We’ll Miss Jonathan’s Incentives But Buhari Can Do More
Perhaps, one major area Nigerians, especially the youths, will remember President Goodluck Jonathan’s administration is the giant strides the country’s sports made in the last four years and the financial gains that came the way of the athletes and their officials.
“Though the country’s image still attracts some negative headlines following challenges posed by some corrupt government officials, Commonwealth Games gold medalist, Ese Brume, is of the opinion that the coming administration of Muhammad Buhari might have to go the extra mile to march the records already set by the Jonathan’s administration in sports.”
In particular, Brume, who led Team Nigeria to top the medals table at the recently concluded African Junior Athletics Championship in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, says the Jonathan’s administration touched the lives of several sports men and women as well as their officials more than ever before.
“Our sports really soared in the administration of President Jonathan and my prayer is for things to get better in the coming administration of Gen. Buhari,” Brume told The Guardian shortly after he (Buhari) was declared winner of the 2015 Presidential election.
According to Brume, the financial inceptives put in place by Jonathan played a major role in motivating the nation’s athletes and players in the past four years. “Sports men and women need financial motivation to do well during competitions and that was the magic wand in the past four years. There was a time in this country when athletes and players were rewarded by mere handshake by a particular President and our sports suffered many setbacks. We must not go back to that era, hence my appeal to the coming President to take good care of sports men and women for the country to continue in the winning ways.”
Two years ago, Brume was part of Nigeria’s contingent to the 11th African Junior Athletics Championship, which took place in Mauritius. At the end of the championship, she grabbed two gold and one silver medal to take Nigeria to the top of the medals table ahead of South Africa, Kenya, Ethiopia and the host Mauritius.
But the Presidential largesse put in place by Jonathan as reward for excellence eluded Brume and other members of the team. It became a major topic in the nation’s sports circle, especially after the Presidency rolled out red carpet for players and officials of the U-17 and U-20 football teams, who came second and third in their African championships in Algeria and Morocco respectively.
However, Brume soon put aside the disappointment when she represented Nigeria at the 2014 Commonwealth Games in Glasgow, Scotland, where she made history as the first Nigerian junior athlete to win a gold medal at the Commonwealth Games. She won the women’s long jump gold with a mark of 6.56m.
A few days later, Brume made another glorious outing in Marrakech, Morocco, where she brushed aside challenges from many senior competitors to capture a gold medal in the women’s long jump event at the 19th African Senior Athletics Championships.
But unlike the bitter experience at the end of the African Junior Athletics Championship in Mauritius 2012, Brume got her Presidential reward this time. Apart from the cash gift, she got a National honour of MON from President Goodluck Jonathan in Abuja.
“Both the cash reward and National honour I got from President Jonathan really propelled me to do more for the country,” Brume said. “That has been the secret behind Nigeria’s successes in sports in the last four years and the only way we can sustain it, or even surpass the record, is for Buhari to continue to give financial reward to sports men and women anytime we achieve success in international competitions.
“The coming administration should also provide the enabling environment for our sports to thrive. For instance, this is the year of the All African Games and the IAAF World Championship. There are various international competitions for footballers also. What we need is for the Buhari’s administration to equip the National Sports Commission (NSC) with fund to prepare the athletes well ahead of the competitions”.
A fire brigade approach is not always good for sports men and women,” she said.
Last month, Brume captained Team Nigeria Junior athletes to Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, where they conquered South Africa and the host country in the 2015 African Junior Athletics Championship. She got four medals (three gold and one bronze).
She is praying and hoping that despite Jonathan’s failure in the Presidential election, he should find a way to reward the victorious athletes alongside members of the Super Falcons who won the last AWC in Namibia and the Flying Eagles for their fate at Senegal 2015 AYC.
“How I wish President Jonathan can host us before he finally hands over to Buhari,” she said. “I want him to finish the journey he started so that the new government can begin on a clean slate. If we get the motivation we need, I am sure we will win the All African Games for Buhari.
“If we get good preparations for the 2015 IAAF World Championship in China, we will do everything within our limit to go beyond the achievement Nigeria recorded at Moscow 2013.
“I am sure our football teams that have qualified for various FIFA World Championships will strive to achieve success, but that will depend on their preparations and the kind of inceptives the federal government will dangle at them,” Brume stated.
As a former Head of State (under the military), the President-elect (Buhari) welcomed the 1985 all-conquering Golden Eaglets from China with the first FIFA/JVC U-16 World Cup. That was 30 years ago.
The team is known today as Golden Eaglets, a coinage by General Buhari when he received the players and their officials at the National Stadium, Surulere, Lagos.
Ironically, the man who captained the 1985 Golden Eaglets to China, Nduka Ugbade, is currently an assistant coach to the National U-20 team, the Flying Eagles and will be competing in New Zealand later this year.
There is no doubt that Buhari has a major challenge ahead of him, considering the many achievements by his predecessor in sports.
Under the Jonathan’s administration, the Super Eagles won the 2013 edition of the African Nations Cup in South Africa, just as the Golden Eagles won the FIFA U-17 World Cup in the United Arabs Emirates.
The nation’s U-20 women team (Falconets) got to the final of the World Cup in Canada, while athletics team recorded so many successes, including the feat by Blessing Okagbare at the 2013 IAAF World Championship in Moscow, where she got a silver to end Nigeria’s 14 years of waiting.
Nigeria’s youth athletes won the 2013 African Youth Athletics Championship in Mauritius, while Team Nigeria also recorded milestone at the 2014 Commonwealth Games in Glasgow and few days later, the Nigerian athletics team went to Morocco to win the African Senior Athletics Championship.
The Super Eagles also made it to the last 16 at Brazil 2014 World Cup, while their female counterparts, Super Falcons, went to Namibia to conquer Africa at the 2014 AWC.
The Jonathan’s administration started on a winning note this year, when Team Nigeria won the 2015 African Junior Athletics few weeks ago in Ethiopia before the Flying Eagles won the AYC title two weeks ago in Senegal.