OPINION: The Military in Nigerian Sports – an unhealthy ‘divorce’. BY SEGUN ODEGBAMI
History is a very important subject.
Nigerian sport history is replete with the stories and contributions of individuals and institutions. One of the greatest contributors is the military.
Although producing athletes was not their primary mandates….the convergence of intentions to train and breed physically fit young men and women…created a mutually beneficial relationship churned out a steady stream of Sports stars and heroes: Jaiye Ajiboye, Sam Igun, David Ejoke, Taiwo Ogunjobi, Ifeajuna, Davidson Andeh, Obisa Nwakpa, Nojeem Maiyegun, Joe Lasisi, Kenneth Olayombo, Sunny Oyarekhua, Samuel Ojebode, Kadiri Ikhana, Inua Lawal Rigogo, Joseph Agbogbovia, Rufus Ejele, Sunday Bada, Chioma Ajunwa, Waziri Ibrahim, and many more.
The Military set up clubs that registered with sports associations and participated in regional and national competitions – the Tigers of Benin, Super Two in Ibadan, The Scorpions in Jos, Dodan Warriors in Lagos, Lagos Garrison Organisation FC, Police Machine, etc.
National sports associations were the biggest beneficiaries.
With the return of democratic civilian dispensation in the late 1990s, the influence of the military started to wane as they retired more and more into their barracks and seclusive military interests, leaving a vacuum in the relationship that blunted the very important roles they should have continued to play in national sports development.
Today,….. their presence as part of various sports associations is no longer recognised and has reduced to a trickle. ….The result is a big hole in sports development.
There is now some confusion whether to admit the military as a special constituency, and accord them special status as has been ‘illegally’ done for State Sports Associations, SWAN, the Players Union (surprised?), League Management Company, etc. or to recognise them as bona fide Members …to the extent of their participation in the sports leagues to which their clubs are registered and participate.
A special status consideration ……is the reason for all the unending crisis in Nigerian sports – badly ‘mutilated’ articles on elections into the boards to accommodate non-members into the Elective Congresses.
Also, for over 4 decades, some of Nigeria’s finest and most successful sports administrators were the product of a carefully cultivated relationship between the military and sports associations….
A short list: General Henry Adefope, General Samuel Ogbemudia, Admiral Jubril Ayinla, General Sani Kontagora, Col. Saad Abubakar (the Sultan of Sokoto), General Joseph Garba, General Shehu Musa Yar Adua, Air Commodore Emeka Omeruah, Col. Abdulmumuni Aminu, Air Commodore Anthony Ikhazaboh, General Dominic Oneya, General David Jemibewon…..!
Somehow, going forward, the country must go back to the past,…. return to forgotten or neglected pages in Nigeria’s sports history, dust them up, learn from them, and chart a new path to a great future..with a great relationship with the Military.
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