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Odegbami: The Military In Nigerian Sports – An Unhealthy ‘Divorce’

Odegbami: The Military In Nigerian Sports – An Unhealthy ‘Divorce’

History is a very important subject.

A people that wants to make rapid progress in development must take useful lessons from the pages of their history, using previous experiences as a compass into the labyrinthian complexities of uncharted territory that the future is.

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Nigerian sports is replete with the stories and contributions of individuals and institutions. One of the greatest contributors to sports development is the military (and, by extension, para-military establishments). As a disciplined force, the military provided the cutting edge as well as ready platforms needed for optimum physical and mental development of athletes. They had the institutions in place that became excellent breeding grounds for athletes across most sports in Nigeria, from even before Independence in 1960.

Of course, producing athletes was not part of their primary mandates, but by the coincidence of responsibilities with sports associations, to train and breed physically fit young men and women, a mutually beneficial convergence of intentions between them developed.

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The situation was harnessed by eagle-eyed sports associations to compliment their own primary responsibility of organising programmes and competitions for their members. They interested the military institutions to register and participate in regional and national competitions.

That’s how the Military set up sports clubs within their formations around the country that registered with State and national associations to participate in their programmes and competitions – Tigers of Benin, Super Two in Ibadan, The Scorpions in Jos, Dodan Warriors in Lagos, Lagos Garrison Organisation FC, Police Machine, etc. These clubs across various sports became household names and bona fide members of the sports associations, churning out a steady stream of stars and sports 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.

nojeem-maiyegun-karis-award-household-of-god-church-1964-summer-olympics

Nojeem Maiyegun

Also Read – Odegbami: Reconnecting With The Great Dodo Mayana!

The Military formations had the advantage of their inherent institutionalised discipline and steady funding from the Federal Government of Nigeria to build first-class sports infrastructure and facilities, with highest-level capacity building programmes for all their personnel involved in physical training and sports development.

National sports associations were the biggest beneficiaries.

It was a glorious relationship because the military provided what most sports associations could not, for proper training of athletes for national competitions.

When the military took over governance in the country, the relationship became even closer, and roles and responsibilities morphed and became unitary. Military personnel became more directly involved in the administration of associations and started to lead several of them by fiat, and often, also, by the merit of the scale of their contributions to the running of domestic sport.

With the return to 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 the military can continue to play in national sports development even in a civilian dispensation.

Without serious involvement any more, the facilities and personnel that once fuelled sports development for over 3 decades gradually disappeared from the prevailing structures and the whole of sport was the worse for it.

Today, the military clubs, the facilities the military put at the disposition of national associations, and their highly trained personnel have left the sports space and their presence as part of various sports associations has reduced to a trickle. Only one military sports official heads a sports association out of the over 30 in the country.

The result is a big hole in sports development.

I am a member of a group looking at re-structuring Nigerian sports for better and faster development. It is shocking that conversations about the relevance of the military, as a constituency took place. The Military? They are a master key to sports development in Nigeria. They must have almost permanent representation on the boards of all national associations. How to make that happen is now the challenge, not if.

The reality is that for as long as Military formations continue to register their clubs in various sports to participate in the competitions and programmes of associations, they will remain bone fide members of those associations, and should have all the rights and privileges that other members have, including the right to contest for leadership positions on the boards of the association.

greatest-nigerian-female-athletics-gloria-alozie-track-and-field-falilat-ogunkoya-chief-tony-osheku-mary-onyali-chioma-ajunwa

Chioma Ajunwa jumps into Nigeria’s first Olympic Games gold medal at Atlanta ’96

With the reduction in their participation in national competitions, there is 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 to the extent of their participation in the sports leagues to which their Military clubs are registered and participate.

A special status consideration is an unwanted development that has afflicted the constitutions of sports associations and 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.

That is another matter entirely beyond this article.

Also Read – Odegbami: Re-Restructuring Nigerian Football Administration

Not finding a happy medium for the relationship with the military has resulted in the diminishing of their participation in sports development. With less public followership of their own programmes, the military has reduced its interest in developing athletes for the country, and limits most of its programmes to lack-lustre military competitions only.

In Nigeria’s sports history, the military and para-military institutions were big contributors. They had the training, capacity, discipline and structures that churned out the best of athletes in most sports.

Somehow, going forward, the country must go back to the past, to find the way to re-integrate military and paramilitary establishments fully into the main stream of national sports development, so that both constituencies benefit from the relationship.

Some of Nigeria’s finest and most successful sports administrators were the product of a carefully cultivated relationship between the military and civil society for over 4 decades. A short list: General Henry Adefope, General Samuel Ogbemudia, Vice-Admiral Jubril Ayinla, General Sani Kontagora, General Joseph Garba, General Shehu Musa Yar Adua, Air Commodore Emeka Omeruah, Colonel Abdulmumuni Aminu, Air Commodore Anthony Ikhazaboh, General Dominic Oneya, General David Jemibewon, and so on.

The military and para-military leadership must wake up and take sports more seriously than they have been doing in the past two decades. They should re-integrate their formations with the programmes of State and national sports bodies. Not having them actively involved is the squandering of a most useful ‘resource’ in Nigerian sports development.

Any sports reforms must include a careful re-absorption of this crucial demography into a new sports development architecture. Nigerian sports must return to forgotten or neglected pages in Nigeria’s sports history, dust them up, learn from them, and chart a new path into a great future in sports, once again.

 

Segun Odegbami

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COMMENTS

WORDPRESS: 12
  • TALK UR OWN 2 weeks ago

    MR ROHR COMPLAINER, YOUR LOCAL COACH FRIEND, EQUAVOEN FAIL TO GO BEYOND 2ND ROUND OF AFCON 2021, WE DIDN’T HEAR ANYTHING FROM YOU.
    AGAIN, YOUR LOCAL COACH FRIEND EQUAVOEN FAIL AGAIN TO PUT SMILE ON THE FACE OF NIGERIA FANS BY FAIL TO DELIVERED QATAR 2022 WORLD CUP TICKET. YOU DIDN’T MAKE ANY COMMENTS ON BOTH DISASTROUS OUTING.
    *** WITH THIS YOUR ACTION, THIS SHOWS THAT YOU TOO, YOU ARE HIGHLY SENTIMENTAL PERSON. YOU ARE NOT WORTHY TO BE LISTEN TO.
    NO WONDER KOJO WILLIAMS KICKED AGAINST IN YEARS BACK THAT WITH YOUR LEVEL OF MATURITY, HE WAS DISAPPOINTED IN YOU FOR ACCEPTING ILLEGITIMATE/UNFORMALISED OFFER AS SECRETARY GENERAL OF NFA APPOINTED BY FORMER SPORTS MINISTER,MUSA MOHAMMED.
    ** GERNOT ROHR QUALIFIED FOR AFCON2021 & 2022 WORLD CUP PLAY-OFF YOU ARE CRITICIZING HIM( though everybody is available for criticism). BUT YOUR LOCAL COACH EQUAVOEN FAILED ON BOTH ASSIGNMENT (AFCON 2021 & 2022 WORLD CUP PLAY-OFF) GIVEN TO HIM. BUT YOU MAINTAINED SILENCE.
    ### INFACT IT IS A BIG SHAME FOR NOT FRANKLY TALK ABOUT BOTH DISASTROUS FAILURES (compared the way you normally kicked against ROHR). YOU ARE A BIAS/TRIBALISTIC/SENTIMENTAL SPORT ANALYST. YOU ARE NOT WORTHY TO BE LISTEN TO.
    Please don’t intervene in Nigeria sport again. You are a selfish analyst.

     
    • Davison 2 weeks ago

      It was just Uzoho’s mistake of which he publicly confessed attested to, otherwise coach Eguavoen was 85% on course. Remember he supervised 7 games witin a short time, losing only 1 in the process, this is a statement of fact. So you aren’t going to be expecting Uncle Mathematical to represent statistics wrongly. Country like Italy that lost out of Qatar have other important stuffs on the burner.

       
      • Boma fanzy 2 weeks ago

        Besides some other friendlies, the Azzuris will play a nations league game against Germany on the 4th of June.

         
      • Yinkus 2 weeks ago

        @Davison leave uzoho out of this, Rohor will never and His never complain of any loss as a result of goal keeper error.Even that free kick that beat Apkeyi in 2019 afcon.
        Racism and bias mind will not take you guys anywhere. It will continue to amount to backwardness.

         
      • Yes! @ Davison, he only lost 1 game out of 7..yes
        Won against…
        *Coton Sport
        *Guinea Bissau
        *Sudan and
        *Egypt …wow! Top African teams
        Lost to weak Tunisian team and drawn twice with Newly assembled Ghanaian team, lost world cup qualification in the process.
        Yes..very good record.
        You are not even supposed to be contributing here cos Davison is a Foreign Name. We don’t want anything foreign here in Nigeria.
        Foreign Born
        Foreign Coach
        Foreign Rice ..even Foreign Names lol!

         
        • Yinkus 2 weeks ago

          @sean, lol I hope that serve him right.

          Those guys clamouring for our own are just one and same parapo ppl. Group of vultures and hyenas ready to scavenge anything from se anyhow. Even if se is dead they are ready to eat.

           
      • KENNETH 2 weeks ago

        Abeg no mind this noise makers who are seeking brownie points from there master Dr Dry. Abeg is the right up not correct. Since the military handed back the reigns of affairs, what have we truly accomplished. Some here is saying we don’t need the past, maybe you need to read the intro to have a better understanding of what odegbami is trying to point out. A lot of you don’t take time to read and digest, but personal hatred has clouded the judgements of many. Abeg make una leave the man alone.

         
    • KENNETH 2 weeks ago

      Oga why are you still whining, abi you hungry this morning. Abeg make we hear word. All this noise about rorh this is because he had the players at his disposal. Other countries before Nigeria what did he do with there team. After qualifying with games to spare, what happened at the tournament proper after 6 solid years. Not even a silver to his name. Same Eguavoen won the same Bronze he is showing off with. so spare us all this ranting

       
  • Prince charming 2 weeks ago

    Talk ur own my brother you are right

     
  • What do you expect from someone that chose to remain in the PAST? Check those pictures up there. One Najeem Maiyegun in the 60s and ajunwa of the 90s. Is that the way Forward?
    You will be shocked when he starts mentioning Names of the best Nigerians players..those that have played their games when back pass in football was still acceptable. he has seen nothing good about the current players. Ask him what Nigerian can do to develop our sport, he’ll start talking about the time of Shofoluwe, IICC etc.
    There’s no way we can move forward with the leaders like this without new orientations.
    That’s why person like Eguavoen believed so much in Westerhorf’s Legacy of 94, roughly 30 years ago. Mtchew!

     
  • Chief Engineer Segun Odegbami [MON], one of Nigeria’s foremost footballing legends, your opinion and analysis are always welcome here. You served this country diligently for decades shading blood and sweat in the process. Your place is secured in the history books of the global sport. Nobody can take that away from you.