By Afolabi Gambari

Who still remembers Seoul ’88 Olympics and the unprecedented and embarrassing jamboree it turned out to be. Nigeria won no single medal at the event. #Fact As if that wasn’t enough, there were more officials than athletes. As if that wasn’t still enough, the crowd of officials felt nothing of the no-medal show. They poured into the city of Seoul and shopped like the act was going out of fashion.

On the day that the Nigerian contingent were to depart Seoul airport onward Lagos, it became a huge embarrassment for Nigeria as excess luggages littered the tarmac. The Nigeria Airways pilot was reported to insist he would not get in the cockpit unless and until the officials shed their excess luggages. He actually insisted no official would enter into the Boeing aircraft until all the athletes took their seats, a situation that made some of the state officials threaten the pilot with sack upon his return to Lagos. All the while, the world press was feasting on the ugly scene at the Seoul airport.

In what proved to be outrageous, one state official who was said to be a farmer had bought some farm equipment and insisted on loading them into the aircraft against all aviation rules before he was stopped. Eventually, loads of luggages and heavy duty stuff had to be left behind in Seoul as their owners flew back home in the plane. The excess loads were to be brought back to Nigeria by ship in December 1998, some two months after the Olympics ended.

At the time, journalism was still journalism in Nigeria. Reporters of Tribune newspaper followed up the ship’s arrival at the Apapa port in Lagos to complete the story that began at the Seoul airport.

The then military government of Gen IB Babangida did not hold any one responsible for that show of shame in Seoul. It was however believed that the SAP riots and other crises that dominated 1989, particularly the unprecedented closure of six major universities over students’ protests, had hampered the government from probing the Olympic saga.

Why am I relaying all this that the Hausa call dogon turenci? Well, it is only to say that there is no rot that would happen in Nigeria’s sport today that has no precedent. It is just that we have obstinately refused to learn.

Therefore, let the Buhari government demonstrate its ‘Change’ mantra by seriously investigating the shame in Tokyo, especially the unprecedented protests by some Nigerian athletes on the streets of Tokyo which attracted negative reactions from around the world, with a view to using it to reset the course of Nigeria’s sports for good. If the government can’t, then it would be no different from the decadent past that it campaigned to refresh in 2015.


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