Wednesday, 5 September 2012

Nigeria: More on the Paralympians' Allowances Story


It was a good news story
Yesterday, I wrote a blog based on a news story published in the Nigerian Tribune with regards to the payment of allowances to our Nigerian Paralympic contingent to the London Paralympic 2012 Games.
It was titled Nigeria: Do Right By Our Paralympians Before Sundown and I challenged the senior sports administrators of Nigeria to address the issue with immediate effect.
A confrontation
By the evening whilst I was travelling in and out of mobile telephony areas on the London Underground trains I got involved in a direct confrontation on Twitter with @MrFixNigeria, the sometimes feisty and sometimes level-headed  Special Assistant  (Advocacy) to the Minister of Sports.
Now, a slightly truculent @MrFixNigeria was of the opinion that I was peddling an unverified fictitious report on the basis of him having confirmed from the Chef de Mission had said that the athletes where paid accordingly.
Accordingly is sophistry
One then asked what accordingly really meant and how accordingly could have somehow given rise to a fictitious report in a national newspaper about a protest, the payment in dollars and the difference in payments made to the Paralympians compared to the Olympians only weeks before.
The reporter who filed the story signed off as being in London, it would be rather atrocious if not mendacious for a newspaper to unnecessarily forment a crisis and create a controversy on the payment of allowances just to embarrass the sports bureaucracy – on balance, every Nigerian contingent to an international event has had to protest about allowances and I know that when I attended the Nigeria v Bulgaria match at the France 1998 World Cup in Paris, there was a threat of a walkout just because of allowances too.
A Google search for Nigerian Team Allowances presents pages of references indicating the story does have some provenance and elements of truth.
Ask the athletes, not the chiefs
The Nigerian Tribune in my view engaged in a spot of investigative journalism that does not paint of the officials in any good light and the least they should do for matters of both integrity and reputation is to speak directly to the athletes about their concerns and experiences rather than insulate themselves from the core issues that should inform any policy for change and reform they might consider to prevent sporting disasters in the future.
I hold this view more strongly because in conducting his London 2012 Olympic Review as the Olympics were closing a few weeks ago, it appeared the Sport Minister had laid out a whole range of interesting reforms without input borne of debriefing the athletes or their coaches – the danger is such a review will not by any stretch of the imagination address the fundamental issues athletes and coaches face in preparing for international competitions.
The arms-length approach of hierarchical reporting when matters go wrong in the lower cadres will only present to officialdom a false sense of order and efficiency with the athletes being frustrated by their lack of access to the people who really can ensure that the chain of command that guarantees their welfare is clued-in on what it will take for an athlete to perform at their best without distractions.
Get a shop floor view, first-hand
My advice to the Sports Minister and his Special Assistant is to go to the shop floor and get their hands dirty, find out how each sport works from the view of those who really have to sweat it out to bring back the laurels.
This should be first to squelch every rumour of impropriety or ascertain how and why story like the one I wrote about became a topic of discussion either as the truth of the situation or otherwise.
Meanwhile, the Nigerian Paralympic contingent has added another gold medal to their Powerlifting tally bring the medal haul to 5 Golds, 5 Silvers and 1 Bronze – it is the sports officials that now have to make themselves worthy of the task they have of ensuring our heroes are not distracted by incompetence and other shenanigans.

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