Can there ever be a thing as excessive reward for an excellent achievement? I am afraid there is. This is the scenario we are seeing with the way the Nigerian national team, the Super Eagles are being rewarded for their winning the African Cup of Nations 2013 in South Africa.
Don’t get me wrong, the Super Eagles have achieved a wonderful feat. After wandering in the wilderness for 19 years, Nigeria can now be said to be back in the reckoning at the level of senior football. Their achievement is even bigger when viewed from the perspective of the fact that very few Nigerians believed in them, and even during the competition, the Nigerian Football Federation gave up on the coach and the squad. They do deserve to be appreciated.
However, I am finding it uncomfortable that we prefer to give our teams rewards after they have won laurels and prizes despite the lack of providing the necessary that is needed to spur them on. We have issues of match bonuses not being paid, or travel arrangements not properly done, and numerous other hurdles thrown at them on the way to competitions. This makes it hard for our players to be motivated to play for country.
Now watching the showers of money rain on these players, currently standing at about N800 million from the Presidency, the Lagos State Government and other rich private individuals with many more surely on the way, besides the plots of land and national honors given them by the Presidency, I can daresay it bothers on the hypocritical. Why don’t we start from honoring contracts to coaches and players before the tournaments and motivating them to give in their best rather than turn around to treat them like the proverbial geese that lay golden eggs only when they have won trophies? For the year and half that Stephen Keshi has been the coach of the team, his official car and house as due to him in his contract was never given. Yet, if he had not performed, we would have cried for his head. Why not start with fulfilling contracts?
Even worse, the act of populism of rushing to make it rain on the team says a lot about our priorities and how we create success. It seems we are way more interested in rewarding success than rewarding and encouraging initiatives that lead to success. A quarter of these sums would do more if they went to creating youth development programs in sports, so that tomorrow, we would be spoilt for choices of whom to pick for the national team. Nigeria does not lack in potential Emenikes and Victor Moses and Ahmed Musas. However, we do not have programs and schemes that will identify these diamonds in the rough and polish them.
We could have as well pushed these monies to improving our national league, as in my opinion, desiring to have a strong national team without having a strong league could be counter-productive. We cannot keep depending on Europe to pick our players when they are already approaching their peak and attempt to improve their skills; neither can we keep roaming European leagues for foreign-born Nigerian players whose sense of patriotism is very weak as they have no emotional connections to the motherland. The Nigerian Premier League, for instance, was without a sponsor for two years until January 2011. This shows how underdeveloped the league is. A little of these amounts in that direction and the direction of the individual clubs would do massive wonders in raising the quality of the league.
Lastly, it is seemingly obvious that the three activities that get the most rewards from governments and the private sector are sports, entertainment and, you might find it weird, militancy (amnesty program). In between, there are no programs or schemes to encourage true learning in science, technology and innovation. Inadvertently, we are telling young people that these are the ventures most worthwhile doing to make themselves bucket loads of money. This is not to forget politics, which has always been a cash cow in this country.
Inasmuch as I am very proud to have my country win the AFCON 2013, we have also gone a bit overboard with the way we are rewarding this success.