By Magnus Eze
Pioneer Governor of defunct Eastern Nigeria and paramount ruler of Unwana in Ebonyi State, Dr. Akanu Ibiam, died 22 years ago, on July 1, 1995, but his good works reverberated recently in Abuja, the Federal Capital Territory (FCT), showing that a good name is better than wealth.
The Federal Government, in collaboration with a private sports outfit, is organising an Under-18 soccer competition in memory of the late sage. So, the main organising committee (MOC) consisting of Director, Grassroots Sports Development, Federal Ministery of Youth and Sports, Mr. Ademola Are, FIFA-licensed agent, Mr. Emmanuel Omije, CEO of Fairplay Sports International, Mr. Jacob Onu, Dr. Ifedi Okwena, ex-international and CAF instructor, Emeka Amadi, and Super Eagles psychologist, Dr. Robinson Okosun, among others, converged on the headquarters of the Federal Ministry of Science and Technology, to solicit the support of the ministry for the successful hosting of the competition.
The competition, billed to hold in Ebonyi State, would involve the nine states of the defunct Eastern Region, now split into the states of the South East and South South geo-political zones.
The coveted trophy for the competition donated by the Minister of Youth and Sports, Mr. Solomon Dalung, was presented on his behalf to the Science and Technology Minister, Dr. Ogbonnaya Onu, by the Director of Grassroots Sports Development.
Presenting the trophy, Are explained that the competition was aimed at keeping the legacies of Ibiam alive: “We felt that we should not always wait for government alone to honour great Nigerians who had impacted on the lives of the youth, lives of their people and Nigerians as a whole.
“We are doing this for a great Nigerian; the late Ezeogo, Dr. Akanu Ibiam. In his life time, he impacted greatly on the lives of Nigerians and we felt we should do something to immortalise his name. He’s known very well in the East, people know him even beyond the East, and we feel that we should entrench his virtues. And the only way we can do this is through sports. Through sports, we can easily reach millions of youths considering the various advantages.”
He harped on the place of sports, especially soccer, as a veritable tool for national unity and cohesion, noting that it knew neither tribe nor religion.
According to the director, “If Nigerian national team is playing football, nobody wants to know whether you are from the North or South; everybody will be glued to the television and if they score, even the President would jump up and everybody would clap and shout. So, it’s the only instrument that the All Progressives Congress-led government can effectively utilise to bring about the much-needed peace and unity,” he said.
Onu commended those behind the initiative saying that it was in tandem with the cardinal focus of the President Muhammadu Buhari administration in promoting rule of law; adding that “the fight against corruption will be more sustainable when we honour all those who have done well in the past; so that those still serving will know that if they dedicate themselves to the service of the nation and do things in the best interest of the nation, that they would be remembered both when they are out of office and even when they die.”
He said that Ibiam lived a very decent life as a public officer and missionary medical doctor gave his services for almost free.
The minister said: “That will show you the kind of man Dr. Akanu Ibiam was during his life-time and we believe that we need young Nigerians to know more about people like Akanu Ibiam so that they can benefit from the lifestyle that he lived and also encourage our young ones to aspire to the sort of things that he did while alive.”
He added that if the young ones were exposed to that type of mental attitude, it would help to build a united country that would engender peace and development.
Onu also said that the late sage was a goal keeper, highly respected in the sports arena, assuring the initiators of the competition that others would honour them the same way they honoured Ibiam.
According to the minister, technology plays very important role in sports; requiring “continuous research, continuous innovation and that is where the Federal Ministry of Science and Technology comes in. We are already in it and will do more to support sporting activities in the country.”