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There has been nothing outstanding to celebrate in Nigeria’s sports in the last one week except for rumours that the 20th National Sports Festival could be cancelled, despite several postponements in the past. Sporting issues have been taken to the law courts while the participants wait in abeyance. Of course, the scheduled competitions must hold whether Nigeria is ready or not. Tales of the unexpected which were carried to the law courts for justice dominated the media space with the athletes left in limbo, wondering which of the warring factions they should align with.

The athletes have lost grounds in terms of training hours to prepare for the big competitions because a few people want sports run under selfish terms, irrespective of its negative consequences. Do we expect such ‘holidaying’ athletes to excel over those whose training schedules began eight or four years ago according to their countries’ calendars for the Olympics, for instance.

The draws of one of the Olympic Games’ events has pitched Nigeria against the United States and our coach is saying that beating the US is a possibility but certainly not for us here. The law of averages makes it absolutely impossible for Nigeria to upset the Americans in the women’s basketball event. In fact, most of our players ply their trade in the US, so they know them technically, having raised some of them as younger girls. Upset is achieved by serious nations. Unfortunately, the basketball federation in Nigeria is a hard working body and could rattle the Americans, knowing that sport isn’t rocket science. I wish the basketball federation weren’t troubled. We wait.

D’ Tigress coach Otis Hughley described the USA and world number five- France as familiar foes. “We met the USA and France at the last World Cup in Spain and again faced USA at the Olympics Qualifying Tournament in Serbia last year where we qualified for the Olympics.”

Otis who led the team to the quarter-finals of the 2018 World Cup thereby setting an African record before winning the 2019 FIBA Afrobasket championship noted that, “We are mindful of the threat these teams pose to us including Japan who is ranked 10th in the FIBA ranking. We are going to prepare adequately to ensure that when the time comes, we will be ready.”

Basketball is one of the elite sports the government have focused attention to as potential medal prospects at the Olympic Games. Basketball’s choice was based on the sport’s continental and global rankings, not essentially the sport’s performance at the big stage which is the exclusive prerogative of countries such as America, where the dunking game is almost like a religion to the people.  Nigeria’s qualification for the basketball events in both the male and female categories say a lot about the calibre of players in both teams and the technical support they get from their coaches. Need I emphasis the role of the basketball federation which has done its work of building on the capacity for the game, leaving the politicians who want to drag the game in the mud to stew in their mess.


The incumbent basketball federation’s members deserve all the applause they can get for the achievements recorded in spite of the toxic environment they have been working in. Perhaps, if the athletic federation had focused on the growth of the game despite the internal bickering, Nigerians would have been expectant. Even if basketball doesn’t qualify for the medal’s podium at the Olympic Games, both teams have improved on their continental ranking, which raises hope for corporate support back home. If the basketball federation goes on marketing drive, they would have a lot to showcase before prospecting sponsors during their pitching sessions. The Nigeria basketball federation would flaunt with pride their feats using the visual from games and competitions the Nigeria boys and girls won at the big stage.

Sponsors don’t waste their cash on never-do-well bodies. they always want to see value in their investments. Backing a team(s) that are continental champions opens new vistas for them, especially if such sports are potential Olympic Games’ participants every four years. Going by the world rating where the Olympics is rated, Nigeria has done very well by qualifying her two teams for the Olympics. Whatever the teams find at the multiple sports event would be for experience.


Kudos to the Sports Minister Sunday Akin Dare for the matured manner he handled the bickering in basketball by allowing the law to take its full course. Dare’s neutral position created the enabling environment for the federation to do their jobs. The sports terrain never lacked sponsors until some administrators became unaccountable, organised low-quality competitions, or failing to pay athletes who participated in sporting tournaments. Of course, no firm will pitch its services or goods on corrupt platforms. The exit of these traditional sponsors led to an era of problems for sports.

Table tennis, athletics, and boxing tottered in the past. New dawns beckon for boxing and table tennis, only if the authorities ensure that only credible people and competent personnel are employed to fast-track the changes. I feel strongly that the sports minister should use this interlude to headhunt future members of federations whose athletes are medals prospects at big sporting events to support. This way the ones not chosen would feel challenged to do things differently to seek the desired recognition and support.


Don’t wake me up from this dream when it comes to Nigeria’s chances of winning a medal in basketball. No doubt, our game has improved, but it is not enough to stop the Americans in the dunking game. Most of our players ply their trade in the NBA, but this makes the task of beating us easy for the Yankees. True, they know them but when push comes to shove, the Nigerians would be lacking in technique and tactics. These are the hallmarks of champions developed over time.

However, the Nigerian Athletics Federation’s predicament is painful knowing what the country has achieved in previous competitions organised by the World Athletics, the Olympic Games inclusive. Need I waste space to enlist our athletes that excelled at the world athletics competitions? The difference this time is that we can’t point at 10 athletes (male and female) who can qualify for the finals of their events, a thing we did with smiles in the past. The Olympics in Japan for the Nigerian athletics squads is looking like a mirage.  Others have begun their preparations four or eight years ago and have been primed to hit the winning marks at the Olympics.

The following athletes are capable of making it to the finals of their respective events at the Tokyo Olympics with the duo of sprint hurdler Tobi Amusan and long jumper Ese Brume best placed to make the podium.

But if Oduduru re-enacts the form which saw him run 9.86secs in the (100m) and 19.73 secs in the (200m) in one day to win the NCAA Championships’ sprint double in 2019, then he MUST surely count as one for the podium.


Blessing Okagbare is getting an invite from Old Father Time and her desire to make money in the circuit before the Games will surely affect her chances of qualifying for the final of the 100 metres and/or 200 metres for women. Okagbare needs help. She must be educated on the traits that distinguish winners from losers. She needs a psychologist, a starter’s bloc expert, a career advisor, and a sprint great to repeatedly take her through the rudiments of winning the sprints.

Below is the list of medals’ prospects for Nigeria at the Olympics.




Lennox Mall

-Divine Oduduru (100/200m)

-Chukwuebuka Enekwechi (Shot Put–8th in the final at 2019 World Championship)


-Raymond Ekevwo (100m–2019 African Games 100m Champion)

-4x100m (Oduduru, Ekevwo, Utshoritse Itshekiri, Enoch Adegoke)




Blessing Okagbare (100/200m)

-Tobi Amusan (100m Hurdles-finalist at the 2019 World Championships)


-Ese Brume (Long Jump-Bronze medallist at 2019 World Championship)

-Favour Ofili (400m semi-finalist at 2019 World Championship -4x400m

Unfortunately, the major meets meant to keep the athletes in shape globally have been canceled due to the Coronavirus pandemic, making it very difficult to ascertain our athletes’ fitness levels. Sadly, the local federation has been enmeshed in crises that have taken their toll on the athletes. Unlike in other climes where the schedules for their Olympic Games’ athletes began way back after the Rio Olympic Games. Others as far back as eight years showing clearly how prepared they are.

The sports industry at the grassroots is still at the mundane level in terms of facilities and the wherewithal to thrive. The state sports councils exist only in the building at the capital while their local government offices are more or less cracked mud buildings that house reptiles, rodents, and other dangerous objects. Only a few states, such Lagos, Delta, Cross River, and Rivers, have programmes that engage the youth at the grassroots through sports. Other states recognize sports as a vehicle for mobilising the masses when their governors decide to emulate one of their counterparts by identifying with short races once in a month. Otherwise, these governors only remember sports at Exco meetings, especially when a major event, such as the National Sports Festival, beckons.

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