FOR the people of Bauchi State, Sunday, June 27, 2021 was a historic day. For the first time in years, the people of that part of the country who have lived in dread of Boko Haram terrorism and the rash of highway kidnappings came out in their overflowing thousands to watch vintage football exhibitions at the Abubakar Tafawa Balewa Stadium.
It was also the first time for many years when a handful of private jets landed at the Bauchi Airport due to an event that had nothing to do with a political rally or the wedding of the children of occupants of high political offices in the country.
Rather, these aircraft had brought some of our retired football legends and entertainers from Nigeria and beyond.
These included Nwankwo Kanu, Austin “Jay Jay” Okocha, Daniel Amokachi, Celestine Babayaro, Tijani Babangida, Joseph Yobo, Victor Ikpeba, Garba Lawal and Austin Eguavoen. International stars such as DR Congo’s Tremor Lomana Lualua and Senegal’s Abdoulfatah Fadiga were also in attendance.
These legends played exhibition football with soccer academy cadets from all over the country who had been adopted by the soccer stars.
The budding soccer stars stood a chance to be selected in the next batch of talents to be sponsored for further studies and continuation of their growth in the game in Europe, South America and the United States under the banner of Engineer Noah Dallaji’s African Children’s Talent Discovery Foundation, ACTDF, also known as the Engineer Noah Dallaji Legacy Project.
Established in 2006, the Foundation had in the past led many Nigerian artistes and celebrities to perform in United Nations functions in the US and Brazil.
It has also sent many young Nigerians on scholarship to the USA. This was made possible through Dallaji’s Sister State Initiative with the City of Oakland, California.
The ACTDF’s recent adoption of two Nigerian Tokyo Olympic-bound athletes – Patience Okon-George (athletics) and Elizabeth Anyanacho (taekwondo) with $10,000 each to support their preparations was effusively commended by the Minister of Sports, Sunday Dare at an official ceremony.
It is remarkable that an individual patriot is committing his resources to promote the talents of our youth at a time that the woeful security situation of our country is pushing many well-to-do Nigerians to explore the so-called “Option B” – fleeing abroad. The staging of the Bauchi football exhibition, which was hitch-free, was a bold statement in commitment.
We call on our leaders both within and outside government to emulate this gesture of sowing in the talents of the youth.
Youth abandonment is the major reason for the insecurity confronting us. Youth will only “behave well” when we show concern for their welfare and future. We commend the ACTDF initiative and urge its promoters not to relent.