Nigeria is Africa’s most populous country and boasts a wealth of talent within its boundaries. The country may be known for its petroleum “sweet crude” but the country is also home to the celebrated “Golden Eagle” tradition. Its football team is a threat every year in the African Cup, has won three times and is the defending champion. However, the success of football has perhaps been a drain on other sporting games. That is the contention of the US-based International Master Oladapo Adu who is a member of Nigeria’s Olympiad chess team. At the 2012 Chess Olympiad, Nigeria won group medals in both the women’s and men’s competitions. This, Adu felt, was worthy of recognition.
Team Nigeria at 2012 Chess Olympiad in Istanbul, Turkey!
Nigeria (L-R): Bomo Kigigha, Oragwu Chukwunonso, Balogun Oluwafemi
and Adesina Adeyinka
Nigeria wins Category E gold medal!!
Photos by Daaim Shabazz.
Ironically, the chess team and the Paralympic team, which won six gold medals in London, arrived in Nigeria the same day. We won gold and silver respectively for the men and women teams. I remember they were rewarded but nothing has been done about chess. This has happened before. In 1998 Olympiad, my teammate Odion Aikhojie won a gold medal and till date, nothing has been done about it. It’s a trend that should be stopped. It’s favouritism. It makes no sense. The chess players sacrifice their time and money, family time and then nothing comes out of it. I think that trend has to change and it’s very unfortunate our administrators are not doing anything about that. As a sports minister, I think you should be proud to see your athletes among the best in the world. So even if it is Ayo or chess they win gold, reward them. It doesn’t matter at all, as long as they are representing Nigeria. I am Nigeria’s only foreign-based chess players. I always come home for trial tournaments and events that require us to select the national team but I am disappointed nothing has been done. That needs to be addressed.
Nigerian women win category silver medal!
Photos by Daaim Shabazz.
While Nigerian chess has produced a number of International Masters, it has not been able to keep momentum in building a strong foundation to compete at the highest level. Thus, every two years the Olympiad team struggles to make the trip. In Africa, there is a fine line between success and sponsorship. If you win medals, then sponsorship should be forthcoming.
The administrators can use that as a point to get across to sponsors because they can always show them things they’ve won and get the sponsors interested. But our administrators have not done much as far as I am concerned.
As far as Nigeria’s development, Adu sees talent, but the infrastructure to build a strong community is lacking. Thus Adu is helping to build a grassroots effort in Nigeria under the Chess-in-Schools label. He works as a chess teacher in the wildly successful initiative in the U.S. and want to export this model.
Nigeria is not the only African government who may not provide chess with adequate support. In the ongoing African Chess Championships being held in Tunis, Tunisia, there are only nine countries represented and only three are from sub-Saharan countries (Botswana, Angola and South Africa).
IM Odion Aikhoje… gold medalist in 1998 Chess Olympiad.
The sponsorship/support issue remains a vexing issue meeting finances for international competitions. However, if success if what government measures support by, then Nigeria should have plenty. There again is the stigma that chess is beyond the comprehension of many bureaucrats who are more concerned about spending money in those areas that will yield a handsome return… either financially or in terms of social exposure. This is the cry of many nations in FIDE’S CACDEC countries.
Oladapo Adu (Nigeria) playing in Trinidad against
International Master Terry Farley of Barbados.
Photo by Daaim Shabazz.
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