One of Nigeria's athletes abroad, who responded to the call of the acting Director General of the National Sports Commission, Patrick Ekeji, to come home and lend their support and experience to the development of sports in the country was Hope Obika Waobikeze, a 100 metres' hurdler during her days.
Waobikeze, who is currently an accountant in the United States of America was at the Kada Games which ended last week. She spoke to NEXT on the state of sports in Nigeria.
State of sports in Nigeria
"Well, the ministry brought us back to come and help straighten sports in Nigeria because they felt that sports is not moving forward. They need the ideas we had when we ran, and the exposure we presently had, being in the USA.
"That's a pleasure for me to do, because I want to give back to the society. I was however alarmed at the current level of sports in Nigeria.
"I think I just found out that we are in worse problem than I thought. I knew that we had a problem in sports but I didn't know it was this bad. We are in a big hole and it will take a lot to get us out. This competition is nowhere near the level it should be. The US can never host an event like this. I think we need to think before we can move forward because there are a lot of kids that are hungry to run but they don't have the facilities and proper kits."
On Ekeji's plan for sports
"Ekeji is trying to do something about it and I commend his effort because if we didn't come, we wouldn't have seen what was happening, but we were able to come, monitor and analyse it.
"He took a good step because he had to bring the outside influence to see things from another perspective. He has a good vision and we are sharing the same vision. We just hope they allow him to do what he wants to do. He has a good plan, I have a feeling that his vision is going to work."
Athletes and education
"What our athletes need is the right orientation and support to enable them see the need for them to further their education. The main thing I did was combine athletics and schooling.
"I have my bachelor's degree in Business Management so I just kind of took the education route. Sports was just the means to an end for me. What I keep telling young athletes is that you should never forget to go to school, because after your leg breaks you must still be doing something.
"I'm just happy with the route I took because it made me successful. I don't have to depend on anybody for anything. I have worked for the city of Houston for 17 years now. I did that because I was able to take the initiative to go to school instead of running track."
Athletics in her days
"I participated in three festivals before leaving the country for the United States of America in 1987. I was one of the Anambra Golden girls. I started running in 1981 until I left the country in 1987; then I came back for All African Games and World University Games. I was the top from home base when I ran but when I went to the US, I was second.
"I was a national athlete but on the international scene, I was an American." She is a member of Nigerian International Athletes' Association, a group made up of Nigerian ex-athletes living in the United States of America. She gave an insight of what the association is all about.
"We try to help kids running so that they don't go through what we went through because some of us got frustrated out of running track and so we quit. We also teach athletes the value of education because when you are running, it has to go along with education.
"We are trying to refocus the young ones to drop the misconception that most people have, that you don't have to go to school. With an education, you are better equipped. When they call you to come and run, you have both the education and knowledge.
"That helps and that's the biggest problem we have right now." Waobikeze, who is married to an attorney and has four children, says that the talent is available in Nigeria but need to be given the right orientation so that they do not get out of the system.
On dearth of athletes
"We have a lot of raw talent but we need to do something very quickly to protect that because we don't want them to get frustrated and do something bad like getting into drugs.
We also want to teach them the value of education so that they can give their full potential back to the society," she said. She says that for sports to be vibrant once more, all bad eggs need to be flushed out of the system.
Culled from NEXT/By Yemi Olus