​From Rio with Shame

Most sane persons subscribe to the view that proper planning is an essential ingredient in the successful execution of any task. Hence, such persons ensure the existence of a functional “drawing board” where plans are made and refined. The antithesis of this view is the theory that says one does not need to plan in order to succeed. Unfortunately, this view underpins the actions of much of Nigeria’s bureaucracy, and has fittingly rewarded Nigeria with shame, mined in Nigeria, refined in Rio. 

Let’s begin by looking at three of the most popular acts of shame with regards to the 2016 Rio Olympics. First, the Dream Team was stuck in Atlanta, unable to get transportation to Brazil. Some reports even suggested that their trip to Atlanta was initially funded by a Nigerian from Samaria. After some media bashing, including a publicized gaffe by the sports minister, the team was flown to Brazil, arriving mere hours before their first game against Japan. Fortunately, despite the possibility of jet lag, the football team won that basketball game 5-4. 

Then came the turn of the opening ceremony. While other nations trouped out in their colourful ceremonial attires, Team Nigeria held its head high, as it paraded its athletes in their tracksuits. The media machine offered the cause as the inability of the team’s official ceremonial wears to reach Rio before the games. As if this was insufficient, Nigerians were regaled with tales of skipper Mikel Obi bailing out the Dream Team at their hotel. He paid $4,500 to settle outstanding bills, which the sports ministry has now called a loan that it has repaid. 

The newest act of shame is linked to the second one described above. Vanguard just published a report proclaiming the triumphant entry of Team Nigeria’s official kits three days to the end of the Olympics. This joyous arrival is coming after most of our athletes have crashed out of their events. Knowing the planning prowess of Nigerian bureaucrats, one may not be surprised if they consider putting the kits in a secure degradation-proof storage facility to await the 2020 Olympics. 

Many Nigerians would likely blame the beret-wearing sports minister, Barr Solomon Dalung, for the shame oozing out of Rio. Some with extra “liver”, would add President Buhari to the hall of shame. While I agree that both of them deserve the bashing they would receive, I think the problem goes beyond Dalung or Buhari. No matter how incompetent Nigerians may think the duo are, the fact is that a certain culture enabled this mess. 

The opening paragraph bordered on proper planning. In Nigeria, the prevalent culture is that of improper planning or no planning at all. We are so focused on filling our pockets that we cannot be bothered by something as trivial as sitting down to plan. When we are not stealing funds, we are hiding behind over-religious prayers to avoid the needful, sometimes, doing this alongside the pocket stuffing. 

Some may point to lack of funds as the reason for this mess. However, if those in charge had planned for the Olympics, they would have made alternative arrangements for funding. If funds had been provided, the Olympics may have served as a diversion for Nigerians groaning from the pains of the receding economy. That’s something the ogas at the top did not consider. 

Beyond the problem of immediate funds for this Olympic trip, the planning problem goes beyond this year. Nigeria had four years to prepare for Rio 2016 after the poor outing at London 2012. Can the sports administrators show Nigerians the plan(s) they made after 2012 to avoid a repeat performance in 2016? Sports facilities in the country are generally in a messy state, following the Nigerian culture of poor maintenance. Our athletes train in debilitating conditions, yet, they are expected to compete with well-trained hyper-humans like Usain Bolt. We cannot plant corn and expect to harvest mangoes. That’s the kind of impossibility we wish for with our planning culture. 

We may bash those who deserve bashing, however, such bashing would not change our fortunes at Tokyo. Except Nigeria decides to imbibe a culture of strategic planning (and implementation!), the cycle of shame would continue. In 2020, when the world gathers for another Olympics, would Nigeria finally leave the committee of backbenchers, or would there be another season of shame? Only time would tell. 
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