Cross River’s development model will solve Nigeria’s problems, says Ijirigho
Nigeria’s former Olympics team captain, Bruce Ijirigho, has urged the Federation Government to embrace grassroots sports development as developed by the Cross River State government if it desired a lasting end to the country’s failures at world meets.
Ijirigho, who regrets that Nigeria continues to stutter in international competitions even when it is endowed with enormous human resources, believes that going back to the basics would halt the continuous slide.Speaking in Lagos at the weekend,Ijirigho said Nigeria’s performance at the Rio 2016 Olympic Games, where it could win only a bronze medal was a pointer that drastic measures must be adopted to change the country’s fortunes world championships.
He urged the sports ministry to study the grassroots sports initiative by former Governor of Cross River State, Liyel Imoke and see if the programme could be implemented on a national scale in the next eight years.
“Based on my experience and what I went through as an athlete, I can conclude that our problem has always been management of our sportsmen and women.“As a country we have not been able to finds them and nurture them to championship winning level hence we always have always had problems getting the right results at international sports contests and this is disgraceful,” he said.
He said Nigeria’s problem is that it abandoned the grassroots sports developmental programme left behind by the British colonialists instead of improving on it, noting that that is why the country is lagging behind at international sports contests.
“I went to Jamaica to interview sports officials on three different occasions on how they were able to make gains in sports. I spoke to their sports minister, chairman of the Jamaica athletics and their coaches. I took notes.
“What they told me was that Nigeria is suffering because it abandoned the structure that the British colonialists left behind in the country. They said they continued with their own and even built upon them. Some of their top stars from that programme, who went abroad even came back home and contributed their experiences in the development of the sport there.”
Ijirigho submitted that if the Cross River initiative could produce quality athletes, including Edidiong Offonime, who won gold in the world junior athletics championship and reached final of the Rio 2016 Olympics representing Bahrain, Nigeria could use the programme as a cornerstone for a sports revolution in the country.