By Oyewole Owolabi.
The write up by Olukayode Thomas, entitled ” Sunday Dare’s list of sports icons smacks of nepotism, rewards drug cheats” is not only a futile attempt to pooh pooh the noble objective of according recognition to notable sports icons and Nigerians, it is full of bile, fictional postulations, outlandish claims and a deliberate effort to re -write history.
Given his penchant for always running people down, which led to his inglorious exit from The Guardian, one is tempted not to dignify him with a response.
His choice of words, submissions and diatribe is archetypal of one who likes pulling down whatever does not benefit his pay masters and his ego.
For the record, Dare is the first Minister to have given recognition to Nigerian Atheletes without directly influencing the process. Thomas’ frontal attack on the Minister is therefore not only off the curve, but mischievous unwarranted and unfair.
It is important that Kayode makes inquiries before going to town with outright lies and misinformation.
It is instructive and necessary for Kayode to know that the Minister never took part in the selection process. The 60 icons were chosen by Nigerians who voted online, through radio, television, and also by the nomination of respected sports veterans. But then the sleuth work needed for fact checking that this process took place is something that is beyond petit minds like the one possessed by Kayode.
In addition, the list was scrutinised by respected Nigerians whose reputation and judgement surpassed Thomas’ jaundiced, myopic and sponsored write- up. While Thomas lacks the moral compass to condemn anyone or the process, his view point further taints his reputation as unbiased arbiter.
Typically, if Thomas was in the committee, he would not have seen anything wrong in the list, but would have arrogated to himself repository of knowledge and fake influence.
His reference to Chioma Ajunwa and Mary Onyali as drug cheats is not only vindictive, but an attempt to settle personal scores and erode their achievements. While the duo were sanctioned for falling short of doping law, their medals were never withdrawn by the International Olympics Committee. The Federal Government had also bestowed national honour on them and they have remained relevant in sports circles.
The process of chosing the icons was not only foolproof, but transparent and meticulous. So, rather than dwell on falsehood and wrong inferences, Thomas ought to applaud the initiative of the Minister. His insinuations are not the hallmark of a patriotic Nigerian, but the rantings of a disgruntled and misled individual.
There are many Nigerians deserving of being listed in the Compendium who never made it, but that is not enough to attempt to rubbish the process or the initiative.
By far, this is one of most remarkable effort at given recognition to Nigerian Atheletes. His claim to knowing what ought to be done and casting aspersions on those who scrutinised the final list is disingenuous and lacking in substance and standing logic on it’s head. The list of sports icons is inexhaustible. Faced with the mandate to produce just 60 names to resonate with the 60 years Independence anniversary celebration of Nigeria, the committee was handicapped. No matter the sentiments, the list cpuld not have accomodated every personality deserving of honour.
Thomas assertions about Dangote and Chief Kesington is not only insulting, but calls to question his upbringing and traditional value of respect for elders. Calling to question the contributions of two noble people who have spent billions in the rescucitation of decaying facilities is unfortunate. Unlike others, these eminent Nigerians have supported sports in diverse ways without asking for anything in return. Thomas, who has the ignoble culture of reaping without sowing, should rather bury his head in shame and amend his ways.
The litigation, as a result of unfounded, damaging libellous storyline published by Thomas remains a sore thumb in the history of the last reputable place he worked. How can anyone who claims to be the Wikipedia of sports not understand that these people were honoured under special recognition which did not require winning medal? Thomas would contradict himself when he listed people that ought to have been honoured, even while they never won medals for Nigeria. This hatchet job is headed in the wrong direction. Dead even before it’s flight. Kayode Thomas piece should be confined to the place it deserves to be: trash can.
Oyewole Owolabi wrote from Lagos