, Divine Oduduru, Tobi Amusan and Blessing Okagbare all rejected the N107,000 allowance, which should have translated to about N250,000, based on the initial calculation of $100 per day, over a period of seven days. The N107,000 given to the athletes is less than half of the money accrued to them, so what happened to almost N150,000?
This is no way to treat these young men and women who make great sacrifices for the nation. Participating in Sports is not a hobby for them; it is their profession and means of livelihood. Nigeria hosted this championship; is it too much to ask for, that our athletes be treated right and given everything due them?
These athletes majorly fund their own training with little or no support, yet the little that is due to them at international assignments is still being tampered with. How then are they motivated to keep giving their best? At the end of the day, they will be mandated to win Gold for Nigeria, yet have to put up with this sort of mistreatment. Nigerian athletes have all it takes to rule the world, but these sort of scenarios do not help matters.
Brume talks about how athletes are largely neglected, until it is time for another championship: “Nobody got in touch with me throughout my preparation for the Asaba 2018 Championship. Now that we are done, preparation is supposed to begin ahead of Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games, but Nigeria won’t think in that direction for now. Nobody cares how I am coping in combining education with my Athletics career in North Cyprus. Where do they think I will get money to take care of myself? It is not encouraging”.
At the Asaba Championships, Nigeria’s 4x100m and 4x400m male teams finally broke the jinx to claim their first continental medal in four years, taking Silver in the 4x100m and Bronze in the 4x400m. The last time any of the Nigerian male relay teams won medals at senior level was at the 2014 African Championships in Marrakech.
Speaking after their Silver-medal win the 4x100m in Asaba, three-time men’s 100m National Champion Seye Ogunlewe, decried the lack of investment in athletes:
“We can do great things. We ran 38.5secs at the Commonwealth Games without any practice. That’s the fastest time Nigeria has run in a long time. If you don’t invest in us, don’t expect anything. We are just coming out here to do our best for the country and for ourselves, our family, the fans, but trust me, if you invest in us, we will do great things. If you don’t invest in us, don’t ask, “Why did you not win Gold?” We’re just coming out here to do our best, and sometimes our best is not enough, but when you invest in me, then you can ask questions.”
The fifth fastest quartermiler in Nigeria’s history, Orukpe Erayokan, who ran a stunning first leg in the men’s 4x400m in Asaba, also echoed Ogunlewe’s sentiments:
“All we need is sponsorship, and then we will fly. An athlete can’t be drinking garri and then you expect good results from such an athlete. Sports is our profession. A banker goes to their office; I also go to my office (the stadium) to train. All the companies rush to sponsor Football and leave other sports in the lurch. But we need support too because we can do even much better than Football”.
Our athletes deserve better!