Thirteen years after the Sydney Olympics, Nigeria’s 4×400 relay team finally got their chance to get a Presidential handshake from their country’s leader.
The quartet, made up of Sunday Bada, who died in December 2011 at the age of 42, Jude Monye, Clement Chukwu and Enefiok Udo-Ubong were officially presented to President Goodluck Jonathan on Wednesday in Abuja, as the gold medal winners.
The late Bada was represented by his wife, Sumbo. She got the presidential handshake.
In Sydney, the Nigerians had won the silver, with a record time of 2.58.68 losing the gold by two seconds to the United States team of Alvin Harrison, Antonio Pettigrew, Calvin Harrison and Michael Johnson.
Years after, it was found that the Americans had cheated, their victory helped by dope.
The International Olympics Committee stripped the United States of the gold medal and gave the Nigerians the gold medal.
Each of the six team members, led by late Sunday Bada, got N5 million each while their two coaches got N7 million each.
All of them are also to get National Honours soon, the president promised.
The reward comes 13 years after Nigeria’s participation in the Sydney Olympics in Australia.
President Goodluck Jonathan also used the opportunity to condemn cheating in all its ramifications “whether in sports, or in academics, in business or in politics”.
“Be informed that malpractice in any form is evil to society. We must build a society that puts premium on integrity and transparency and hardwork,” he said.
Mr. Jonathan commended the athletes and their long wait for glory, saying “if we do things the right and honest way, truth will always prevail, no matter how long it takes.”
“What your experience has shown is that sports men and women must endeavour to operate and compete within the rules of the game. They must resist any temptation to take a short cut to fame, adulation and wealth,” he added.
Mr. Jonathan also commended the International Athletics Committee for holding the tenets of a drug “free sports and its continuous efforts to provide a level playing field for all competitors.
“We all know that without their persistence and insistence on a drug free regime for sports competition this celebration we are witnessing today wouldn’t have been possible,” he said.
Also speaking, the Sports Minister, Bolaji Abdullahi, said the gold medal moved Nigeria up in the medals table of the Sydney Olympics from 55th to 41st. Nigeria eventually had one gold and two silver medals.
“Nigeria’s overall performance at the Olympic games therefore now stands at three gold medals, eight silver and twelve bronze medals to place 68 on the overall medal table,” he said.
“We are optimistic that with the unprecedented commitment that your Excellency has demonstrated and the various initiatives that we are currently undertaking with Mr. President’s guidance, Nigeria will soon be ranked amongst the very best in the world,” Mr. Abdullahi added.
Mr. Abdullahi thanked the former minister of sports, Sani Ndanusa, for putting in efforts to follow Nigeria’s effort to reclaim the medal to a logical conclusion.
The brief honours ceremony was held shortly before the commencement of the weekly meeting of the Executive Council of the Federation.