By Osaretin Emuze
Former Director General of the National Sports Commission (NSC), Chief Dr Patrick Ekeji finally retired from the service last week after serving his country meritoriously for over four decades as a player, coach and administrator.
Ekeji carved a niche for himself in all spheres of life, leaving a legacy for others to follow. As a player, he was part of the team that won gold in the football event of the 2nd All Africa Games hosted in Lagos, in 1973.
Thirty years after he again led the country to win the All Africa Games hosted in Abuja as the Director of Sports in the Sports Ministry, a feat no other director, dead or living had achieved since Nigeria got her independence fron the British in 1960: Aside that, the Aboh-Mbaise High Chief also contributed immensely to the development of sports in the country and formulated several sports polices that would have taken sports to Eldorado but for government bureaucracy that killed his dreams and vision for sports in the country.
Under him sports men and women enjoyed the best of time as thier allowances were paid as at when due. He was an apostle of public and private sector partnership in sports and through this he created the concept Team Nigeria and took Nigeria sports to the Stock Exchange in 2003.
This again was killed during the brief period he left the sports ministry.
His vision and mission for Nigerian sports was second to none but he failed to achieve most of them because of government’s insensitivity resulting most times in the failure to release funds on time for major competitions, culminating in Nigeria not wining medals at major competitions, the most recent being the London 2012 Olympic Games.
During his reign as Director General of the NSC, Nigeria soared higher in sports despite frustrations from various quarters. Take it or leave it, Nigeria won the 2013 Africa Nations Cup in South Africa under his tenure.
For first time ever in the history of Nigeria, team sports shone like million stars. In the Abuja All Africa Games, Nigeria won gold in Volleyball, Basketball, lawn tennis and cycling for the first time in the history of the Games which began in 1965. Basketball qualified for the London 2012 Olympics.
This was due to the ingenuity of Dr Ekeji. His long time camping in Cuba, Bulgaria and Germany and his vision to engage the services of experts from those countries to train our athletes did the magic.
Chief Ekeji is not only a guru but a sports icon that should be consulted by all.
Please, take a bow. You succeeded where others failed. You are a man of vision, your humility, principles, milk of human kindness, steadfastness, frankness and strictness will surely be missed.
One thing is however clear, when the history of Nigerian sports is to be written or told, your good works will never be forgotten. Generations yet unborn will read about your exploits which began over forty years ago as a player, coach and administrator.
All those who criticized your style of leadership never really understood your person. They will surely know the difference now.