A prophet, they say, is usually without honour in his own domain. But one man that appears to have broken this age-long rule is ChiefÂ Patrick Ekeji, who was recently honoured by his community, Nguru Development Union (NDU) National at a colourful ceremony at Nguru centre in Aboh Mbaise local government area of Imo State.
Ekeji was honoured alongside some other prominent sons and daughters of the community in what the organizers tagged Nguru Top Achievers Award. A top official of the organizers, Mr. Joe Atinga Nwachukwu, a veteran journalist, pointed out that the development union was very meticulous in selecting personalities that were honoured. He noted that Chief Ekeji and the other awardees made the list purely on merit. Nwachukwu said NDU is under the leadership of a President General, Chief Alan B. Onyemaechi, who believes in rewarding excellence. On Chief Ekeji, the NDU spokesman said the Director General of the National Sports Commission made the list on the strength of his invaluable contribution to national development, especially in the area of sports. Nwachukwu stated that the Mbaise nation is proud of Ekeji for the wonderful progress he has made in his chosen profession.
He noted that Ekeji as a student effectively combined sports with his studies. This saw him lacing boots for the then East Central State academicals alongside the likes of Obed Ariri and Godwin Ugboeze. From the academicals, Ekeji went ahead to play for some of the nationâ€™s big clubs such as the famous but now disbanded P&T Vasco Da Gama and Rangers International of Enugu. The immensely talented Ekeji, a defender, was subsequently invited to the national team where he made history as the first Mbaise man to play for the national team. Ekeji, it can beÂ recalled, was a member of the 1980 Green Eagles that won the Nations Cup on home soil for Nigeria. After a glorious soccer career, Ekeji delved into coaching and handled top teams like the UNTL of Kaduna and ACB of Lagos.
He went ahead to have aÂ stint as Green Eagles coach, before dumping the coaching profession for sports administration. Chief Ekeji, who today has a doctorate degree in sports management, had a short spell at the National Institute for Sports (NIS) as a lecturer before joining the public service as the director of sports in Imo State.
From Imo, he transferred his service to the federal civil service, where he has since risen to the position of Director General of the NSC. Nwachukwu, while describing Ekejiâ€™s career progression as great, said he is nothing but a role model for Mbaise youths. He noted that Ekeji has taken steps aimed at ensuring that Mbaise youths who are as talented as he is do not rot away.
Nwachukwu pointed out that EkejiÂ is the architect of the mini sports complex located at Nguru, a sports edifice that would help in the discovery of young sports talents from the area. Nwachukwu, who described the NSC DG as a rare gem, insisted that he is one man who is so passionate about the development of his home community. â€œEkeji is a very kind man. He has been involved in humanitarian activities, even though he chooses to go about it in a very quiet wayâ€, Nwachukwu stated. Ekeji, while thanking his people for the award, said the honour done him precisely on August 15, will spur him into doing more for his people and the nation.
“The award is a clear indication that ones little contribution to the development of the nation is not going unnoticed. For me, the award is a challenge to do more, not just for the people of Mbaise, but for the country.â€ Ekeji, it would be noted had, early this year came up with a blue print that will change the face of sports in the country.