The news of Anthony Joshua’s latest successful title defence against Bulgaria’s Kubrat Pulev on the night of Saturday December 12, 2020 was sweet music in the ears of many Nigerians including President Muhamadu Buhari who did not waste any time in elatedly issuing an official statement to congratulate Anthony Joshua who is fastidiously ruling the world of boxing in the glory of Britain, the country that made him.
Buhari’s official statement to congratulate Joshua was more than an official message, it had some element of personal connectedness and pride embedded in it as well. After all, he (Buhari) had taken a liken in and established a personal connection with the British Boy of Nigeria’s descent when Anthony Olasheni Joshua visited him in Nigeria’s house in London some months ago to pay him obeisance in his capacity as the President of his grand parents’ country. During that visit, Buhari was awe-struck as Anthony Joshua prostrated flat on his chest as a well groomed Yoruba boy and laid all his laurels at the feet of the President of Nigeria. Buhari’s love and administration for the British World Heavyweight Champion has been growing ever since.
Beyond excitedly savouring Joshua’s victory and finding dissonance reduction for Nigeria’s loss only in Joshua’s habit of hoisting Nigeria’s flag in the ring during his fights even though the glory of his achievements are always painted in the colour of Britain, President Muhammadu Buhari should use the opportunity to ponder deeply on why the best of Nigeria must almost always get to a foreign land to flourish. The President, his people in charge of sports, and all the henchmen of various sports associations must never ever lose sight of the fact that Anthony Joshua is and forever will be described not as a Nigerian but as Britain’s WBA, IBF, and WBO heavyweight champion all through his career in Boxing. They should take inspiration from Joshua’s growing achievements and the fact that the system that produced him is governed by human beings like them to wake up from their slumber and lack of interest in dedication, true development and excellence.
It is common knowledge that if Anthony Joshua had been a product of Nigeria’s sport governance and development program, he would never have become a world champion in boxing. That Nigeria consistently lacks sports administrators who can birth excellence and produce greatness has gradually moved from the level of a bad culture to the height of a curse in the last few years. And it is rather very amusing that President Muhammadu Buhari who could spare time to watch Anthony Joshua’s fights, host him in a private meeting and celebrate him after every victory has no time to look sincerely into Nigeria’s decaying and dwindling fortunes in sports under his watch. As the lack of capacity and rot in our sports management continue, more and more Nigerian sports men and women are increasingly getting frustrated, depressed and searching for one way tickets to escape from the terrible and daily worsening death of opportunities in Nigeria’s sporting arena. Even many private investors in our sports industry are frustrated as well and nursing regrets for wasting their hard-earned resources in sports business in Nigeria.
The biggest cause of the problems with sports development in Nigeria is the lack of leadership in the sports sector.
Corruption is also daily sucking life out of what is left of our sports today. The problem has become so bad that Nigeria’s flying eagles could not even gain qualification out of the West African sub-regional tournament in the same weekend that Anthony Joshua earned the victory to prepare him for a historical bout against Tyson Fury. If care is not taken, similar fate may befall the golden eaglets soon. Nigeria’s super eagles’ recent performances show how bad the problems being swept under the carpet in Nigeria’s sports management are. The truth is that in almost all areas of sports in Nigeria, there is no meaningful or serious development plan. The coaches are groaning, the athletes are crying and the administrators are feasting and running the show as they like while Nigeria’s glory in sports is rapidly fading fast.
Nigeria has soared on the wings of luck and hunger of our young sports talents for success for far too long without doing the right things to truly promote sustainable sports development. That kind of system has killed dozens of Anthony Joshua’s who have no British or American connections. How can we ever compete well in Africa and the world when we don’t develop our sports and never prepare well for any tournament? Wherever they exist, our paltry sports infrastructures are hardly ever maintained well. Our sports talents are left frustrated and angry as they watch indiscipline, corruption, impunity and lack of patriotism from people in the top echelon of sports administration destroy their lives, livelihood and the glory of the nation they love so much.
As we celebrate yet another awesome performance by our home boy but foreign made and Britain’s envoy Anthony Olasheni Joshua, President Muhammadu Buhari must declare a state of emergency in Nigeria’s Sports sector and look for brilliant and passionate Nigerians to help rescue the only true source of joy and pride to many Nigerians before things get worse further.
Olanrewaju Osho is a development advocate, change architect, UN road safety advocate, author and international relations specialist. He was a senatorial candidate for FCT in the 2019 elections on the ticket of ANRP