JOHN JOSHUA AKANJI
THE age long practice of paying glowing tributes to dead heroes without commensurate honour and monuments erected to immortalize them will no longer be the norm.
Youths and Sports Minister, Sunday Dare is committed to changing the narrative by ensuring that recognition and honour is bestowed on athletes, coaches and administrators who have made immense contributions to sports development.
As the body of the late NSC Chairman, Alex Akinyele is interned today, Dare said beyond graveside oration, President Muhammadu Buhari is irrevocable committed to honouring sportsmen and women, coaches and administrators that have contributed to sports. Hence a powerful delegation is not only in Ondo to pay their last respect, the Minister is personally involved with the burial.
The minister mobilised men and resources to ensure a befitting final rites of passage for the Ondo High Chief.
While paying glowing tribute to heroes and heroines that had won laurels, brought glory and honour to our fatherland, Dare said it must go beyond mere rhetorical statements and empty promises. “We must learn to honour athletes, coaches and administrators that committed their lives to the service of the nation. Chief Akinyele was an epitome of service and patriotism. He exemplified what genuine service to the country meant. His personal charm was infectious and hard work quite motivational. He tried to use his position to impact on the society. He was simply a true Nigerian hero.”
“ Sports remains our greatest unifying instrument, public relation tool and could be the biggest source of revenue if properly harnessed. So many heroes have died unheralded and in penury. We must celebrate our athletes and administrators while they are alive.
According to Dare, Akinyele was a pace setter, astute administrator, accomplished technocrat, consummate businessman who left his mark in the sands of time.
Dare affirmed that Akinyele led an exemplary life worthy of emulation. He was a man who abhorred failure, set his goals and ensured that they were accomplished. He presided during great epochs in Nigerian sports like the 1994 Nations Cup victory, the Atlanta 1996 Olympics feat among others.
He was meticulous and a stickler to details. He never believed in impossibilities. Dare further described him as humane, humorous, urbane and honest in his views. While some viewed him as too cosmopolitan, he was a grassroots man who was
at home with his people, no wonder he held the title of Lisa of Ondo Kingdom. He made remarkable mark in the development of his community in sports, education and infrastructural development. He united his people and brought them to national prominence. He was dutiful, loyal and patriotic. He was indeed passionate about the unity and progress of Nigeria.
No wonder, he midwifed so many reforms in Nigeria’s body polity. He headed the Reconciliation Committee set up by the late Head of State, General Sani Abacha. While he was widely condemned by the South West, he won accolades across the Niger for his courage, zeal and unflinching believe in the sanctity of the union called Nigeria.
Before his foray into sports, he brought panache, glamour, professionalism and respect to Public Relations practice as the pioneer President of the Institute of Public Relations of Nigeria. His contributions to Public Relations practice continues to evoke found memories when he worked at the Nigerian Customs.
As Minister of Information under General Ibrahim Babangida, he developed the template that led to the of media practice in Nigeria.
He was a stylish man, great orator, full of wits and idioms, jovial and quite amiable. He was married to a South African, Indian and lastly a Nigerian. He can therefore be best described as a man of the universe.
Born on April 24th 1938 in Ondo town, Chief Akinyele was educated at the University of Ife. He died on November 15, 2019. He would be buried today, Friday.
• Akanji is a Special Adviser, Media to the Minister of Youth and Sports