Tuesday, 4 September 2012

Nigeria: Do Right By Our Paralympians Before Sundown


Hail our heroes
As at this morning the Nigerian contingent to the London 2012 Paralympic Games has won 10 medals in the Powerlifting sport with 4 Golds, 5 Silver and 1 Bronze shared amongst 4 gentlemen and 6 ladies.
This means in the best attended and arguably the best representative Paralympic Games ever, we have gloriously heard the strains of the Nigerian national anthem played out to the whole world four times and had Nigerians step up to take other laurels six times.
Considering what a debacle the Nigerian outing to the Olympic Games was earlier in August, these paralympians have singlehandedly with guts, ability, spirit, dedication, resolve and amazing patriotism put Nigeria on the Paralympic map at the 14th position and leading the Powerlifting medal table comfortably.
Sports bureaucracy failing us again
It should not have been beyond the capability of the redolently incompetent sports bureaucracy to have learnt some quick lessons from London 2012 to have been better prepared to do right by the Nigerian Paralympic contingent to ensure that they are being dealt with fairly, justly, honourably, respectfully and with consideration on all matters with regards their welfare and all they need to represent Nigeria without being subject to unnecessary pressures and angst.
I woke up this morning to read a manifest injustice meted out on our patriots by some faceless and unconscionable officials who should by all rights be out of a job before the sun goes down if there is any justice in this world and if the Sport Minister and his gilded entourage along with the much vaunted tough-talking will act to clean up the unforgivable atrocities that have bedevilled Nigerian sports administration for too long.
Too many wrongs unforgiveable
First is the matter of the late payment of allowances, we have always been tardy with payments that are due across the board in all walks of life in Nigeria but it is no excuse to have high-profile representatives of Nigeria suffer such indignities when they are supposed to be concentrating in beating the world and bringing glory to Nigeria – that this singular view was lost on the sports officials is regrettable to say the least.
Secondly, the athletes are in the United Kingdom where the British Pound is legal tender, there is no reason why the athletes should have been paid allowances in dollars and then have to run the gauntlet of being creamed off by others waiting in the shadows to exchange the currency to pounds.
The sports officials should have converted the allowances to pounds before paying the allowances; it was just an unnecessary burden to place on the athletes who in terms might have been desperately in need of the allowances that some rotten official thought to exploit their vulnerability.
Short-changed by £1,329
Thirdly is the matter of equality in representation. It is instructive to see Paralympians bring recognition and glory to Nigeria that seemingly and apparently more able Olympians failed to do. There is no reason why any sports representatives of Nigeria should be treated differently, unequally and with contempt.
Apparently, the luckless Olympians were paid £2,400 and now the Paralympics contingent was paid $1,700 (£1,071 @ today’s exchange rate from Google) suggesting they have been dealt an inequality blow and short-changed by £1,329. It is unbelievable that anyone in charge of sports administration will sanction this atrocity and expect to get away with impunity.
Equality is the biggest message
If for any reason not enough money was allocated for the allowances of the Paralympic contingent, then I expect that all is done to make up that shortfall by every means possible. The success of the Paralympic contingent should be a ringing endorsement of challenged people to come out and be the best they can be in any endeavour they choose to embark on.
It should be the impetus for equality legislation that no matter how impaired physically or mentally you might be in Nigeria, you will not be discriminated against, you will be accorded due courtesies, respect and access to all opportunities that are available to Nigerians and those who contemn, disparage, denigrate or belittle you will face the law with punitive compensations made out to those affected.
Minister, step up
This, I believe will be the first test of the Sport Minister Bolaji Abdullahi’s resolve to change the face of sport in Nigeria or continue to allow impunity and incompetence to reign in our sports bureaucracy.
To go into speculation as to why one has had to write this piece will be too unreadable for the disgust that it will raise, the only remedy to this matter is to do right by our Paralympic contingent – Pay them their allowances, pay them £2,400, pay them in British pounds, pay them now and make a public shame of all those involved in this disgraceful debacle.
The time to remedy this situation is now, along with compensation for the unnecessary hardship and exasperation caused our heroic athletes – these allowance protests at every sports meeting must stop forthwith – Enough is enough! 

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