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Running from Nigeria to achieve greatness

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Minister of Labour and Employment, Dr. Chris Ngige. Photo/Twitter/LabourMinNG

Last week, our labour minister, Chris Ngige told us that Nigeria has more than enough doctors, so that those who are leaving are welcome to leave, or words to that effect. This was some eight months after his colleague, Isaac Adewole, our health minister, had informed us about surprisingly lucrative alternate careers for our doctors. In the 215 days or 31 weeks between both statements, 369 doctors have emigrated from Nigeria, if data from NOI Polls, published in November 2018 is to be believed. This is devastating for a country that according to a World Health Organisation survey in 2014 had only 28,139 doctors. But the medical field is not the only field bleeding professionals, so let’s ask why our sportsmen are jumping out as well.

On 20 April, in Waco, Texas, Divine Ejowvokoghene Oduduru broke a long standing Nigerian National Record in the 200m. By running the 200m in 19.76 seconds, he shattered the record that has been held by Francis Obikwelu for 20 years since he did 19.84 seconds in 1999. On the same day, Oduduru did something else. Not since Soju Fasuba, 13 years ago, has a Nigerian male athlete run the 100m dash in under 10 seconds. The boy is going to do great things, but he is not the only one. Many Nigerians are doing great things in other fields, but like Oduduru, have had to leave the country, in order to achieve their potential.

It is instructive to note that both men whose records Oduduru challenged, Fasuba and Obikwelu, gave Nigeria the literal middle finger after initially starting with us. Francis Obilekwu, our erstwhile 200m record holder got injured representing Nigeria at the Sydney 2000 Olympics but didn’t get any support from the government for his surgery in Canada. He switched nationalities, and went on to represent Portugal at the 2004 Olympics in Athens, and won a silver medal for his adopted country.
In April 2011 Olusoji joined the Royal Navy applying through the Royal Navy Careers Office in Oxford and embarked on a career as Logistician (Supply Chain) Rating. At the time, he said that he hoped to continue with athletics as a hobby and compete for the Royal Navy, and stated that the reason behind the move was that he was looking for a more settled life for his family. A more settled life…

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Both men, and possibly Oduduru at some point are a part of a flood of our athletes, and doctors, and others that have dumped Nigeria. Kemi Adekoya Bahrain in 400m at the Rio Olympics. Femi Ogunode ran for the University of Ibadan, and even qualified for the 2008 Olympics in Beijing. For unknown reasons, he never actually went on to the event. He represented Qatar in both 100m and 200m races in Rio. Femi is currently Asia’s fastest man.

Maybe their story can be understood by considering what happened to Grace Anigbata. At age 18, Grace won the high jump at the Athletics Federation of Nigeria trials which were held in Sapele, Delta State. Her jump of 1.7m was better than that of Esther Issa, who at 1.65m came second. Ngozi Nwichi came third. None of them represented Nigeria at the Rio Games.

Rather, Nigeria was represented at the High Jump event, women in Rio, by Doreen Amata, who apparently did not even feature at the Olympic trials. A sports journalist who covered the trials told me that Ms. Anigbata was told that she won’t be going to Rio because at age 18, she still has time!
In a few years’ time, when Grace Anigbata turns out for Bahrain or Qatar at the Olympics and wins a medal, we will all fall over ourselves to claim her. The list of talent that Nigeria has lost to rank stupidity is long. Think Glory Alozie, think Francis Obikwelu, think Kemi Adekoya…
This system of claiming success that we did not work for will ultimately leave us where we belong, in the sewers. Oh, shoot! We are there already.

It cannot be overstated that thousands of Nigerians leave Nigeria yearly to find greener pastures. Some of the reasons behind this are the lack of appreciation of talent by the Nigeria government; there is a lack or absence of avenues to develop talents in Nigeria. Even when such talents could be appreciated the system of favouritism and who you know acts or the “you still have time” factor as restrictions. This has caused many Nigerians to rather trust in the other nations for the development and support of their talent. It is no news that the Nigerian government’s poor treatment of Nigerian athletes. This is why many Nigerians participate in the Olympics for other nations rather than their country; this is because they get not only better appreciation, better care, pay, health care, pension etc.
This extends to other fields of life, and naturally ultimately affects the economy. A country that cannot retain its top talent is on the road to nowhere, fast.


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