President Muhammadu Buhari has been reelected for a second term and there is no doubt that he would reshuffle his cabinet. Although all his ministers remained in office throughout his first term, his second term doesn’t seem like it would follow the same trend.
It, therefore, is not out of place to see these ministers blowing their horns. One of such ministers is Barrister Solomon Dalung, Nigeria’s Minister for Youths and Sports Development.
Speaking in Benin at a meeting of the National Council on Sports, the Plateau-born politician claimed that Nigeria, in various sports competition, has picked “over 700 medals”. In his exact words:
“In the past three years I took over as the sports administrator of the country, Nigeria has been able to win over 700 medals in various sporting competitions that we participated in, and this is quite historic.”
Perhaps to give his statement a wider coverage, the Minister, whose trademark dressing of Kahki and red cap has been said to be in support of revolutionists Che Guevera and Thomas Sankara of Burkina Faso, took to his Facebook page to further profess this message.
VERIFICATION OF CLAIM:
To verify the claim, we contacted the Minister of Sports but though he acknowledged our request, his promise to “revert back accordingly please” has not been fulfilled till date. Several other reminders sent to him were not acknowledged nor replied as well.
We are also limiting the scope of this check to Mr Dalung’s three full years in service as he became the Minister in November 2015.
YEAR-BY-YEAR MEDAL DATA UNAVAILABLE
The year-by-year medal mark reached by Nigeria is not available in the public domain. So, we analysed the ‘international’ sporting events that ‘Nigeria’ has participated in within the time frame (November 2015 – March 2019). [We chose to assess international events because the Minister used the word “Nigeria” which implies that the athletes must have competed with other countries in a sports competition.]
Sports analyst, Olawale Adigun of Top Radio, a Lagos-based radio station, also agreed that record keeping on sports is not top notch in Nigeria. In spite of this poor record keeping, he was of the opinion that “the Minister’s claim of 700 medals in the last three years is preposterous and atrocious”.
SO, HOW DID NIGERIA FARE IN SPORTS IN 2016?
In 2016, Nigeria participated in the Summer Olympics, the world’s biggest sporting competition. In that year, Nigeria ranked 78th amongst the countries that participated in the competition. Fortunately, Nigeria got one medal, a bronze medal, through the men’s U–23 football team (called Dream Team IV).
In the summer Paralympics, Nigeria fared better than it did in the summer Olympics [Paralympics is the Olympics for persons with disability, and it is always staged after the Olympics]. With 8 gold, 2 silver and 2 bronze medals, the Nigerian athletes at the competition won a total of 12 medals.
The same year, during the African Championships in Athletics held in Durban, South Africa, Nigeria won 16 medals — 4 gold, 5 silver and 7 bronze medals.
By this, in the competitions of note, Nigeria won a total of 29 medals.
WHAT ABOUT MEDALS IN 2017?
Nigeria’s “para team” continued from where they stopped in 2016 by keeping the nation’s flag flying at the 2017 World Para Powerlifting Championship in Mexico. They finished second behind China with 10 medals (4 by men, 6 by women). They amassed 5 gold, 3 silver and 2 bronze medals.
Nigeria’s contingent at the 2017 London World Athletics Championships did not replicate the feat of the Paralympians as they returned home with only one medal, won by the men’s team.
As though making up for failing to win a medal for themselves at the IAAF Championships, the nation’s female team won the 2 bronze medals (in the women’s single and women’s double categories) that Nigeria won at the 2017 African Badminton Championships in Benoni, South Africa.
In August 2017, D’Tigress, Nigeria’s women basketball team, won gold in the Women AfroBasket Championship held in Mali.
Barely a month later, the men’s basketball team, D’Tiger, fell to Tunisia in the final of the Men’s Afro Basketball Championship co-hosted by Tunisia and Senegal. They, however, were compensated with a silver medal.
On the world stage, Odunayo Adekuoroye made the nation proud at the World Wrestling Championship event in Paris, France, by winning a silver medal.
Later, Aruna Quadri would better this feat in the men’s singles event of the ITTF Challenge Polish Open. The Nigerian defeated Japan’s Kaii Yoshida in six sets (11-7, 11-13 11-8, 6-11, 11-8, 14-12) to become the first African to win an ITTF title outside the continent by winning a gold medal.
By this calculation, Nigeria ended the year with 17 medals.
Again, although it could be said that there may be other competitions in 2017 where Nigeria partook in, none has a medal haul of significance that could have boosted Nigeria’s chance of reaching even a 100 medal mark.
2018 RECORDS SAY ‘700 MEDALS’ IS AN OVERREACH
The year began on a good footing for the nation’s wrestling team. Showcased in Port Harcourt, Nigeria won 23 medals at the 2018 African Wrestling Championships held between February 7–11: 15 gold, 5 silver and 3 bronze medals.
At the Winter Olympics in South Korea in February 2018, Nigeria came in as a debutant but ended the campaign without a medal. By the 12th of February 2018, Nigeria won two silver medals in 2018 All African Men’s and Women’s Team Badminton Championships in Algiers, Algeria. In that same February, Nigeria clinched 5 medals — 3 silver and 2 bronze — at the 2018 African Badminton Championships held from February 16-18 in Algeria.
By March, Nigeria took home 2 bronze medals at the African Taekwondo Championships held in Agadir, Morocco.
In April, Nigeria participated in the 2018 Commonwealth Game, finishing as the tournament’s 9th best with 24 medals: 9 gold, 9 silver and 6 bronze medals. Again, in the 21st edition of the African Senior Athletics Championship, Nigeria finished joint second with South Africa with a haul of 19 medals: 9 gold, 5 silver and 5 bronze. The same month, Team Nigeria got 11 medals — 9 gold and two silver medals — at the 2018 Africa Gymnastic Level System held in Pretoria, South Africa.
Nigeria also obtained a bronze medal at the 2018 African Men’s Junior Handball Championship hosted by Marrakesh, Morocco. In what was officially known as the III Summer Youth Olympic Games, and commonly referred to as Buenos Aires (Argentina) 2018, Nigeria placed 48th on the medal log with 4 medals: 1 gold and 3 silver medals.
The aggregation of these medal spree gives a total of 91 medals. By extension and based on the available data, from 2016 to 2018, Nigeria won a total of 137 medals.
700 MEDALS SEEMS VERY FAR FROM THE TRUTH
Since Mr Dalung took over as sports minister in November 2015, the country’s sports team has never finished with a 100 medals in a single competition.
This 2015 edition of the competition, a quadrennial event, and arguably Africa’s biggest sporting showpiece, was hosted in Brazzaville, Republic of Congo, between September 4 and 15. The minister hadn’t been appointed as at this date.
Also, in the big international competitions such as the Summer and Winter Olympics, Commonwealth Games that held in the years under review, Nigeria couldn’t boast of more than a total of 25 medals.
In these events, nations have records of amassing hundreds of medals; but such is not the case of Nigeria. Hence, reaching the 700 medal mark as acclaimed by the minister is a far cry, especially considering the medals winnable in the other lesser competitions and the nation’s margin of wins in these competitions.
Olawale Adigun again noted to Dubawa that it is true that the nation has been very successful in para-sports, especially in weightlifting. However, he added, this does not translate to 700 medals in 3 years. He also hinted that the minister has a history faux pas.
“Dalung’s misstatement joins the long lists of gaffes he has made in public glare, and he remains a sad reflection of Nigeria sports,” Olawale said.
Although, there is no available public data to give the aggregate of the medals won by Nigeria in the last 3 years, “700 medals” is likely to be a very big overstatement. Nigeria did not win enough medals in any of the competitions it participated in to amass such a huge number of medals!