NOA Seeks Ways To Ensure “The Work Of The Heroes Of The Past Is Not In vain” | The Guardian Nigeria News
It was the largest gathering of Nigerian champions since the 2003 COJA African Games in Abuja. But while the 2003 rally was made up of athletes and coaches, coming to compete for the country or former stars there to bring their expertise to Nigeria’s quest to dominate all of the Games winners, the gathering of last week was made up of retired stars, who felt the time was ripe to advocate their cause against the continued neglect of the well-being of “Our Past Heroes”. They also came together to propose solutions to the malaise in Nigerian sport and chart a course for development.
Present at the event were Nigerian Olympic Committee (NOC) President Habu Gumel, former tennis champion Professor Sadiq Abdullahi from the United States, former D’Tigress captain Mfon Udoka, l former international athlete, Pat Itanyi, Brisbane 1982 Commonwealth Games stars Lawrence Adegbeingbe and Samson Oyeledun, as well as 1996 Atlanta Olympic football gold medalists Victor Ikpeba and Emmanuel Babayaro.
The Director General of the National Council for Arts and Culture, Otunba Olusegun Runsewe, Mr. Peter Nelson, who represented the Minister of Sports, Sunday Dare, several Olympic medalists, Falilat Ogunkoya and Fatima Yusuf-Olukoju, the former captain of the national football team, Segun Odegbami and Gloria Obajimi, both present at the 1980 Moscow Olympics, as well as the captain of the Nigerian team of 1980 contingent, Hammed Adio.
With NOA President Olumide Oyedeji as President and Professor Sadiq Abdullahi as Co-President, the meeting was much more than an awards night. He also took guests back to the glory days of Nigerian sport through visuals in an effort to find out what was wrong with the country’s sports and the solution (s).
Explaining the reason for the banquet / awards, ANO President Olumide Oyedeji said the Olympians were united to ensure that the labors of the heroes of the past were not in vain.
“It’s not easy being an Olympian. We want to implore lawmakers and other government officials to address the welfare of Olympians, who have suffered injuries and pain in the service of the country.
“If you used your youth to serve your country, when will your country serve you?” We’re not asking for everything to be given to us, but we just want opportunities for these heroes.
“We have decided to celebrate our heroes who have been long neglected. Every time they entered the arena, they stood up for the national anthem and the national commitment. Without these athletes or Olympians, there will be no work for any coach or administrator.
“We want a country that protects abused and neglected athletes. We therefore urge our lawmakers to enact laws that will protect current and retired athletes. The government has the power to make Nigeria a better place for athletes. This is how we can maximize the talents and patriotism of these athletes. “
Olumide urged athletes billed for the Tokyo 2020 Olympics to focus and believe they can excel in Japan if they want to be successful in competition.
The former national team basketball captain, who announced the awarding of scholarships to 10 students from the African International School in Abuja with outstanding talents, added that in the future, the NOA would look into talent mentoring to ensure that gifted young Nigerian children get the mentorship they need to make the most of their talents.
Earlier, event co-chair Professor Sadiq Abdullahi, who explained that the association’s leadership is committed to rebuilding and repositioning NOA to meet local, national and global demands, acknowledged that Nigerian sport is currently at a crossroads.
He added, however, that the country would become great again if all stakeholders put national interest ahead of other considerations.
“The possibilities and the potential are endless. The goals and objectives of the NOA are in the process of being achieved. With additional contributions, they will be refined and revised to meet the needs of all Nigerian Olympians.
“We will support, motivate and encourage Olympians to take leadership roles in Nigerian sports, create their own quota, share their knowledge and rich experience to influence and change the Nigerian sports narrative in a positive way.”
Also speaking at the event, the Director General of the National Arts and Culture Council, Otunba Segun Runsewe, described the Olympians as the greatest asset that has helped the country in many ways.
According to Runsewe, “After the civil war in 1970, our leaders chose two elements, sport and culture, to unify the country.
“Sadly, the country is neglecting these athletes when they retire from active service. No country excels with this kind of attitude towards its heroes.
Runsewe urged the NOA to list the names of retired international athletes and their home states, saying he would contact their state governors to grant them their rightful position in society.
“I will work with the National Assembly to set up a program for them. Now that we have a platform to celebrate our heroes, we will make sure they get their country due. “
Some of the athletes past and present took the time to share their experiences representing Nigeria at international events and the lessons the country could learn from the sport.
Olufunke Oshonaike, who is the only African woman to qualify for seven Olympic Games and the only table tennis woman to achieve this feat in the world, said the sport teaches life lessons that create unity between the athletes.
“I wish Nigeria would be like the village of the Olympic Games, where there is no tribe, color or creed. At the Games Village, we are all brothers and sisters without discrimination.
Corroborating Oshonaike’s claims, two members of the country’s gold medalist soccer team at the 1996 Olympics in Atlanta, USA, Victor Ikpeba and Emmanuel Babayaro, said the sport prompts athletes to think first to the needs of the community, adding that athletes forget about their other differences when they enter the field.
Babayaro recalled his experience at the Atlanta Olympics, where “players contributed money to pay team bills when there was no government money.
“Some players have become drivers of the vehicles that we have chartered to take us to our training sessions.
“We fought and disagreed on many issues, but once we wore the Nigerian colors we became different people. We had a common goal and we only thought about what we could do to win our games.
The highlight of the event was the presentation of awards to athletes who represented Nigeria at the Olympics from 1952 to 1972. There were also awards for other athletes from track and field and football. The recipients include Hammed Adio, who competed in the 100m and 200m at the 1980 Moscow Olympics; Segun Odegbami, who was the captain of the football team at the same Olympics; and Gloria Obajimi, who competed in the women’s 4 × 400 meter relay.