Anthony Joshua’s emergence as the unified World Heavyweight Champion set the world on fire. Not only because of the uppercut which marked the end of an era for Wladimir Klitschko, that include though, but also the beginning of a new one for the young British Nigerian. And that phrase of a prefix before his name: “British Nigerian” became a bone of contention for everyone involved in this claim as to who Anthony Joshua really belongs to.
One of the top social media influencer Pa Ikhide claimed Anthony Joshua to be his kindred from Edo State, Mid-Western Nigeria. Never to be outdone, as every physical attribute Anthony Joshua can boast of illustrates my lineage, I proclaimed to everyone who cared to listen that Anthony Joshua is from Abiriba, my hometown in Abia State, South Eastern Nigeria. Trust my Yoruba friends did not fail to remind us all of his other names “Oluwafemi Olaseni” meaning he is a full fledged Yoruba.
But this is all the premise to an ever present problem for us. Shortly after he won the fight, news broke out about how Anthony Joshua was rejected by the Nigerian Boxing Federation. That was how we missed out on a potential world heavyweight champion who the world has confirmed now to be the next biggest thing to perhaps even the greatest Mohammed Ali, albeit hastily. But you cannot begrudge us the foray of excitements nah. Can you?
Concurrently, questions flowed:
how could we make such a grave mistake? Who allows such a massive potential to slip through their fingers?
Those chains of thought do not in any way interest me. We already know Nigeria allows such potentials get past us because we never think beyond the next National or International competition. We never worry about the crop of players or teams coming through the ranks for the next 5 or 10 years. We are always more interested in the already-made product who will conquer the world for us and that’s that.
So, my chain of questions are thus:
Did Nigeria do enough to show that we were interested in the services of those who chose other Nations instead of us? Did Nigeria appreciate their immense talents and/or tried to make them see us as the viable alternative, equal or perhaps even better than their adopted countries? Well, your answer is relative. This is because, a perfect platform for their talents to thrive depends on so many factors such as organisation within the respective bodies and ministries, transparency in operations, stability in leadership etc.
For instance, how do you convince a Bamidele “Dele” Ali that a Minister of Youth and Sports like Solomon Dalung wouldn’t be a joke, jeopardising his chances of winning, sorry, competing in a continental or global competition, with his incessant myopic utterances? Or with the off and on tussles going on in the NFF that Amaju Pinnick would be very effective in discharging his duties? How would you convince a David Alaba, multiple National and Continental champion with German Bundesliga giants, Bayern Munich, to stick with Nigeria while ignoring a promising, talented, tight team like the Austrian National team?
Just for emphasis, I scoured through the internet for hours, searching for the official website of the Nigerian Boxing Federation so as to know the current NBF president. I found none. In fact, what looks like the official Facebook page of NBF has just 144 followers!
A major eternal issue plaguing our mode of operation is foresight.
Those in positions of influence rarely have the foresight to see emerging talents, or even have the wherewithal to approach and blend them in a team that will be able to achieve well-defined objectives. Nigeria is so good at claiming finished products. Like we say in Nigeria, those in authority usually wait for someone to “Blow”, then the claim for affinity and urge for patriotism and serving father land becomes the topic for the day. I bet the news already got to you that Ogun State government plans to visit him in London to “honour him.” We are like that. Don’t be surprised when your social media time lines start getting bombarded with stories of those who want to trek to London to pay him courtesy visits. We are Nigerians. We are like that.
That though would be understandable and pardonable, but only if most Nations didn’t have to wait for such times, and would have already capped those emerging talents before the prefixes to their names such as: “Nigerian born British”, “British Nigerian”, “of Nigerian descent”, “Born to a Nigerian father and a ‘western’ (pick any western nation of your choice) mother” etc
In football alone, we have household names like Sidney Sam (Parent Club, Schalke 04 & Germany) Ross Barkley (Everton FC & England), Chinedum “Nedum” Onuoha (QPR & England), Ikechi Anya (Derby County & Scotland) , the aforementioned Dele Ali (Tottenham Spurs & England) to mention a few who dumped us for other nations. There are so many professional sportsmen and women in other categories of Sports who have traded places for their adopted nations of choice. Same goes for other areas of human interest: Politics, Health, Art, Sciences, Medicine, Engineering etc.
We keep losing our best brains as well as brawn to other nations.
When we do not monitor the progress of these young bloods; when we do not engage them in seeing how viable and better it will be to represent us; when we do not even know who they are until they are full-fledged internationals, it becomes a problem.
Would we have been better off with these stars in their respective fields representing us rather than their adopted nations?
Again, your answer is relative and if you were guessing, your guesses would be just as good as mine.
Until Nigeria starts capping these potentials at their earliest flirtations with greatness, let me manage my Abiriba Anthony Joshua for now joor.
Eleanya Ndukwe Jr.