The Death of Nigerian Sports and A Walk Down Memory Lane (3)

Part 1   |  Part 2

The highlight of Nigeria’s remarkable performance was however, Violet Odogwu’s success in the women’s Long Jump. She won the bronze medal and had the distinction of being the only African woman to win a medal at the games and she also reached the finals of the 80 metres hurdles.

Overall, Nigeria won 3 gold; 4 silver and 3 bronze medals and came 7th out of the 36 countries which took part in the Games. There were 28 athletes, boxers and swimmers and it showed then in 1966, that Nigeria has a wealth of athletic talents which with more adequate training, facilities and more experience were likely to take her place among the leaders in the world of sports.

Violet Odogwu, the only African woman to win a medal at the Jamaica games.

 

The March Past at the Jamaica games.
Track & Field: L-R: Sam Igun, Team Captain; David Ejoke

 

Dr George Ogan and Anthony Andeh
The Boxers: L-R: Eddie Ndukwu; Fatai Ayinla

 

Kingsley Agbabokhia and Nojim Maiyegun

 

We were on our way then, because in subsequent years, Nigerian sport was improving splendidly, nurtured by disciplined, sincere, honest, focused, dedicated and committed sports administrators such as the late Abraham Ordia, Isaac Akioye, Dan Enajekpo, Dr Awoture Eleyeae etc. They practically lived for athletics, a trait that is hard to come by in present-day managers.

Then the roof, or rather the sky fell of Nigerian sports the moment the likes of Amos Adamu came in with their one main ambition – make as much money as you can. And they did make money.

Sometime in 1983, while I was doing my Master’s degree at the University of Manitoba, Winnipeg, Canada, I received a call from a reporter for the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation. I guessed he got wind of me being the President of University of Manitoba’s International Students Organisation and a founder of the Nigerian Union of Manitoba. He asked me if I could appear on CBC TV to discuss the phenomenal success of Nigerian athletes who had participated in the World University Games held at Edmonton, Alberta that year. I did not even know that Nigeria was represented at the Games. He told me that Nigeria sent only 10 athletes and these athletes won 5 gold medals. I was proud, but hid my ignorance. I accepted and before I appeared on the show, I made sure I knew more about what happened.

In the 1983 World University Games; which was the debut year for this event by Nigeria, Chidi Imoh won gold in the 100 metres; Innocent Egbunike (now a coach in the United States) won gold in the 200 metres; Sunday Uti won gold in the 400 metres; Yusuf Ali won gold in the Long Jump and Ajayi Agbebaku won gold in the Triple Jump. All of them were of course based in the United States, most of them on Nigeria’s scholarship.

Written by
Akintokunbo A Adejumo
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2 comments
  • The diminished of track & field events is world wide not only particular to Nigeria, the world are now accustomed to 18yrs old earning £120,000 a week playing football in Europe or basket ball in US & we are all materialistic in way we now think & act. In the past we do things for honor of the country & mother land but this days “it’s about our pocket, the word we & us is replace by me’me’me. Now tell me , why should I wake up at 4 o’clock in the morning practising my high jump & track running when I can drove in Mercedes-Benz’Ferrari’Porche or Lexus to the football training ground at 9. 30 am in the morning & still get paid win or lost on the field ? No medal in athletic no pay.

    It was our joint thinking & state of mind that need changing, a bit of patriotism perhaps ! pride in one’s country maybe ? It is all of us not just the chairman of the board that need to work together. Those whom are doing the job & winning medal for UK are mostly Nigerian, why can the parents (include myself) encourage them running for Nigeria ?

    Taiye Akinsanmi

  • Toks,

    Thanks for this article. It did evoke some nostalgic emotion in me as I remembered those good old days when Nigeria used to invest in sports development. Up till the late 1970s, there were sports championships of various kinds among pupils in elementary schools to secondary schools and tertiary institutions where students vied for honors in boxing, football, table-tennis, track & field and even wrestling. These were the sporting events that produced some of the greatest sports personalities in our nation. I also remember public sports arenas such as the Rowe Park and Evans square in Ebute-Metta. All we have now are sports ministries at state and federal levels filled with archaic coaches and rusty sports administrators. And there is the periodic charades shortly before major international sports competitions such as the Olympics when our sports administrators and coaches along with politicians fight to be on the official entourage to travel with huge estacodes at our expense.