Salute to Great Nigerian Patriots in Sport!

Life is, generally, not easy for most Nigerians now.

It has not been for several years.

It is worse if you are a retired athlete.

To be an ageing retired athlete is the worst condition imaginable in Nigeria. The country is littered with our pathetic stories of a generally excruciatingly painful, difficult and frustrating life.

Some good Nigerians have been applying soothing balm to the pains of retired athletes. There are also sports persons whose exploits have been inspiring, providing relief and hope not just for athletes but for the entire country.

Of course, we know and acknowledge the previous interventions of Femi Otedola, Babatunde Fashola, Mike Adenuga, Babajide Sanwo-Olu and a few others, but permit me to salute a few more today. In the midst of all the current challenges of life and of living in Nigeria, they are touching lives, alleviating physical and mental stresses without demanding any gratification in return.

This day, I want to lift them up with my humble voice to the Creator of the Universe, in supplication and gratitude.

Allen Onyema

I shall not be tired of singing his praises.

By the time you are reading this on Saturday morning, I shall be having a first taste of my new status as Airpeace Ambassador. I shall be taking a free flight out of Lagos to Abuja, testing the efficacy and efficiency of the process, and sharing the experience later with all Nigerians.

Since July 28, 2023, the lives of all the beneficiaries of his benevolence have not been the same. My ears are filled with the ceaseless expression of gratitude by the 40 surviving athletes and the relatives of those that have passed on, all recipients of the generosity of a great Nigerian patriot and philanthropist.

On behalf of all the athletes, I say ‘thank you’ once again to Dr. Allen Onyema!

Olanrewaju Adeleke

I am in Oshogbo as I write this, at the invitation of a man I met for the first time some 3 years ago. Since then, he has continued to amaze me.

He is an engineer in the construction business, responsible for constructing or renovating several stadia in the country, as well as building mini-sports facilities in many rural communities.

He has been quietly going about the job without noise or fuss, improving the state of sports infrastructure and facilities wherever he gets the opportunity.

Amongst his works are the stadia in Asaba (Township Stadium), Benin (Ogbe Stadium), Ibadan (Adamasingba Stadium) and Lagos (Teslim Balogun Stadium). I leave it to the governments of the States involved to tell their stories, and the extremely convenient conditions under which he carries out these jobs. My interest here is, however, in what he is doing unconditionally, beyond business, in Osun State, using his community in Ile-Ogbo as a backdrop to stretch out his hand to help gifted children from all parts of the country to pursue their passion for sports whilst getting a well-grounded education.

It took him one year to build one of the best sports schools in Nigeria.

Two years ago, he started the Lanreleke Sports Academy, LSA, a full-time, fully-residential, co-educational, senior secondary school that doubles as a full-fletched, multi-sports academy where talented young boys and girls, lucky to be admitted into the specialist institution, can combine their passion and talent for sports with their need for proper education.

The school, located in Ile Ogbo, near Iwo town, some 37 kilometres from Oshogbo, the capital of Osun State, is built on 200 acres of land, with superb facilities for football, basketball, athletics and golf.

I was a part of a team that included officials of the Nigeria School Sports Federation and the Ministry of Education that went round 5 States to recruit the first set of student/athletes as pioneers of this unique institution.

It’s been 2 years now. The third set of students will be enrolled and will resume in September 2023. The school will sit for its first WAEC and NECO examinations in the summer of 2024.

The fascination is that every one of the 130 students presently in the school, a number that will grow to over 200 in September is on a full scholarship covering tuition, accommodation, feeding, books, uniforms, and even sports kits. In other words, no child has paid even a kobo for the training and education they have received.

I was in LSA last June to see the progress being made.

Like every new project, it has faced its challenges, but, fundamentally, the students are doing well to adapt to the challenge of combining rigorous sports with good education, just as the staff are imbibing the culture of not sacrificing sports for academics, but pursuing both equally in accordance to the vision of the owner.

The man behind all this is the Chairman of Peculiar Ultimate Concerns Ltd. a very quiet, reserved, laid-back philanthropist, constantly demonstrating uncommon patriotism, unconditional love and deep commitment to young people whose lives he touches in a massive way. I salute Engineer Abel Olanrewaju Adeleke.

Falcons and The Women’s FIFA World Cup.

The Women’s FIFA World Cup ends this weekend in Australia.

For over three weeks the world has been treated to a feast of some truly dramatic football played by women.

Nigeria’s Falcons were a part of that party.

During a most difficult time in our country’s political history, a bunch of young Nigerian women were showcasing Nigeria before the whole world, demonstrating through ‘the beautiful game’ the potentials of a country that could and would be the centre of the universe, one day soon.

What most people that watched the Falcons put up some truly gutsy performances and showed the world the stuff Nigerians are made of don’t even know is that, even as Africa’s most powerful Women’s football country, women’s football in Nigeria is still at an embryonic level, little funding, little promotion, little followership. Yet the Falcons are one of the most admired, respected and dreaded teams in the world, as we all saw in Australia.

Can you imagine what would happen when the country puts its act together, and deliberately invests to advance women’s football?

For 3 weeks, the Falcons eased the stress of Nigerians during those matches, with Sport, once again, demonstrating its power to unite a people, be a powerful change-partner and build bridges across divides. You can imagine what it is capable of achieving if and when a government appreciates and deploys it as a tool for bigger national interests.

Tobi Amusan

One of Nigeria’s greatest ambassadors and products in the world today is a young Nigerian athlete. She was the brightest star in the global constellation of athletes, breaking records and creating a new narrative for Nigeria in the field of sports, demonstrating Nigeria’s greatness as well as potentials by sprinting over hurdles faster than any other woman on the planet. A few weeks ago, the world caved in on her when she was accused of some avoidable misdemeanour and suspended only a few weeks away from the moment of her greatest triumph when the World Athletics Championships in Budapest starts next week.

The good news is that she protested, defended herself, has been exonerated and her suspension lifted to allow her participate in the Championship.

Once again, a female Nigerian will be the cynosure of eyes around the world, demonstrating our potentials to be one of the greatest nations on earth.

I salute Tobi Amusan!

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