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Sports as image laundering for Nigeria Police

By Dan Osakwe

The exploits of  Samuel Peters  “The Nigeria Nightmare”, a member of the Nigeria Police and   former  World Boxing Council {WBC} heavy weight champion of the world, KiKelomo, Ajayi, former skipper of Nigeria Super Falcons, and a member of the Nigeria police, Chioma Ajunwa, and late Sunday Bada,  have ignited a feeling of what sports can do to embellish the image of the Nigeria  Police.

Over the years the image of the Nigeria Police has been abysmally low. Ask a young Nigerian boy or girl what he feels about the Nigeria Police and you will get an emphatic answer. Ah police? They are not good at all. The fellow could have formed his or her opinion from personal observation, what his parents’, senior or society  feel about the Nigeria Police.

The police in Nigeria have been accused of being corrupt, inefficient and brutal. These negative tendencies on the part of the police have made members of the public to look at the police with a measure of suspicion and dissatisfaction.  Hence, the poor public image.

The Nigeria Police on the other hand, have always felt that the public’s perception is sometimes over blown. According to them “a corrupt society begets a corrupt police. That the police do not need the public good image rating as claimed by some police officers is rather unfortunate.

The truth is that police image in Nigeria in respective of the innovations going on under the Inspector General of Police Mohammed D. Abubakar is still in dire need of respectability and has to be improved upon. One way to do it is through sports.

Of the 35 Nigeria athletes that represented the country at the Nigeria Ghana athletics competition in 1958, 15 were policemen. The Nigeria police team (Police Machine team) were finalists in 1962. Adeleye Samuel (a police officer),  was the captain of the Nigeria contingent to the First All Africa Games  held in darker Senegal in 1963. He later rose in sporting eminence to become the chairman of the Nigeria Boxing Board of Control(NBBC).

Sunday Oyarekhua, now a retired police officer, was a member of the Green Eagles and the famous all Africa Games gold medal winning team in 1973 at the national stadium Lagos. At Kaduna’77 and the First Ecowas Games in ’77 held in Lagos, Sergeant Ogwana, Nnema Udo and Nwabude won medals.

At the ’79 National Sport Festival, Azuh won a gold  medal each in the 800 and 1,500 meters, while Inspector C. Okonkwo grabbed the gold medal in the weight–lifting event and was invited for the pre Olympic trials.

Nigeria police sportsmen and women have followed these excellent performances with David Izonritei (now a USA based professional boxer winning a silver medal in an Olympics boxing tournament. Sunday Bada, former head of technical department of the  Athletics Federation of Nigeria (AFN), once dominated the 400 meters race in Africa. He was a world indoor champion in 400 meters.

Sunday Bada capped it up by winning a silver medal in the 4 x400 meters relay event at Sydney 2000 Olympic Games. The biggest glory brought to Nigeria in sports by the police remain, the spectacular performance of Chioma Ajunwa at the Atlanta’96 Olympic Games and the achievement of Samuel Peters.

‘The Nigeria nightmare’ as the First African to become the World Boxing Council (WBC) heavyweight champion of the world after he sent Champion, Oleg Maskaev to the cleaners on March 8, 2008 in Cancun, Mexico.

Chioma Ajunwa, it will be recalled, won a gold medal in the Atlanta ’96 Olympics long jump event. A feat that made her the first ever Africa woman to win an Olympic gold medal in that event and an entry into the Guinness book of records. The import of this chronology of achievements of the police in sports is to show how relevant the police have been in positively influencing the image of Nigeria through sports.

That policemen and women had to stay in camp, obey camp rules, display a spirit of discipline, teamwork and dedication for positive results,  runs counter to that image that they should not be trusted and if possible avoided.

Adeleye’s captainship to the first all Africa Games in Dakar ’63 and Sunday Bada’s unmatched record as a famous world 400 meters runner and a major think-tank in Nigeria athletics circle, is a proof of confidence in the police. The extent to which the police have used their exploits in sports to enhance their image remains a big question.

The Nigeria Police, as it today, do not seem to recognize sports as a way of improving its image.  Chioma Ajunwa, should be used as a role model by the police to positively influence the opinion of the youths and the growing number of adults in sports.

Presently, the reverse is the case. She is seen as a mere sports person and not necessary as a member of the Nigeria Police. Can the Inspector General of Police, M.D. Abubakar also include sports in his reform agenda?

By the nature of their training, police personnel are enjoined to always display discipline. As long as discipline remains the watchword of sports, the police will continue to be relevant. Julius Aghahowa ex-super Eagles hitman was once a member of police Machine team.

Nigeria police can still  produce more players for the U-21, U-23 and the Super Eagles to compliment the efforts of Kikelomo Ajayi and others hoping that in future, such products will star in the English Premiership, Spanish La Liga, French championnet,German  Bundesliga or Italian  Serie A.

The police machine team can still become a professional league side in a few years if attention is given to it. Let there be more Kikelomos, Peters, Ajunwas and Badas emerging from the Nigeria Police. When it happens, let the police recognize the importance to its public image which is still low.

*Osakwe is a sports analyst/public affairs commentator .


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