By Onochie Anibeze
There have been Emmanuel Udughan, Raji Fashola, Gbenga Daniel and now Abdulrahaman Abdulrasaq wants to join them.
The three governors mentioned above have distinguished themselves in the development of sports.
Uduaghan is a sportsman himself. He played tennis to a high competitive level and now plays social tennis. He is very passionate about sports. While some others may claim to be champions of foreign clubs he chooses to align with state teams.
With over three thousand engaged in sports in Delta State, his state provides employment in sports more than any other state. Delta does not only win almost all competitions in the country they also have a reasonable number of athletes on their sponsorship abroad. Many are on academic scholarship. They have the best facilities in sports and they are still developing more, with the aim to make sports the industry it deserves to be in a society where youth development matters to the policy makers. Delta is, arguably, the number one state in sports and the credit goes to Uduaghan.
Gbenga Daniel may not have the passion and sophistication of Uduaghan in sports matters but nobody can take away his genuine effort to develop sports in Ogun. With standard stadia in Abeokuta, Ijebu Ode and Shagamu and the competitiveness of the state athletes in youth events the marks Gbenga has made in sports are there for all to see.
The last time I wrote on Raji Fashola I was simply ananlysing the remarks of my children while taking them out on a weekend ride. I was amazed by their comments and observation.
“Oh!, this is beautiful, Fashola has been here,” was the way Chisom described a newly tarred road with good drainage that gave the street a new look. On getting to Ago Road in Okota, Chibeze chipped in that “Fashola has not visited here.” The drive continued and I only listened as they chatted.
“Fashola is visiting many places in Lagos and by the time he is through Lagos will change,” Ifeanyi contributed. They continued chatting on the changes Fashola was effecting in Lagos. Chisom at 7, Chibeze 8 and Ifeanyi at ten as at then, I was amazed at their observations and the link to good governance. I was impressed and I felt I should share with readers the observations of my children seemingly innocent of politics but highly appreciative of good governance.
In that column, I linked the good things the kids were saying about Fashola to what he was doing to revive sports in Lagos, once the Mecca of Nigerian sports. But Lagos took a long sojourn away from sports following state governments that were indifferent to what meant to Nigeria in the area of sports. Fashola has a policy aimed at combing the nooks and crannies of Lagos for grassroots development.
“Tears as Toblow leaves Lagos” was the headline Ikeddy Isiguzo cast when he was our Sports Editor more than 20 years ago. Lagos athletes were bemoaning the departure of a coach who had not only produced them but also made them stars.
That was when the decline started. Coaches left and athletes followed. Suddenly, Lagos, the hub of Nigerian sports, lost everything including football. It is so bad that no premier league club now has Lagos as their base. Fashola appears not to be interested in Lagos State owning a club but he is doing everything to encourage private and other corporate bodies to own clubs.
He is providing the enabling facilities and encouraging professionalism. He has set up a body to scout for talents and nurture them. The committee is working just like Lagos, as a state is working. It takes time and planning to produce Olympians. With time, results will show, possibly long after Fashola would have gone after serving a second term in Lagos. All men of goodwill and members of the sports family should ensure that he returns as our governor. It is same with Uduaghan.
And now another sportsman is on the campaign to be governor of Kwara State. Only a week ago I learnt that Abdulrahaman Abdulrazaq is the CPC Gubernatorial candidate in Kwara State. I come from a sports background. Sports coverage is my beat. And I’ll support those who have sympathy for sports, those who can use sports to provide employment, entertainment that will reduce our stress, those who can use sports to achieve peace and turn it into an industry that will promote our economy and general well being. Abdulrahaman is one.
I first met Abdulrahaman at the 1998 Nations Cup in Burkina Faso. He just came to watch good football. He has been to all the Nations Cup since then and was even our guest analyst for the Tunisia Nations Cup in 2004. Just three seasons after forming FC Abuja, the club owned by EFCC but which he managed won promotion to the Premiership. They only went down when Nuhu Ribadu left EFCC and the interest from leadership of crime fighters waned. If you discuss sports with Abdulrahaman his knowledge and ideas will amaze you.
I’m just imagining what Kwara will be like in sports if he becomes the next governor of the state. I wish him luck.
This is time for politics. And like Ikeddy, now our Editorial Board Chairman, said recently, those of us in the sports family should cast our votes for those who can change our sports. And from my perspective the votes from sports men and women and all those who clamour for the good of sports should go to the likes of Uduaghan, Fashola and Abdulrahaman. And who should we vote out? More on this later.
I watched the AIT Awards in Port Harcourt on television.
I commend the television station for their initiative. I commend the organisers.
The event in Abuja last year appeared better. The stage, the lighting and the entire production could be improved on. Getting the nominees to attend was great. The galaxy of stars that attended excited but the entertainers fell short of expectations. We should all encourage AIT to continue the awards and more states should show interest in hosting it.