Olympics and the Mirror of Nigeria By Okey Ndibe

Okey Ndibe
Okey Ndibe

As I sat down to write this piece, the Nigerian contingent had won not a single medal at the 2012 London Olympics. In fact, the country of 166 million people – aka giant of Africa; the proud host of Africa’s largest political party; and whose public office holders are some of the world’s most highly paid officials – had not seriously threatened to pick up any of the hardware (gold, silver, bronze) that’s the reward for the world’s best athletes. And as the seconds ticked away, Nigeria’s hopes, by every realistic measure, seemed to evaporate faster than the dewfall in the country’s tropical sun.

You’d think that a country like Nigeria would parlay its huge, varied and enterprising population into a medal or two. Perish the thought!

One can predict a rather predictable retort: that there’s no correlation between population and performance at the Olympics. A critic might point to India’s notorious under-performance (a mere three medals so far, despite a population that tops 1.2 billion). Or Indonesia’s far from inspiring performance (two medals, for a country with a population of 237 million). There’s also the forgettable showing by Pakistan (180 million people) and Bangladesh (152 million); as at this writing, both countries had combined for zero medals.

Yet, it may be said for India, Pakistan and Bangladesh that these are countries that are culturally indifferent to most of the events at the Olympics. If the game of cricket were an Olympic event, then they’d wake up for it.

Perhaps, a different species of cultural indifference accounts for Nigeria’s wretched outing in London. We’ve become a people allergic to planning, averse to preparation, and deeply hostile to excellence. Serious contenders at international meets have figured out that it takes serious and consistent planning, the hiring of top coaches as well as long-term investment in equipment and athletes to produce world-class talent.

By contrast, between Olympics, Nigerian sports officials seem to slip into slumber mode. Their calendars are scrubbed free of any preparations for the next Olympics. Then, sometimes with only months to go, they startle awake, scramble for funds, and assemble another ill-equipped, poorly trained contingent.

Nobody should wonder that, every four years, Nigerian athletes march at the Olympics but woefully fail to measure up against the world’s best athletes. Nigeria’s ungolden showing is a mirror of a broader malaise, a parable of a nation that’s wedded to failure.

Victims of official nonchalance, pathetic funding and overall scrappy preparation, Nigerian athletes arrived in London with – literally – only prayers going for them. Yes, Nigeria’s flag bearers are sorry specimens of third-rate equipment and training. Whether it’s the Olympics or the World Cup, we stubbornly neglect to prepare for the games. Then, come time for the contest, our pastors and imams shriek prayers to heaven. Vociferously, our prelates behave as if God owed it to us to be a permanent member of the Nigerian team, if not our standby factotum. They importune God to score goals for us that our hastily assembled soccer teams can’t manage. They ask God to make our athletes faster and stronger than their training warrants. They ask heaven, in short, to nullify other teams’ or athletes’ hard work, their superior training and fastidious preparation, and – deserving or not – to hand us the gold!

Last week, Nigeria’s men’s basketball team at the Olympics seemed to take only prayers to the court in a match against the star-studded US team. At the end of regulation, the outcome was the equivalent of a bloodless massacre. The US team scored 156 points to Nigeria’s 73. The margin of victory – 83 points – was the largest in Olympic basketball history. It was a manhandling; it was as devastating, as thoroughly humiliating an outing as any country has ever had at the Olympics.

Nobody who knows anything about basketball expected the game to be close, much less that Nigeria would eke out a win. But it was altogether within the realm of possibility for the Nigerian team to lose by no more than forty points. To concede a whopping 83 points bespoke an attitude of surrender. As a friend of mine quipped, the Nigerian players should simply have refused to play, instead indicating that they showed up merely to collect autographs from such US star players as Lebron James and Carmelo Anthony.

The US basketball players got the credit for making heroic history; their Nigerian opponents picked up the discredit for dubious history. One Nigerian player – acknowledging the historic scale of their loss – spoke as if it was an achievement to witness that history.

Yet, it’s unjust to put all blame on the players. Their coach said they were ravaged by injuries and had had little training. That’s not the players’ fault; that’s the fault of a country that permits its public officials to steal every naira, dollar and pound sterling in sight and out of sight.

Two days after raining on Nigeria, the US team came within six minutes of losing to Lithuania. The Lithuanian side demonstrated what’s possible when overmatched (but well-trained) players decide to play with grit, with tenacity, determination and pride.

My hunch is that the main difference between Lithuania’s basketball players and Nigeria’s can be found in the quality of leaders in their respective countries. Nigerian leaders – as President Goodluck Jonathan made bold to tell us recently – don’t give a damn. What Mr. Jonathan knows, but didn’t say in so many words, is that Nigerian leaders give a damn for one sport and one sport only: the corner-cutting rat race to accumulate riches. If greed, indolence and false piety were Olympic events, Nigerians would contend for many, many gold medals.

As at this writing, Kazakhstan, a nation of only 15 million people, had won five medals – all gold, four in weightlifting alone. Anybody who looks at Kazakhstan’s medal haul can deduce that here’s a country that takes weightlifting seriously.

By contrast, Nigeria takes no department of sports seriously. Forget sports, Nigeria takes no sector of development seriously. The luckless populace of Nigerians is not even treated as if they were human.

Nigeria’s president, governors, legislators and local government councilors are some of the most obscenely paid in the world. And this doesn’t count the illicit haul they embezzle day after day. Each month, each of Nigeria’s thirty six governors collects enough cash (in salaries, allowances and the scam called security vote) to pay President Barack Obama’s annual salary seven or more times over. Each month! And yet, the Nigerian president, most of the country’s governors, and virtually all its legislators are certified mediocrities. If they entered a contest for stellar leadership, they’d all be laughed out of the competition, treated as the contemptible jokers they are.

Nigerian officials don’t understand the first thing about leadership. They speak about delivering the dividends of democracy, but the only dividends ever delivered are to their fraudulent bank accounts. They wax about moving their states (or local government area or nation) forward, but fail to specify they mean forward into the deep, jagged precipice. They have no clue how to solve the most basic of problems – and so, with predictable folly, they invoke God.

Let’s take Plateau State. Thousands of residents there have either perished or being displaced by incessant acts of sectarian violence. Yet, the state governor, Jonah Jang, has no ideas how to stem the bloodbath. So what does he do? Last week, he told besieged residents that God had revealed to him that the state’s deadly crisis was ‘‘because of their sins.’’ One newspaper reported that Governor Jang disclosed that he had received “a revelation from God that what has befallen the state was ‘the wrath of God over their sins.’”

And the governor, a former military officer, had a “God-given” solution handy. “I want to call on the youths to stop engaging in drinking alcohol. You should form vigilante groups to climb the rocks and hills to protect women and children in the area from being attacked.” Mr. Jang forgot to add that God summoned him, as He did Moses, atop Mount Horeb to hand him a tablet with the divine decree.

Going by Governor Jang’s bizarre theology, God never gets angry with those who mindlessly loot public funds. But let some young men drink a beer or two, and God flies into a deadly rage. In any annals of true leaders, Mr. Jang’s stipulations would invite nothing but derision. The scandal is that Governor Jang’s nonsensical treatise is the rule, not the exception. Is it any wonder that we fail at tasks that demand mental or physical rigor and preparation?

Please follow me on twitter @ okeyndibe

34 comment(s)
Post a comment

Fire brigade preparations and

Fire brigade preparations and indeed lack of training infrasructure will never gave us medals. Until we curb corruption we will never make any progress.

Nigeria Will Win Gold Medals at London Olympics

Okey Ndibe you are too pessimistic. I doubt if you are a patriotic Nigerian. Nigeria will win Gold Medals in the on-going London 2012 Olympics when our games of specialization starts. The Olympic games are not over yet. Just wait and see. When the following games start no country or athelets can rival the Nigerian contingent, We will win Gold Medals in: 1) Corruption 2) Embezzelment 3) Tribalism 4)Democrazy 5)Bigotry 6)Kleptocracy 7)Mumuism 8) Follow Follow 9)Religous Extremism 10)Bribery 11) Sexual Harrassmemt 12) 419ism 13) Oil Spillage 14)Vandalism 15) Barbarism

I am not a pessimist like Okey Ndibe. Nigeria will win at least 15 Gold Medals if/when these games in which Nigeria have a comparative advantage are played in the Olympics. No country can compete with us.


I agree totally with the author of this piece. The athletes have had nothing in terms of support or funding for the Olympics. Training grants have been minimal, if given at all. The theft of thousands if not millions has meant that the athletes do not get the same kind of training, medical support and general living expenses which other countries give in order to produce the very best athletes. If Nigeria want medals then they had better start putting in to their athletes what they expect back. Start now for 2016! This greedy, fraudulent thieves need to be exposed. Its the athletes I feel for, they work so hard, for nothing. Wake up Nigeria!

Right said!

Right said!

Hey Ekpomacultist, you got it all wrong, big time

“I have been monitoring this site with gret interest and have come to the manifestly glaring conclusion that it is owned by hungry journalists intent on some devilish and despicable act. God will expose u soon
I therefore use this medium to call on the Police, Millitary intelligence, SSS, NCDC, NSA and minister of defence to investigate the owners of this establishment, they aRe working with BokoHaram to instigate and foist anarchy... Pls be warned”
Hey Ekpomacultist, you got it all wrong, big time. The first person that sss and the police should arrest is a cultist named Ekpomacultist; not Okey and SR that are doing their civic duty of talking to real Nigerians. You said that you are a cultist and you want somebody other than you to be arrested? What an idiot. You are nothing but a coward with only key board courage alright.





Okey the bald-head Will you shut up??

It is obvious that this author is a hired goon, hired by frustrated and expired politicians. Before u begin to castigate this great country ask yourself hw many of your family members hav ever contested in olympics, not to talk of winning medals??

I have been monitoring this site with gret interest and have come to the manifestly glaring conclusion that it is owned by hungry journalists intent on some devilish and despicable act. God will expose u soon

I therefore use this medium to call on the Police, Millitary intelligence, SSS, NCDC, NSA and minister of defence to investigate the owners of this establishment, they aRe working with BokoHaram to instigate and foist anarchy... Pls be warned

Okey calm down

This writer is obviously a hired goon, hired by frustrated and expired thugs cum politicians.... Hell, this site has gained widespread notoriety for being a conglomeration of hungry journalists intent on tarnishing the image of this great country. Be careful

They say 'God is in Control'

Jona is voted in but each time he tells us it is only 'when God wishes'. What a way to actually insult God. Can you imagine how you will feel if you have provided someone all he requires to get on with his life, like Nig has been but every time accuses you of not blessing or assisting him?? that is what these fools do to God. I think the biggest problem Nigeria has is religion. It has become an excuse to wallop in stupor and mediocrity. They went to the Olympics to pray that God probably breaks other athletes legs so that Nigeria will win. Only Nigerians will think that god would be corrupt to do so. !! No other country can think that way except lower than humans - monkeys. IDIOTS.

DNA test on late gani indicates dat mohamed is not his son

gani blood cannot talk dat way. we doubt if he is a 2tru photocopy of gani d legend. GEJ ve gani blood in him. how did u think he will be intimidated in dat way.just bcos gej is like honey and bee to foreign investors. and dir fear is simply. so u want to take advantage of our lapses by building projects here and dir. so dat nigerians will conderm past leaders from the north. over dir dead body will dey allow it. what a heavy envy. but baba GOd pass dem! as 4 gani son , pls check whether if u can fit in2 dat shoe. it appear to me dat gani shoe is so big 4u. injustic to one is injustic to all.

Let hear about those sins first b/4 we go lady gaga on Gov.Jang

How about asking Gov. Jang to tell us what those sins are before we go lady gaga on him. Sin we all know is evil, bad stuff that we did to our fellow humans. When you accept / recognize your sins and confess about them, only then will reconciliation be possible. Let hear about those sins first.

For me, all politicians are worthless. Some less than others but make no mistake they are all scumbags. Pick your own poison; I know I will pick mine. Gov.Jang I pick you for having the balls to stand up against the hausa-fulanis trouble makers.

Typical Nigerian leader

If, according to the Plateau State governor, the sins of the people of the state result in the long-running sectarian unrests there, does it mean the states where order reigns are populated by sinless people? Or the less sinful?

People in the governor's audience should have felt enough outrage to walk out on him. Where was the angry mob? That governor, ditto most of his counterparts in the other states, is so undeserving of respect. With folks like him at the helm, Nigeria is light-years away from true progress.

Re: Olympics and the Mirror of Nigeria

IBB, the evil genius, came and poisoned our water. Since then, we've all been falling sick. Nigeria is like a home that has been run since by a wayward and irresponsible father. It wouldn't matter how talented the children from the home are, the chances of they living a successful life would be quite slim.

Great work!!

Mr Okey Ndibe, you wrote exactly what I have in my mind. Millions of people have read this but very few of us may comment as I just did. Please, keep writing. We have failed as a country and it's very unfortunate. As for Jonathan, I don't know where he's going. I have never seen a president as confused and as clueless as Jonathan. In fact, I have given up on Nigeria. Imagin not paying my mother's pension for 1 year now. How do they want her to survive? If she dies, the first thing will be ''God gives and God taketh'' meanwhile God gave but the Nigerian Government took. I have given up!!!! I'm out of Nigeria for good. I refuse to be used as a sacrifice by those who will eat the sacrificial meat.

Okey, 'Nigerians' are doing

Okey, 'Nigerians' are doing well in the Olympics although Nigeria is not in the medals table. If in doubt, look at the British, Canadian, Norwagian etc contingents and see ibo sounding names. Let me also tell you something, Nigeria cannot do well with the kind of leaders we have. They have no time for planning and early preparation. They instead prefer to plan and manipulate things for 2015.

Like leaders like ppl

Every leader is derived frm its kind of people. Jang is a product of a mentally depraved people, just like GEJ-a product of a religious and ethnically blinded clime

Crazy Leaders and their Funny Prescriptions...

Prof! you no go kill me with lafta...That Jang of a guy must be joking or something. So, when has drinking a beer or two become such a heinous crime or sin that his god will so easily fly into a rage? Crazy leaders!

Nigeria, as manufactured

Prof, the truth is that Nigeria we are reaping today is the Nigeria sown by the "creators" of Nigeria, that is, the colonists.

Permit me to quote you:
"We’ve become a people allergic to planning, averse to preparation, and deeply hostile to excellence.
….. Nigeria’s ungolden showing is a mirror of a broader malaise, a parable of a nation that’s wedded to failure.
…… If greed, indolence and false piety were Olympic events, Nigerians would contend for many, many gold medals".

These are sad truths! And they are the products of our political history!

Nice one

Okey. You too much o. Nice one bro





We have Medals

Nigerian contingent at the Olympic are the highest collector of medals within the African continent. I did not buy your idea that we failed @ London 2012. The Idowus, Adeoyes, Ogogos, Okoyes,Ohuruogus all did Us proud by wining for their father's land, since we are still a colony of British

Given up on nigeria

Thank you, once upon a time i and other citizens of nigeria exiled in different parts of the world thought it wise to listen to the call to come home and develop our country. I brought my children too, to be grounded in my culture, but alas what i see is a culture of showing off, rudeness,pretense,worthless and irresponsible leadership. I cannot raise my children in this environment. while other nations in the world are moving ahead, we are deep into social malaise and life that has no purpose. I have had enough, i will be on the next flight out of this sinful country where values has no place, i wonder where all the people who go to all churches lined up on every street disappear to after service, cause nobody lives the life of a xtian. Its unfortunate that i was born in this devilish country, at least i will not let my children be infected with nigerian attitude.

Jang is not the first.

The clueless plateau governor is only emulating his boss: the even more clueless GEJ. It was at a certain gathering a couple of months back that the fool of a president told a bewildered nation that the security problems of the country required god's intervention!

So this is nothing new. These are the kind of leaders our wonder pastors in church tell us to vote for. They told us a vote for GEJ was a vote for jesus. Too bad. I feel sorry for 9jas christian congregation! Today they are the victims of their electoral choices, while your greedy pastors walk home with millions!

Nigeria we hail thee

Hopefully corruption would soon become a competitive event at the Olympics. Nigeria will capture the gold medal.What a country!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

There must be no Military Coup.

Prof. Ndibe, thank you for this. Nigeria is at the cusp of a revolution. I can feel it in the air. This is Russia pre-1917; China pre-1949; United States pre -1776; France pre - 1789; India pre-1947; Cuba pre-1959. The military should stay away and watch as the people of Nigeria take their destinies into their own hands. It's coming Prof. It's coming. Just watch.

It took a dictator to whip Nigerians to Olympic Soccer Gold...

Abi no bi so? For a change, I will give Okey kudos for his observation on the lackadaisical attitude of Naijans to winning, unless they stumble into it. However, Okey missed a more ignominious fact that even the announcer at the London Olympic opening ceremony simply announced "this in Nigeria" and promptly moved on to heap accolades at other nations of lesser repute, oblivious to the fact that Nigeria beat Brazil and Argentina to win the 1996 Olympic Soccer Gold. I wonder what caused that aberration of victory – perhaps the stars were perfectly aligned for this “miracle” to happen, the same “miracle” that caused Abacha and Abiola to cancel each other out exactly a month of each other (June 8th and July 7th). Whereas, lazy Nigerians would prefer to beat their sallow chest feigning that their agitation caused their 1998 fortune. Moreover, these bunch of sissies are fond of saying “God save us…” yet couldn’t recognize a Messiah they threw out with the bath water.

let us split-blame our failure at d olympic on GEJ again animals

Chine starts to train her youths for the olympic at the age of 6-@ that age we are preparing to give our girls away in marriage in zamfara state--somewhere in the North-or send them to go sell Kosey-In the south, its often (u no see wetin yr mates dey go do for night at presidential hotel?-Selections are based on the zone u hail from!-there is nothing like national sports competitions-we are more into sponsoring boko haram-and telling GEJ to go attack Ogoni -than erecting schools in the states that bakare hail from-in ogun state- The bakares want regime change-or the murder of jonathan-killed like abiola-cause we dont care--as far as we are concerned boko haram can murder any number of 9jas- cause its a clueless ijaw man who is in power in aso rock


If properly investigated, you will be suprised to know that Nigeria olympic committe would have spent more than America for instance, in their preparation and on the official contigents to the olympics. A deputy governor of one of the poorest states in south west Nigeria has to relocate to London to watch the olympics fully paid for by the state.


As someone who played competetive basket-ball in school,it was easy to see that our players were not mentally prepared for such a game,they came with the notion that they were gonna loose the game.The timidity in repeating the same mistakes over and over again pieced me off.Our team scored some brilliant 3 pointers but would be so content that the Americans would cancel it instantly with a fast break while they were busy parting themslves on the back.
The zeal was not there but I did not blame them because I know the kind of hap-hazard arrangements and preparation they must have been subjected to.At 6ft3inc,I was the shortest in my team but our jaycee was too short for me and my cousin sent me basket-ball trainers from the USA because we had to buy it ourselves.

Post a comment

The content of this field is kept private and will not be shown publicly.
Comments are limited to a maximum of 1000 characters.
  • Allowed HTML tags: <a> <em> <p> <strong> <cite> <code> <ul> <ol> <li> <dl> <dt> <dd>
  • Lines and paragraphs break automatically.
  • Web page addresses and e-mail addresses turn into links automatically.

More information about formatting options

This question is for testing whether you are a human visitor and to prevent automated spam submissions.