Lagos State Sports Commission is using a sledgehammer to kill an ant, the commission is holding its former athletes to a standard it can’t keep. Four of the State athletes that won medals at the last National Festival hosted in Abuja suddenly discovered their names were missing in the list of those who get monetary reward for excelling at the multi sports event.
When Lagos hosted the National Sports Festival in 2012, there was this undocumented policy by those administering sports in the state then not to poach athletes from other states but to develop athletes that will replace the ageing ones who will go ahead to represent the country in international competitions.
Although some of us knew that it was almost impossible for any state not to poach for the National Sports Festival because the event had become an auction of a kind where the highest bidder gets the best athletes who can win something for the state in order to massage the ego of politicians who are mostly interested in pyrrhic victories.
Lagos as the host of the 2012 festival was not the overall winner of the event but that did not change the fact that despite its ” no poaching” stance some of the athletes that represented the state were those who had represented other states at one time or the other as this writer discovered that Lagos State like some other states was not ready to break the bank in order to poach athletes like Delta and Rivers State would readily make the move.
Recently there was an award ceremony for the Lagos State contingent to the 2018 National Sports Festival in Abuja at the Molade Okoya Thomas indoor sports hall where athlete that won Gold received N300,000, Silver Medalist received N200,000, Bronze Medalist took home N100,000 and winners of team sport would share N750,000.
Unfortunately for some members of the State Squash team that won medals at the Abuja festival they were denied these monetary rewards because they had switch allegiance to other states that gave them irresistible offer.
“Four of that seven medals were won by my sister and myself, I look at these things and I know how many years I have been with Lagos State and how many medals that I have won for them, so I think removing some athlete names from the reward list because they no longer represent Lagos State is a no-no for me. I am in shock and I don’t even know how to express my feeling, I represented this state for years and I won so many medals for the state both in Nigeria and abroad” Yemisi Olatunji, one of the Squash player told this reporter.
Her younger sister Busayo Olatunji who was also affected by the action of the Lagos State Sports Commission expressed her disappointment.
“This festival was in 2018, some athletes in other States have even collected there reward and finished spending it and we are still here dragging our money, we want our money and they should just pay us, we don’t have any issue with Lagos State, they should should pay us our money because we worked for it, it is our sweat, I was in camp for over 2 months”.
Lanre Abdulrahman who won gold for Lagos in the single event in Abuja is now representing Edo State at the ongoing festival in Benin, Gold medalist Yemisi Olatunji and her younger sister Busayo Olatunji who won bronze medal in Abuja are now on the payroll of Delta State while Adegoke Onaopemipo a bronze medallist in the Male Single Category at the last festival hosted in Abuja two years ago is also a Delta State athlete at the moment.
According to the Chairman of the Lagos State Sports Commission Sola Aiyepeku the athletes were not rewarded because of their disloyalty to the state.
“I acknowledge their effort but there is no compensation, we reward loyalty as well. If you decide to represent Lagos then stay with Lagos State, life is about high and lows, it is not every time that we are on a high but it is about your loyalty and staying power during the period that matters, those who stayed with us have been rewarded and those who chose another side, there is nothing we can do about that. Those who are loyal to us will be rewarded and those who are not are out”
For the benefit of hindsight, Yemisi Olatunji and Busayo Olatunji were Ondo State athletes before they were poached by Lagos and according to them, they were not denied monetary rewards due to them while they represented the sunshine state.
Lanre Abdulrahman was formerly with Kwara State while Adegoke Onaopemipo is a Lagos nurtured athlete.
The questions begging for answers are, is there a contractual agreement between Lagos State Sports Commission and these athletes? Is the monetary reward not for the 2018 festival which they had already delivered on? What is the State doing to make sure it does not lose her athletes to other states aside from blackmailing them with the disloyalty rhetoric?
Playing the devil’s advocate, one could say the athletes were not owed their allowances while representing the state which is the primary responsiblity of the State to her athletes but denying them a reward that was promised them as a result of their hardwork in putting Lagos State on the medal log at the festival is sheer victimisation.
It is not too late for the Lagos State Sports Commission to correct this awful impression, denying the athletes there rightful entitlement is like a promise not kept and it is dishonorable to promise what you cannot fulfil.