–Interview by TUNDE KOIKI on the COMPLETE SPORTS STUDIOS radio programme, SPORTS PLANET.
Sports Planet: Could you kindly introduce yourself, sir?
Bashir: I am Bashir Augusto, the chairman, Lagos State Traditional Sports Association and the chairman, Traditional Sports Association, South-Western zone, Nigeria.
SP: How big are traditional sports in Nigeria and Africa as a continent?
Bashir: Well, many people say Nigeria is a giant of Africa but only a few can say how strong she is. Nigeria is blessed with abundance of talents but we don’t appreciate what we have. Traditional sports have been great in Senegal; they are well organized with various club sides. Yet, despite that we didn’t take them (traditional sports) serious here in Nigeria, we went to Senegal few years back and defeated them right there at their backyard.
SP: Sir, are you saying that there are traditional sports clubs in francophone countries?
Bashir: Of course yes, my brother. All francophone countries in Africa have traditional sports clubs and these sports are well organized there. Here in Nigeria, we hardly organize any traditional sport competition except when we have National Sports Festival and that makes it difficult for us to get sponsors. I will put the blame of not getting sponsors on journalists who fail to create awareness about these sports to draw the attention of those who may have interest in what we are doing. So, I’m using this medium to plead to media houses (print) to set aside at least a page for traditional sports in their publications to encourage sponsors to take them to the highest level.
SP: Sir, why has it been difficult to establish traditional sports clubs in Nigeria?
Bashir: Well, the main problem is money. In Lagos for instance, there is Dambe (traditional boxing) and Kokowa (traditional wrestling) among others. Like I said earlier, we’ve not been getting support from the federal government in promoting these sports. But with the help of media, I believe we will surely get sponsors to take them to a greater height.
SP: Sir, are you blaming journalists for putting so much attention on foreign sports to the detriment of traditional sports?
Bashir: I’m not blaming them. I’m just appealing to them to try as much as possible to focus more on traditional sports in their publications for people to know that these sports exist in Nigeria. If you check all sports publications we have nowadays, 90% of the contents of those publications are foreign sports. For instance, in Yobe State, there is Ibilanga (one legged wrestling) and Dambe (traditional boxing), and the only way people can get to know that these sports exist is to publicize them.
SP: Sir, I think the federal government through the National Sports Commission accepts traditional sports a little by introducing some of these sports like Abula and Dambe at the last edition of the National Sports Festival. Are you saying that this support is inadequate?
Bashir: Yes, it is inadequate; they should do better. There is a programme on traditional games on the Nigerian Television Authority (NTA) now at exactly 1:30pm every Sunday which I think is a great help for us but we still need more awareness. I must appreciate the effort of Lagos State government; they’ve been supporting us financially in ensuring traditional sports get to the next level.
SP: Sir, can you tell us about the upcoming South-West Ayo championship?
Bashir: Ayo is a game people don’t really know much about. It requires full concentration. I organized this competition because ECOWAS is promoting the game too. They are planning to introduce it to the Olympic Games. You know, before you can participate at the Olympic Games, you have to play in All African Games first. So, we want Nigeria to be among the top countries in Africa as far as traditional sport is concerned.
SP: How many states are you expecting for the competition?
Bashir: Six states. They are: Lagos State, Ogun State, Oyo State, Osun State, Ekiti State and Ondo State. The competition is a two-day event to be held here in Lagos State with lots of cash prizes to be won. We are giving out the cash prizes out because everybody needs financial assistance. But if anyone feels like donating gift, it is allowed. We’ll give it out to the winners at the end of the championship.
SP: So, when is the event taking place?
Bashir: The competition comes up between 9th and 10th, December 2014 at Road Park in Yaba Lagos. Apart from the Ayo game competition itself, other traditional sports like Abula, Yanga, Dambe, Kokowa among others will also be displayed to spectators for them to see how far we’ve gone in promoting traditional sports in Nigeria.
SP: Finally sir, with all your effort and investments you’ve put together in promoting traditional sports in Nigeria, is there any hope for Nigeria and Africa as a whole as far as these sports are concerned?
Bashir: Definitely, the sky is the limit for traditional sports in Africa. Traditional wrestling is a big sport in francophone countries in Africa; they have big stadiums with enormous followership. Their wrestling is the combination of our own Dambe (boxing) and wrestling. We went to Russia to witness their traditional sports likewise other countries do come here to see the talents we have. Koreans came to Nigeria few years back, saw what we’ve got and took it to their country. As we speak now, Kokowa (traditional wrestling) is a hot cake in Korea Republic. Nigerian tourism board and National Sports Commission are not working to ensure we take these sports to the next level. Now, I’m working on how to see traditional rulers like Oba Riliwan Akiolu of Lagos, Alaafin of Oyo and Sultan of Sokoto to pledge their support towards this programme.
SP: Thank you for talking to us, sir?
Bashir: Thank you.
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