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‘Fashola has been here’

By Onochie Anibeze
“Hey! Fashola has been here,” screamed Chibeze. “Yes, he has visited here,” Ifeanyi, his elder brother concurred. Chibeze is 9 and Ifeanyi 11. Chisom who is just eight surprised me most. “Fashola is going everywhere,” he added. Their chatting excited.

It is holiday time and I was driving my children to a near by eatery and had to pass through Ibe Road in Okota. The kids were seeing the newly reconstructed road for the first time for a long time. They knew how that road was before. Now, it is smooth and expanded..

This forced out those expressions from them. Never underestimate the observations of children. I kept quiet, hoping to hear more as I was really touched by the genuine and innocent expression of the kids. Nothing can be more fulfilling for an achiever to be so recognised by children.

I thought of many things. Do children, at that level, discuss governance among themselves in school? They taught us civics at that level in my time but that did not include appraisal of political leaders. And I don’t think my children were appraising Fashola even if their comments did. They were innocently expressing themselves.

And they were not out of this world. Such expressions must be common in their school and other places children parley, so  they were just expressing what they see and hear.

If children could portray Fashola in the light  pointed above, does he need vigorous campaigns to win election in this country?

Can’t his good works  earn him not only another term but also greater heights in future? Interestingly, children don’t vote and Nigeria is a country where the votes of the adults don’t count. So Fashola must campaign, he must fight before and during elections to continue his good works. It is so  because good things don’t last in Nigeria.

The many evil men  in our society ensure this. But our innocent children and all men of goodwill will continue to pray for God’s continued guidance of Fashola so that he will continue to soar, serving the people even better and sending a message of hope  across the country, the kind of message Emmanuel Uduaghan is also sending in Delta even as Deltans lament over reduced allocations.

I know about Fashola’s vision, his seemingly unprecedented progress in Lagos but my children made me appreciate him the more. Reporting sports  is my business and Fashola  has also impressed in his own way in this area. He is rebuilding sports in the state. He has included sports in his community development projects and he hopes that Lagos, once a strong sports state, will return to their great days like when their great athletes ruled soccer, table tennis, boxing, track and field etc.

Lagos may not boast of Premiership club now but a Fashola touch can change things. The best footballers will like to play for him, knowing that their welfare will be assured, knowing that if they leave the stage as heroes, they would one day be honoured in life and in death. The Sam Okwaraji case is a testimony. 20 years after this great Nigerian slumped and died while playing for Nigeria, Lagos State honoured him greatly.

They did what Federal Government could not do. They did what Imo State, Okwaraji’s home state,  has not considered important. . Fashola’s action is inspiring, it is rewarding, it is encouraging and can attract good athletes to Lagos.

It is not only about sports. It is about recognising service to motherland. It is about inspiring patriotism and reworking Nigeria.

Few days ago, he backed Lagos State Sports Writers Association of Nigeria, ably led by Niyi Oyeleke, to launch the Teslim Balogun Foundation, a foundation meant for the welfare of former players. And just on Monday, state commissioner of sports, Adeniji-Adele signalled the establishment of BRF Foundation, another foundation to cater for the welfare of athletes.

Fashola has so touched so many areas that school children now sing song with his name. They hear their parents, teachers and other elders speak eloquently about his good works. They see too and,  like my children, they know where he has visited. May Fashola visit you.

May he visit my area, a new developing area with untarred road. May he score more goals in good governance and get the youth proudly singing THIS IS THE LAND OF MY BIRTH in an ascending high pitched tenor of Erik Donaldson and the elders chorusing  Nat King Cole’s UNFORGETTABLE.  Years after he would have left office, many will always say “Fashola was here.” UNFORGETTABLE.

ON BOARD TO BERLIN

By the time you are reading this, I would have been on board to the Athletics World Championship in Berlin, Germany.  Olympic Stadium is the venue.

It was here that Jesse Owens performed the feat that so stunned Germans and their Adolf Hitler in the 1936 Olympic Games that they were reluctant to decorate the legend with his four gold medals. Jesse Owens was black American.

Berlin is a place of history. Remember the Berlin Wall? Can you cast your mind back to the cold war years and appreciate these moments of peace, unity and free market economy? And just three years ago, Italy and France played here for the World Cup trophy. It was a match that many rooted for France but Italy went away with the trophy.

It was a match that saw  Zinadin Zidane end his career shamefully, bagging a red card for head-butting Matarazzi who had uttered obscenities to him. It was here that elegant Shakira so shook her waist in a closing ceremony performance that the whole stadium stood to admire her singing talent and the prowess under.

Even those who sat to applaud good soccer moves had to stand when Shakira took the stage. I left the Berlin Olympic Stadium wondering if sex, as epitomised by Shakira on stage, is stronger than the passion of football. I leave this for experts.

But I know that athletes will compel fans to stand on their feet here in Berlin. What happens when Tyson Gay and Usain Bolt line out for the 100m final? Berlin will be hot.

And the Nigerian athletes? The last time they won  medal in the World Championship was in Seville, Spain in 1999. Francis Obikwelu won a silver, 4x400m relay team anchored by Sunday Bada won silver and Gloria Alozia won another silver in the hurdles.

Ten years on, Nigeria will be gunning for a medal. Track and field took such a plunge in Nigeria that the team will celebrate medal of any colour. The new board headed by Solomon Ogba is just about four months in office and will be lucky to leave Berlin with medals. They are hopeful.


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Comments expressed here do not reflect the opinions of vanguard newspapers or any employee thereof.