College-less students, their unprepared association and a rude host: Reports from Ilorin.
By Segun Onaade
Editor’s Note: Segun Onaade is the former Associate Editor of UIMSA Clinical Press. The views expressed in this commentary are his. You can view more opinions on ABH PRESS.
In reporting about a week that featured being packed in a bus tighter than slaves on the colonizers’ ships, almost arrested in the same bus by traffic officers and being told to lodge in a rat-infested haunted house, it’s hard to know where to start. I’ll start where many problems start: bad planning.
As every disease has its symptoms and telltale signs, the unpleasant experience of the Unibadan representatives at the just concluded NIMSA games could have easily been predicted. If by the preceding Thursday, there was uncertainty pervading the air about whether or not permission will be granted to attend this biennial event that brings together medical students from all over Nigeria in a week of bonding, festivities and sporting activities. We should have suspected it on Friday when whispers littered the air that our college requested for us to pay exorbitantly for the two buses they released for us to represent our own university. Certainly we should have known by Saturday when rumours had it that our association did not have the money to pay for the participation fee or Provost’s tax. We did not and our week of woes began.
The usual excitement and expectation that follows departure of a trip could not be masked or even marred by the news that there was only going to be one bus. In regular UIMSA fashion, the bus slated to leave by 9 am was still not filled by 10 am. That our 26-seater coaster bus had to accommodate 35 people (of which only one was female) and the late takeoff turned out to be the least of our challenges on that day. The slow transit culminated in the bus being accosted by an FRSC officer for passing through a one-way road. We were let go after some pleading and negotiation, skills we had to use later in the day when our hosts deemed it fit for us to stay in a slum of a hostel. With torn beds and nets, rats as roommates, the lack of electric connection and sockets was the least of our worries. It was somewhat disrespectful the Secretary of the organising committee insisted the hostel, previously rejected by 3 schools, was “manageable”. It was not until about 12 am the members of the committee realised there was an alternative which could only be accessed the next day and we had to pay for a provisional private hostel to pass the night. Imagine the disappointment when we realised well-furnished private hostels are a common feature in Ilorin and the planning committee was just not proactive enough to get them.
Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday
The poor planning and the organisation of the Standing Committee on NIMSA games (SCONGA) became apparent and it became clear Monday’s muddle was only a tip of the iceberg.
Despite the disorganisation, the events began and with it came the realisation that our own school was not prepared. The schedule of events showed that team sports like football and basketball had matches everyday. This was not a problem for schools like University of Benin and University of Lagos that came with up to 100 delegates each. By the time injury and fatigue had taken its toll, their substitutes and technical support stepped in. We neither had substitutes nor first aid. Our bus was not even enough to convey all the interested participants. It did not tell well that there was no female representative from the college of Medicine, University of Ibadan. It also did not speak well, when many a participant had to feature in games they did not go for due to lack of options.
By Wednesday, there was no doubt in our minds we were on our own. Interaction with other schools did not help as many could not relate with our toil. The adequate support received from their respective colleges kept them going. From reports of University of Benin candidates getting ₦12000 per athlete and promised cash remuneration per medal, to Delta state university athletes receiving ₦7000. The least some schools did was to handle the transportation and accommodate their students after the accommodation provided was not up to par, whilst our school was one of the few schools whose bus did not stay behind. Our participants had to depend on the general transport for to and fro conveyance to the 100-mile hostel later provided.
By Thursday, our bodies and morales were worn out, to say the least. Though the football team were out of the tournament, our students prevailed in other sports and games. Progress was made basketball, swimming, table tennis and tennis. Paul Edet was exceptional on the tracks but could hardly compete in the 100m finals as he had also participated in football, long jump and heats for the same event, on that same day.
On the plus side social events of such as a variety night, a vintage movie night held in the evenings of Tuesday and Wednesday.
The events were rounding up and tempers had already started to flare. The main antagonists being the Ambrose Alli University and Uniben students who took it upon themselves to take the allegations of Unilorin employing mercenaries, into their hands. The officiating and legitimacy of the participants had come into question many times during the tournament. The afformentioned participants rushed into the pitch on Saturday after the football final between Ilorin and Uniben.
There were successful visits to the cinema and zoo on Friday and Saturday but the Award and Gala night slated for Saturday was cancelled probably as a reminder by the committee that nobody could better them at bad planning.
Despite the downpour of brimstone and the storms, our contingent to Ilorin returned with a 15 medals from a total of just 7 events they partook in. The star performer being Oluwafemi Aba (class of 2018) who clinched 8 medals including 2 gold medals from swimming. Our tenth place finish(out of 17 participating medical schools) could not have been without him. I thus realise College of Medicine, UI is nothing but a microcosm of Nigeria; No matter how much the system in place tries to subdue us, we must put our heads above the water, and thrive.