By Jacob Ajom
Comrade Joseph Evah is a popular figure as a Niger Delta activist. Beyond fronting for the Peoples of the Niger Delta, the combative activist has found a new love in sports. Evah is President of the Nigeria Roller Skating Federation.
Last December, Evah single-handedly sent a team of 21 skaters to represent Nigeria at the African championship in Togo. “I transported, fed and clothed them and the officials to Togo and back.” Being their first outing on the continent, the Nigerian contingent returned with one silver and 5 bronze medals.
On their return, the federation President redeemed a promise he made before they departed. For every gold medallist, Evah promised N200,000, N150,000 for silver and N100,000 for bronze. This he redeemed in a lavish reception organised for the athletes early last month at the National stadium, Lagos. At the reception for the athletes and their officials in Lagos, Evah doled out over N900,000 cash to the victorious team, with Samuel Iganga smiling home with N150,000 for his silver winning effort. Kelvin Chidindu, who got two bronze medals, went home with N200,000, while Abu Sadiq, Tunde Ishola and Wale Ibrahim smiled home with N100,000 each. All other athletes, who took part in the championship but couldn’t win a medal were given N30,000 each.
Evah said, “the major problem we have is finance, because nobody is coming to assist us. But there is hope. We don’t want to relent.
“This year we want to organise our league and we want to make sure the federation is in every state. We have just inaugurated state chapters and more will be inaugurated in the next batch. It is after the league that we are going to choose our national team, those that will represent Nigeria in this year’s African championship in Egypt.
“We are also looking at the world championship before the 2020 Olympics. If we don’t do grassroots mobilisation through the state chapters, it will be very difficult for us to catch them young.”
He also spoke on the federation’s effort to popularise the sport across the country.
“We inaugurated more than 20 chapters in our last EXCO meeting. Some of the state chapters we inaugurated include Kaduna, Rivers, Cross River, Nasarawa, Plateau, Abuja, Delta, Edo, Oyo, Ondo, and more. Some chapters that could not be inaugurated because of communication breakdown will be inaugurated soon. Äll of them have filled their forms because we had to reduce the affiliation fees from N10,000 to N2,000 at my instance. I promised to pay the balance.
He foresees a bright future for the sport in Nigeria. “Very soon Roller Skating will become a house-hold name in Nigeria,” he said. “Before now it was boxing, then football and basketball. Very soon skating will take over everywhere.”