Pulse Blogger The Nigerian Olympian

This is a blogpost by Udom Ndinanake... As is often the case, Nigeria has its contingent ready to bring honour to the country (or dishonour as the case may be).

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Four years have come and gone quickly, a whole lot faster than expected and from London in 2012, attention now turns to Rio for the summer Olympics.

With one Nigerian executed a few days ago in Indonesia  for drug trafficking, while we await the next execution of another dangerously ambitious Nigerian youth there, or the conviction of another in the US for online fraud (yahoo yahoo), or another wanted for robbery in south Africa, or another being listed as a new leader of a terrorist/militant group, one would have been forgiven for thinking that the Olympic Games could not have come at a better time to give a sense of succour to a severely battered image of the country.

It was accidently believed that this was a chance to show the world that there was more to the Nigerian youth, than violence and crime.

How wrong was I, for even before the games got on the way, like a punctured balloon my cautious optimism was deflated and my apprehension justified. Here I sit, just cursing myself for not listening to my instincts in the first place

What makes it most unfortunate, is that the sabotage has come from within. While I do not hold brief or try to justify the number of Nigerian youths that have taken to crime and violence, let us put culpability everywhere culpability lies.

What options have those at the helm of affairs left the average youth with, when any attempt to get their feet on the ground is somehow undermined by those whose responsibility it is to give them a helping hand in the first place?

They say you play the hand that you are dealt, what cards are on their table? Like the everyday Nigerian youth, the Nigerian Olympians have been set up for failure and monumental disgrace by those responsible for their welfare and guidance.

The authorities must listen to Chinua Achebe in Things fall apart when he wrote, “that boy calls you father. Do not bear a hand in his death”

If there is any act more heartbreaking than this- that a father sets his son unclad in the market- I may never know. How can a country with one president and many presidential jets leave its athletes stranded at the airport for hours while their opening game was just at hand?

The date of the Olympic Games was known years before now, if the National Olympic Committee (NOC) cannot get something as important and basic as logistics right, of what use is wasting tax payers’ money on them?

My heart goes out to the athletes whose faces, barring any miracle and stroke of luck will be the faces of defeat that seven billion people will see and remember.

I wish it was possible for them to lay aside the green and white, adopt their own individual colours and represent themselves. If I suggest such, I may be accused of treason and incarcerated without fair trial, and denied bail as has become the trend of late.

When the country betrays its own citizens, leaves them to live like bastards with fathers, who tries the government for treason? I watched in bewilderment as athletes complained about staying three days without food. To survive they launched GoFundme account to raise money from the public.

I am not talking about citizens of unstable countries ravaged by war. I am referring to Nigerian youths representing Nigerian government, Nigerians and Nigeria.

The rot in the system stinks to high heavens and what makes it more tragic is the reckless abandon and brazen manner in which the authorities display their inefficiencies.

After the Dream Team’s hard fought victory of the Japanese, the NFF instagram post shamelessly read "Congrats our Dream team".

'Ours’ indeed, like a  father who rather than pay his son's school fees, squandered his money in bars and pool houses drinking and betting, but insists on sitting in the front row on convocation day upon hearing that his son has graduated with a first class.

The less said about the disrespectful and insensitive remarks of the minister the better. As the Yorubas say; “Deity, if you cannot support me, leave me the way you met me”.

With the already alarming level of unemployment in the land soaring by the day, if the government cannot encourage those who have taken to sports, it must at least neither discourage nor lay mines on their path, for sports affords them a productive manner of expending the energy in them they currently struggle to contain; energy that threatens to erupt like a volcano consuming anything in its way.

With the few jobs in the country held by those in their 70s and 80s who are better off retired, the government must also remember that energy can neither be created nor destroyed and that one way or another the Nigerian youth will find a way to let out theirs.

I can only hope they would not turn attention to the Niger Delta creeks, or forests in the North East; may they not consider the appealing drug routes of Mexico and Indonesia, or dubious use of their laptops.

To all the Nigerian Olympians in Rio, regardless of what you achieve I say congratulations. The fact that you managed to get there and compete makes all of you heroes in your own right.

Hungry stomachs, sub-standard kits as well as ‘cut and join’ travel arrangements; not every mortal can weather such storm and still surge ahead. Zeus will look down and be proud of you whether or not medals hang on your necks.
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Ndinanake Udom is an accounting graduate of the University of Uyo, Akwa Ibom State who lives and works in Port Harcourt. His hobbies include writing, playing chess and listening to the best of country music. Follow him on twitter @udomndi, email him at udomndi@gmail.com or call him on 08036266754.

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