Buhari 7 years: How Nigeria fared in sports
By OVIRI KELVIN, Sports Editor, Abuja
Sports is indeed one of the factors keeping the multi-ethnic nation Nigeria unified. This was inarguably proven in the recently Qatar 2022 World Cup playoff at the Moshood Abiola National Stadium where Nigerians trooped out en masse to speak one language in support of the Super Eagles against the Black Stars of Ghana.
Nigerians love sports, this ranges from basketball, football, athletics, gymnastics, scrabble, aquatics to hockey, tennis, badminton, squash etcetera. But how have we fared since President Muhammadu Buhari took over power 7 years ago?
Taking a delve into two major areas of sports, football and athletics, The Trumpet takes a look at the impact of President Buhari’s administration’s contributions and failures towards the development of sports and the honours won.
Nigeria U17 national team – Green Eagles
A few months after President Buhari came into power on May 28, 2015, the Nigeria U17 team, Green Eagles, won the sixteenth edition of the FIFA U17 World Cup on November 8, 2015, in Chile, having won it previously in 2013.
Despite Nigeria being the most successful country in this biennial international football event with a record of 5 golden trophies, it is yet to replicate the same level of success after two editions were held in 2017 and 2019 in India and Brazil respectively.
Nigeria U20 national team – Flying Eagles
The Flying Eagles last made their mark as runner-up on the world stage, 17 years ago, at the U20 FIFA World Cup in the Netherlands in 2005. In the competition that is biannually organised, the Flying Eagles are yet to make themselves a force to reckon with on the world stage.
Since Buhari came into power, FIFA has organised three consecutive U20 World Cups; in 2015, 2017, and 2019 without the Flying Eagles clinching the world stage. More so, the Nigeria U20 national team known to be the most successful in the continent as a 7th-time champion of the U20 Africa Cup of Nations, last won the tournament in March 2015, two months before Buhari came to power on May 29, 2015.
Following this, the Flying Eagles have struggled to come to the limelight in Buhari’s seven years reign and only succeeded to emerge fourth in the 2019 edition held in the Niger Republic after they were defeated by South Africa on penalties. However, the only success the team recorded in this present administration is succeeding as the 2018 runner-up in the first edition of the WAFU Zone B U-20 Championship held in Togo.
The Nigeria Senior Team – Super Eagles
The Super Eagles have continued to find their feet on the continental and international stage after it won the 2013 Afcon title two years before Buhari came on board. Within Buhari’s 7 years of reign, the team has only managed to secure third place in the 2019 Afcon tournament in Egypt.
Recently, having recorded maximum points in the group stage of the 2021 Afcon tournament in Cameroon, the Super Eagles crashed out in the round of 16 to Tunisia in Garoua. Also, in Goodluck Jonathan’s administration, the Nigeria senior men’s team ended third place in the 2010 Afcon event and progressed to win it in 2013.
However, it has not been so in this present seven years old administration. The team has been very inconsistent and could not capitalise on its 2019 third place feat, as they did in Jonathan’s administration, to upset the Afcon 2021 tournament in Cameroon. Most disappointing was the team’s recent crashing out of the world cup event slated to take place in Qatar by November despite the massive support it got from Nigerians, at home, and in the diaspora.
That singular game at the Moshood Abiola National Stadium against Ghana exposed the Super Eagles’ lack of in-depth quality. With a great decline in the successes recorded by the previous administration with the Super Eagles in the world of football, reaching the round of 16 in Bazil 2014 FIFA World Cup, winning the Afcon title in 2013, and winning the WAFU Nations Cup in 2010, this present administration had only succeeded with the Super Eagles as runner-up in the 2018 African Nations Championship.
Nigeria U17 female team – Flamingoes
The Flamingoes have been a dominant team on the continental stage in previous administration where they won, on four consecutive occasions, the Africa women U17 Cup of Nations in 2008, 2010, 2012, and 2013.
One year after Buhari’s administration came on board, the U17 female national team won the next event in 2016 but six years after then, the team has not been able to replicate the same feat that sustained them to the quarterfinals of the FIFA U-17 Women’s World Cup in 2010, 2012 and 2014.
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Nigeria U20 female team – Falconets
The Nigeria U20 female team first appeared on the world stage in FIFA U-20 Women’s World Cup in 2002.
Falconets as they are popularly called came as runner-up in 2010 and 2014 having been defeated by Germany on both occasions. However, in both Buhari’s dispensations, the team has not recorded any notable achievement on the continental or international football stage.
Nigeria senior woman’s team – Super Falcons
In this area, the seven years of the administration of Buhari have been able to sustain the success of the senior female football team in the continent.
The Super Falcons, after the previous administration, continued its dominance in Africa, winning the 2016 and 2018 Africa Women Cup of Nations consecutively.
Taking a close observance of the seven years reign of Buhari’s administration, it can be noticed that the administration has done poorly in this area of Nigeria sports as against what the previous administration recorded with these teams.
The athletics sport, outdoor and indoor, has been a buzzing sport in Buhari’s seven years administration. Ranging from track to field, Nigerians have made their marks on the international stage in athletics at different times.
The likes of Divine Oduduru, Edose Ibadin, Anthonio Hicks, Peter Moreno, Chukwuebuka Enekwechi, Enoch Adegoke, Ogho-Oghene Egwero, Emmanuel Arowolo, Jerry Jakpa, placed Nigeria on the spotlight in this seven years of Buhari’s administration. Also, Blessing Okagbare, Tobi Amusan, Ese Brume, Ruth Usoro, Chioma Onyekwere, and others have been very instrumental in recording successes right from Buhari’s takeover till date.
However, with the turn of events which is characteristic of sportsmen, over five cases of doping were recorded within this period with the most recent being that of Blessing Okagbare who has been banned for ten years until 2031.
Despite Buhari’s administration recording lesser cases of doping compared to cases recorded by athletes in the previous administration, it is pathetic the government showed little concern over the doping case of Blessing Okagbare, leaving the Olympic silver medalist to her fate. Invariably, in the areas of infrastructure, Buhari has shown greater commitment to giving a facelift to the decaying sports infrastructure in the country.
The Moshood Abiola National Stadium through the Public, Private, Partnership (PPP), the national edifice was renovated with some new standard facilities, like the digital scoreboard, lighting, and regrassing.
The administration aside from the Moshood Abiola National Stadium also appropriated taxpayers’ money to renovate the National Stadium Surulere so that our national teams can make use of both pitches alternatively.
Buhari’s government in its 7 years administration, restored key sports infrastructures that were left to rot for years, with the previous administration doing nothing tangible to walk the talk amid its bogus promises, one of such was in 2012.
In 2012, the Minister of Sports in President Goodluck Jonathan’s administration, Bolaji Abdullahi told Nigerians that the government has awarded a contract to construction giant Julius Berger to renovate the National Stadium. According to Abdullahi’s statement, “Of course, we have concluded arrangements with Julius Berger to bring alive the pitch of the main bowl and training grounds in January, after the holidays.
“If we can get the pitch fixed, the Super Eagles and other national teams will have a good ground to train. Nobody can say we do not have a field where they can play anymore.
“I think that by relocating my office to the stadium, it will breathe life back into the stadium to a reasonable extent. “If we can sensitize the Nigeria Football Federation on the facilities available here, they can also use it for the various national teams and not just for the Eagles,” he added.