By Gilbert Ekezie
Recently, different stakeholders gathered at the Ajeromi Ifelodun Local Government Secretariat, Ajegunle, Lagos State on the occasion of the community’s sports summit.
The event, titled: “Community Sports Ownership: Gateway to Curbing Youth Restiveness and Unemployment”, was organised by the local government sports council.
Among those present at the summit included a frontline sports journalist, Ifeanyi Udeze, a former Super Eagles player, Desmond Ekwueme, former top striker, Peter Neiketein, Austin Popo, Daddy Showkey, Alhaji Yusuf Adeniji, Hon Sameondeen Arogundade of Sunshine Kindheart Foundation, Mr Adewale Adeogun, traditional rulers and other community leaders.
The stakeholders , having brainstormed on the need for grassroots sports development, concluded that community sports ownership was highly needed. They believe that it is capable of taking the young people off the streets, as well serving as a great source of employment in the locality.
In his remarks, convener of the summit and Director General of Ajeromi Ifelodun Sports Council, Mr McAnthony Anaelechukwu, described the summit as an opportunity to dig deep into the seemingly insurmountable problems bedeviling Sports development in the area. He said that it was high time the leaders looked into the past and reinvent what made the locality, in the past, produced talents for various national teams.
He also noted that the summit enabled the stakeholders to look at the present, and see what was not done right; and then look into the future , with the goal of taking rightful place on the pinnacle of world sports.
Anaelechukwu, who said the Ajeromi Ifelodun Sports Council was established in 2019 by Hon Fatai Ayoola’s administration for better management of sporting activities, taking the youths off the streets and creating employment, pledged prudent management of any fund made available for him.
He opined that for the community to succeed in sports, there was need for commitment by all and sundry.
He said: “Obviously, our aims cannot be easily achieved, without you. I am optimistic that together we can produce those talents that can take the world by storm. Also, together we shall all speak with one voice and create job opportunities for our youths, through meaningful involvement in sports.”
Anaelechukwu, who is also Special Adviser to the Local Government Chairman on Media and Publicity, explained that even though there have been other summits in the council, this was specifically designed to give back to the community.
“We have been having other summits, but this particular one came into being because we want to give back to the community, so that everyone will have the opportunity to participate. In teams like Barcelona, Manchester United etc, are being owned by stakeholders in the communities, who are card-carrying members of the clubs. They are the ones that pay to become members of those clubs. It was the fans who chased Asene Wenger out of Arsenal. That is exactly what we want to replicate here,” he said.
He also harped on the need to sensitize the communities to achieving a formidable sports development that would help in promoting crime-free society and creating employment opportunities for the youths in their various communities.
“And, we can’t achieve that without the traditional rulers, who are the custodians of laws and culture of the land. That is the reason you see the nine Baales, the 39 Community Development Association chairmen and the Community Development Committee executive officers all present.”
On the readiness of the traditional rulers to cue in, Anaelechukwu said that the Chairman of the council has held a meeting with the traditional rulers, intimating them of the upcoming competitions called “Community Shield.’
“In the competition, each Baale will own a team, and every player must come from that community. Then, there will be a competition, where the winner will go home with N1 million, second prize N500,000, while third prize smiles home with N250,000. The competition will start after the Eid-el fitri celebration.
“By the time a community wins two times, others will like to work harder. So, no community or Baale will like to be left behind.”
In his remarks, the council’s boss, Hon Fatai Adekunle Ayoola explained that the importance of sports development in the locality cannot be over-emphasized, pointing out that it was the reason his administration devoted efforts in ensuring that the needed facilities for its development were put in place.
He said that among the promises he made to the people during his electioneering campaign were infrastructure, health and sports development. He reaffirmed his desire for Ajeromi Ifelodun Local Government Area to be widely known for sports and music.
He said: “In Lagos State today, if one needs a place for good printing job, he will be referred to Somolu. Ladipo is known for spare parts, Computer village Ikeja is known for computers and phones, while Ojo Alaba is known for electrical and electronic products. So, I want my area to be know for sports and music.”
He explained that his administration embarked on renovation of schools immediately he assumed office, and in doing that, he combined it with knowledge of technology, so that the children are exposed to what their mates are experiencing in the private schools within the area.
“Interestingly, our schools are equipped with ICT centres, Libraries and sports complexes. We also constructed Odion Ighalo Stadium at Tolu area, to give our young people access to sporting activities. The construction of Maracana Stadium, Tolu, is also in progress.”
Ayoola informed that there is a law guiding it, which stipulates that there will be election of officers every three years. “Notwithstanding the time frame, members of the Sports Council should be mindful that they can be voted out for non-performance.So, we need much commitment to achieve our goals.
The chairman pledged that he would continue to do his best to see that sports and music become the identify of the locality by showing more commitments to enhance their development. “In Lagos State today, if you want the best place for printing jobs, it is Somolu, if you want spare parts, it is Ladipo, if you electrical and electronics, you will be referred to Ojo Alaba, Ikeja is well known for Computers and Phones. Therefore, ours should be sports and music.”
Speaking on behalf of the traditional rulers in the area, Baale of Alayabiagba, Chief Adesina Ojora commended the local government for the event, especially in combating idleness and crime.
He assured that the traditional rulers would play their roles in ensuring that the dream come true.
The Baale regretted that many of those who grew up in the area and later succeeded, have forgotten their roots. He, therefore, called on them to always remember to give back to the place they started from.
One of the panelists, Mr Desmond Ekwueme, having encouraged community sports, decried absence of sports policy in the country.
He opined that for the sports development agenda of the present administration in the local government to survive, there should be continuity in implementation of sports policy.
Another Panelist, Mr Peter Nieketein stated that sports was a unifying factor and stressed the need for it to be given the deserved encouragement.