It is no longer news that Nigeria's female national soccer team, the Super Falcons, are champions of women's football in Africa for the eight time. They achieved that feat in Cameroon barely two weeks ago, beating the host nation 1-0. What is however news is that rather than spoil the girls with gifts as has been the norm all these years with victorious Nigerian teams, the Federal Government of Muhammadu Buhari, not only failed to do that, but failed to pay the girls what can be termed their statutory allowances.
Allowances are what are given to athletes representing the country, either stage by stage or at the end of the competition. Such allowances are always discussed and known before such competitions by the payers and payees so that no arguments are made when they are due.
But in the case of the Super Falcons, the said allowances were neither paid during the competition, nor after. Thus, after doing their country proud against all odds, the girls came back to Nigeria with bitterness, disappointment and low morale despite cuddling the cup they had won eight out of the ten times the competition has been held in Africa.
To make matters worse and to exacerbate the already shameful situation, the girls refused to vacate their hotel at the expiration of their stay, insisting that they would only do that when they are paid.
The minister of sports, Mr Solomon Dalung, was reported to have said the Federal Government did not expect the girls to emerge victorious and so did not prepare towards that. It was a submission that went viral on the social media as many people saw it as the joke of the year. The minister would later deny making that statement and belatedly promised that the girls' allowances would be taken care of. The nation's president, Muhammadu Buhari, was at the press briefing by Dalung.
Although the sports minister has reacted to the news in circulation, not many Nigerians are sold on his denial. The glaring fact is that the government goofed in not taking care of the girls' bonuses/allowances. While it may have denied saying it did not expect the girls to win, it is clear it made no provision for them.
The date of the competition in question had always been known and so, no one should give any excuses for inadequate preparations. The failure of the Federal Government to perform their obligations towards the girls is nothing short of embarrassing. It just shows the government's disposition to sports which remains the only thing that unites the country.
This is not the first time the country would be so embarrassed. At the last Olympic Games, our U-23 men's team had their travel arrangements bungled, making them to arrive at the games a few hours to their first match against Japan. That action caused Nigeria to be a laughing stock around the world. It is under this same government and same minister that this happened. Now it has happened again.
The question then becomes, 'How long will the country be subjected to shame?' When will those saddled with the responsibility of managing our sports learn from their numerous mistakes? Indications sadly show that the end is nowhere in sight.
Wile it may be convenient to call for the minister's sack, it may turn out that the Federal Government is frustrating the minister's efforts, being that Buhari is not known to like sports. In that case, no one expects the minister to blame his boss for the lapses except to carry the can.
We therefore call on the Federal Government to live up to its responsibility, not just in sports, but in other spheres of our national life. The spate of embarrassing actions and inactions is enough.