Mojisola Kuye is an older lady who is continuing her studies at a college I work for. She is very pleasant to talk to and very humble. While talking to her as a fellow Nigerian, she made it known to me that she has been representing Nigeria since the age of 8 in the sports of table tennis. In 1975, she was one of those that represented Nigeria in a table tennis tournament in Senegal. Team Nigeria won the gold medal, but they got no compensation for it. In the 1978 All-Africa Games in Algiers, her team won 11 gold medals out of 13, but got nothing, not even a scholarship for their studies. In the same All-Africa Games, Nigerian soccer team lost 1-0 to Algeria in the finals, and the team members were rewarded with vehicles.
She also claimed that officials used to pay them $6 a day whenever they went for tournaments or practiced outside Nigeria, but if they were training or competing inside Nigeria, they got absolutely nothing. What a shame on Nigeria sports administrators!!!! This was even a time when Nigeria was supposed to be good. So we have been appointing thieves into offices even before Babangida came into office. Where did they think the motivation will come from for the athletes to genuinely represent their country? Are workers productive when they get little or no pay?
The other Nigerian stars who were members of Nigeria’s table tennis team were the great Atanda Musa, Olawunmi Majekodunmi, Kasali Lasisi, Cecilia Arinye, Yisa Aiyesoro, Kuburat Owolabi, and a few others. She even knew Stephen Keshi and the late Atuegbu on a face-to-face basis while they were representing Nigeria in their 1970s. Out of frustration for being used for her talent with little or no pay, she broken her table tennis paddle in Nigeria and left for the United States. In the USA, she got herself into college and represented Washington University in St. Louis, Missouri as the number female table tennis player in the institution. She got herself through college with a degree in Criminal Justice and received stipend from her university, which was more than the $6 per day the whole “civilized” nation of Nigeria had ever given her. In 1982-1984, she was the Singles Women Champion in the state of Missouri and she later moved to New York in 1986 and played in local tournaments there.
In 2000, she moved to Atlanta and joined the Ben Hill Table Tennis Club, where she trained under Coach Ralph Presley. She went on to play in and win numerous championships such as the Georgia Games, Spin Mania, US Teams Trials, United States National Championships, and American Teams Championships. She has been the female champion since 2001 and even beat the Chinese representatives.
I would like to use this opportunity to remind Nigerians and our sports officials that being a minister and the head of a department is not just a title, but a responsibility. Your salary and your benefit come last in the budget and payment, after all projects have being financed or their money set aside. The purpose of an office or having a budget is to create projects that generate income to the ministry or department. Before you get your salary or even award it, budget for the athletes, in terms of salaries, bonuses, trainings, equipments, travels, and championships have to be set aside. This is what is important to the ministry, department, and Nigeria at large, not your salary and the “Ghana-must-go” bags that carry 10 times your salary. This is important because when the athletes are happy, lack nothing, and are well trained, the world will notice it in their performance at the World Cups, Olympics, World Games, and other events. It is when we perform well and win that the real money starts pouring in through endorsement and the human association with winning.
Do you know how much Brazil, Germany, Spain, and England makes from football or soccer each year? I am sure each country makes more than Nigeria’s oil through soccer. This is because their athletes are victorious and are well prepared at all times even when things go wrong. When they fail to win or qualify, peoples from other nations even cry more than their citizens. The citizens of the world buy their jerseys, shoes, products with their endorsement more that the citizens of their countries. Wealth is fixed in quantity, but constantly in motion. You are either gaining it or losing it. It waits for no one. Through time, Nigeria is losing it. Nigeria needs to use our athletes and our talents to cater to the world’s needs. As long as Nigeria produces what the world (even just West Africa) needs and must pay for, it will be turning wealth towards our direction. We must invest in our sports. This is what the communist countries like China, Cuba, and Russian feeds upon. It is used as a marketing tool to promote the success of their country and turning the favor of goodwill towards themselves in the eyes of the global community. What are the world’s 3 biggest and major events? They are the World Cup, the Olympics, and the African Nations Cup. Oil is nothing, compared to the billions that these 3 events generate for nations. If Nigeria can invest in its citizens to be regular champions in these events and open shops in every city selling Nigerian made jerseys and sports equipments, the sky will be the limit year after year.
Will Nigerian sports administrators be able to do this? Yes, but they must first make sure that their fax machines are working in order to receive notification from Sport bodies. This will prevent them from missing a deadline to nominate Okacha or another Nigerian player for African player of the year next time. We need people who are proud of their degree in sports management with global experience to run our sports, instead of Alhaji, chief, or general. Mojisola Kuye and others should be the administrators or coaches by now in Nigeria. With all their efforts, their services, and experiences, I expect the Ministry of Sports in Nigeria to search and scout for their past heroes and install them in the places of prominence they deserve. They have served their country as players and the Nigeria must serve them by allowing them to used their experiences and qualifications to better the image and economic conditions of our nation.