By Patrick Omorodion,
There was a time in Nigeria when sports journalists criticizing either sportsmen and women or the administrators, even though constructively, got abuses from those they criticized.
If they are not accused of blackmailing those at the receiving end, which is at the extreme, they tell them they think it is easy to do sports or even to administer it. But all that is in the past now as sports journalists have taken the bull by the horns.
They have proved over the years that they not only report the sports but could partake in sporting activities. Sportswriters now engage in competitions during their annual weeks by engaging in various sports and do it as well, if not better than some professional athletes.
On the other hand, sportswriters have also veered into sports administration and are also proving that it is not rocket science as some administrators were making it look in the past. They have shown that what is most needed to make it as a good administrator, is, first and foremost, having a passion for sports.
That is what one man, a colleague of mine in the sports-writing business, Frank Ilaboya has shown and is proving with the giant strides he is making since he finished his two terms as Chairman of the Lagos Chapter of SWAN.
Ilaboya’s first shot at sports administration was in football when he contested for the position of the Chairman of the Edo State Football Association. Before he took over the reins of administration there, Edo FA was almost comatose, lacking any activity, following the relegation of the darling team of the State and City of Benin, Insurance Football Club from the elite division of the Nigeria Professional Football League, NPFL.
The story changed once Ilaboya mounted the saddle as he brought in his business side as a sports marketer to bare. He sourced for sponsorship and got one who bankrolled activities of the FA. He also took interest in ensuring the return of Insurance FC back to the elite league.
Backed by the special interest of the Edo State Deputy Governor, Comrade Phillip Shaibu, Insurance made a brief return to the Premier League but the promotion was shortlived following the abridged nature of the league which made the country divided into two conferences and clubs playing fewer matches.
While still serving as Chairman of Edo FA, Ilaboya took another step into administration, this time in politics, as he got voted as the Chairman of the Owan West Local Government Area. This was not too long after his failure to get the nominaton from his constituency to run for the state House of Assembly.
It is said that once a sportsman, one will always be a sportsman. That is what Ilaboya is proving in Owan West now. Aware that Edo State was going to host the 2020 National Sports Festival, he bought into the idea of hosting a two-day course for cycling referees, better known as commissaries last November. Indigenes of the Owan West Local Government benefitted from that exercise.
Those of them who took part in the course were part of officials who officiated at the recently concluded Edo Sports Festival, a prelude to the national event holding in the state next month. Cycling as a sport has caught fire in Ilaboya’s domain especially after Owan West athletes scooped six gold medals at the Edo sports festival.
He didn’t limit himself to cycling as he spread his tentacles to other sports and the results was that Owan West placed second at the Edo Sports Festival with 75 gold medals behind Ikpoba Okha which placed first with 100 gold.
Just about five days into the Edo Sports Festival, Ilaboya was excited with the performance of Owan West athletes that he told journalists in Benin City that “All eyes are on Owan West because of my pedigree in sports, and I think we are going to be in a comfortable position if we continue with the way we have started,” he said.
Aside from leading Owan West to second position in the Edo Sports Festival, Ilaboya also set his mind to helping Edo return to the summit of Nigeria’s sports at the end of the National Sports Festival next month.
To this end, he is putting up a cycling championship in the local government with the support of Mr. Sunday Ajayi who is bankrolling the MASVI Invitational Cycling Road Race scheduled for this weekend in Sobe, Owan West Local Government Area.
“I am aware that cycling has about 16 gold, 16 silver, and 16 bronze medals and that with adequate preparation of Team Edo cyclists, they can win majority of these medals and that is why we are offering our support to them”, he said.
It is clear that Ilaboya is driven by his passion for sports which he believes is a veritable tool to engage youths positively and has vowed to continue using sports to reach out to those who ordinarily would have engaged themselves with acts inimical to their environment.
“As an LGA, we see sports as a tool to engage the youths. Mr. Ajayi is sponsoring the cycling tour to empower Nigerian youths because sports is the best area to take the youths off the streets and empower them,” Ilaboya stressed.
His effort to empower youths through sports and cycling, in particular, has also been commended by the Nigeria Cycling Federation which spoke through its Board member Dr, Emmanuel Igbinosa thus: “We have keenly followed the positive steps you have taken to uplift the health and socio-economic status of the people of Owan West Local Government Area.
Your administration’s acknowledgment of sports and health as strategic pillars of development is an attestation to your recognition of the vital role of sports in the promotion of health and wellbeing of individuals in your domain”.
One, therefore, cannot but wish Ilaboya more grease to his elbows and pray that God gives him not only the resources but the strength to continue with his good works for Owan West Local Government and Edo State.