In all spheres of human endeavours, no one can draw a flawless list based of evaluation of a group of people over a period of time. In politics, sports, business or any other area, the situation is the same.
However, we are aware there could be biases and favouritism by those in charge of drawing the list of those evaluating it after it must have been made public. And so, like every list, the 60 Sports Icons’ list drawn by the ministry of sports to mark the country’s 60th Independence was released recently, but there were clear omissions and surprise inclusion of some names in the list. While we commend the brilliant initiative by the ministry, many stakeholders were shocked when the names were rolled out.
Two silver medallist at the Atlanta Olympic Games, Ruth Ogbeifo and Gloria Alozie, were omitted. Ruth could have won the gold but for an injury she was treating before the games. She lifted 245kg same as Colombia’s Maria Urrutia who won the gold medal, but she settled for silver because of her lower body weight. Alozie almost didn’t compete in Sydney after her fiancée Hyginus Anugo died in a car accident shortly before the games in Sydney. She won a silver in tears courtesy of her bravery at the 1999 World Championships.
The two ladies deserve a place on the list. Ruth, in a reaction said: “In weightlifting, my record as the first Africa and Commonwealth woman to have won an Olympic ‘Golden silver’ medal for Nigeria was not recognised and it is unbelievable. Recognition is being recycled and not on sports merit.” We recall Joseph Yobo was captain of the Super Eagles for over a decade and he won over 100 caps for the national team, but was not honoured as well as Victor Ikpeba who won African Footballer of the Year award in 1997.
Late Shaibu Amodu, who on three occasions qualified Nigeria for the World Cup and also won continental tittle with the BBC Lions, was not recognized. He was the most successful indigenous coach of his era and it was not a surprise he had five spells with the senior national team. With due respect, Garba Lawal was a dutiful ex-international but how his name made that list with Yobo, Ikpeba out remain a mystery. Also Israel Adesanya was on the list, but Anthony Joshua was snubbed. It is either they are both excluded or included. Daniel Igali also won Olympic gold and many global honours for Canada as Nigerian-born and he was not listed.
We make bold to say the most ridiculous aspect of the sports icons list was inclusion of Aliko Dangote and Kessington Adebutu apparently because of their readiness to revive two of the national stadia in the country.
We commend their gestures especially the plan to revive two stadia, but we insist their efforts are not enough for them to be on sports icons’ list when notable names like Raheem Adejumo, Abraham Ordia, Raheem Adejumo, Remi Osho, Emeka Omeruah, Rafiu Ladipo, Lekan Salami, Samuel Ogbemudia, Sunday Dankaro and Awoture Eleyae were not listed. Globacom Chairman Mike Adenuga played a good role to boost the domestic football league and Africa Footballer of the year award and he did not make the list as well.
On the other hand, we again commend Minister of Sports Sunday Dare and his team for deeming it fit to honour some sports icons especially since we are not used to appreciating our heroes not only in sports but in other spheres in Nigeria.
As expected, the country’s first and only individual Olympic Games medallist, Chioma Ajunwa, was top on the list which also had prominent and deserving names like Chika Chukwumerijie, Falilat Ogunkoya, late Sam Okwaraji, Nwankwo Kanu, Austin Okocha, late Chief MKO Abiola, Emmanuel Amuneke, Jighere Wellington, Hogan Bassey, Dick Tiger, Nduka Odizor, Earnest Okonkwo, Larry Izamoje, Soji Fasuba, Odunayo Adekuoroye, Segun Odegbami, Samuel Peter, Olumide Oyedeji, Muda Lawal, Rashidi Yekini, Stephen Keshi and Modupe Osikoya.
These are some of those on the list that one cannot fault their inclusion. They won their places on merit especially Ajunwa, who remains the only individual Olympic gold medallist for Nigeria.
The decision to make it a closed sports award was the biggest mistake of the ministry. If about 30 were honoured and it is stated that the icons award will be a yearly event, others omitted will have hope for next year. The way it is, the omissions revealed a big hole in the job done especially because some persons are not supposed to be on the list in the first place. We charge the ministry of sports to look into various ways of making amends.
The way forward is to gather more data on the holes pointed out by various stakeholders after the list was released. There should be a fresh plan to stage the awards annually because more names will always come up. Those who have done well and the current ones still doing well in sports should have something to look up to every year.