(By Oluseye Ojo – IBADAN)
Former Minister of Petroleum, Tam David-West, a professor of virology, has advocated national honour for a Nigerian, Major Emmanuel Ifeajuna, the first Black African to win gold medal in international sports competition.
In an interview with Daily Sun in Ibadan, David-West, who is celebrating his birthday today (August 26) lamented that the Federal Government, Anambra State Government and Kuti Hall of Residence in the University of Ibadan have purportedly forgotten the great Nigerian, let alone honouring him.
Ifeajuna had in 1954 Nigerian Athletic Championship established himself among the country’s best high jumper. He was chosen to represent Nigeria at the British Empire and Commonwealth Games in Vancouver, Canada from July 30 to August 7, 1954. He competed wearing only his left shoe, yet managed to win a gold medal. Then, Ifeajuna image was used for the front cover of a national exercise book for Nigerian students.
After his gold medal win, he ceased training in high jump and did not return to sport. He enrolled in a science degree at the University College of Ibadan in 1954. He lived in the Kuti Hall. The college later became University of Ibadan. After graduation, he worked briefly as a teacher and joined the Nigerian Army in 1960.
David-West was not happy that Ifeajuna’s lagacy with Black African sports has been overshadowed by his involvement in the first military coup in Nigeria on January 15, 1966, and later for fighting in the Biafran Army during the 30-month civil war in the country from 1967 to 1970.
Ifeajuna was executed on September 25, 1967 by the Biafran Army on charges of disloyalty.
According to David-West, the Federal Government should honour the late athlete by naming the Abuja national stadium stadium or the road leading to it after him.
He also urged Anambra State Government to honour Ifeajuna (who hailed from Onitsha). He also met with the officials in charge of Kuti Hall in UI to include Ifeajuna’s name in the Kuti Hall of Fame.
“Nigeria owes Ifeajuna a lot of apology. He won the gold medal as a Nigerian, not as a Biafran. There was no Biafra then. The leader of Biafra, Col Chukwuemeka Odimegwu-Ojukwu, was pardoned. Ojukwu came to Nigeria with great and tumultuous fanfare in Lagos.
“In fact, there was a rumour that Ojukwu was to run as vice presidential candidate to former President of Nigeria in the 1983 presidential election. If Ojukwu was pardoned and came to Nigeria with fanfare, why should somebody they fought together not be pardoned?
“Ifeajuna died supporting Nigeria. He was executed by the Biafran Army for (alleged) disloyalty to Biafra. He was then supporting the cause of Nigeria. No Nigerian has ever considered Ifeajuna for honour.
“The Federal Government should name a stadium after him. The least they can do is to name the road that leads to the national stadium after Ifeajuna in Abuja. I will be very proud if the honour is given to Ifeajuna during the time of President Muhammadu Buhari. If he does, Buhari will print his name in gold in the history of Nigeria, especially when Igbo feel he didn’t like them.”