Nigeria can eradicate poverty and diseases if it had a policy that ensured children combined their education with sport.
It is the little things that matter the most in life.
Attention to the small details changes lives and makes the biggest difference.
Two of late Nelson Mandela’s greatest quotes come to mind.
The first is: ‘Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world’.
The second is: ‘Sport has the power to change the world’.
If both statements, from a man considered one of great sages of the 21st Century with wisdom and humanity flowing freely through his veins, are true, imagine what combining the best of Education and Sports would produce.
In 2004, even the United Nations recognised the potency of the combination when it set up a special unit with the mandate to use sport as a major tool to drive aspects of the Millennium Development Goals Agenda to eradicate poverty, hunger, illiteracy, disease and HIV/AIDS in the world by 2015.
The absence of the political will to drive the process of achieving the set goals in some parts of the world, including Nigeria, led to the UN’s failure to achieve the anticipated results within the stated time frame.
Because I believed, in my zeal to achieve something, or to kick-start something, or just to show the possibility of what can be done and achieved, I embarked on some unique projects.
The first is the establishment of the special sports school (SOCA) where sport and education will grow together hand-in-hand in a symbiotic relationship with equal attention paid to both.
Another is a national campaign promoting the concept of revival of education and sports in all secondary and tertiary institutions in the country as a panacea for youth restiveness, idleness, health issues, illiteracy, growing number of out–of-school children, and empowerment.
I physically visited 30 of the 36 States (and Abuja) in the country, met with representatives of selected secondary and tertiary institutions from all the states, distributed some 10,000 footballs to the selected institutions through their state ministries of education, and gave out some track suits and jerseys to a few state officials.
Both were as ambitious as they were audacious.
The whole idea was to use the influence of my presence to convince state governments about the seriousness of the consequences of not deploying sport in academic institutions to drive major youth issues, and to use the gifts I presented as incentives to kick-start some action.
The plane of my idea did not even lift off the tarmac, weighted down by the myriad of financial and policy challenges that had been confronting most of the schools, even those that had the reputation of having promoted sports massively in their institutions at a time in the distant past.
The good thing is a few of my seeds fell on fertile soil, have sprouted and are yielding some fruits.
In the past few days, I have received some goodwill messages commending my little effort.
Two of the messages were very uplifting.
I sought and obtained the permission of the writers, both of them parents of students that have just completed their education at the Segun Odegbami International College and Sports Academy (SOCA), Wasimi Orile, Ogun State, to publish them.
Below are excerpts of their messages.
“On a personal note – I wish to express my full gratitude to you on my son, Oluwaseunrere.
“He resumed at The College of St. Rose, in the USA, yesterday, and he is so excited about the prospects.
“I was with him in the school as he took his first steps and had his first training on the pitch.
“I remember the day you said YES to my request to have him attend the blessed SOCA, and you asked me to pass the phone to him in the car.
Hearing your voice was what cracked him open, and got him to be fully prepared for the training that has now earned him a place at the prestigious school.
“You have been a big inspiration to me all these years, and now a motivator to my son.
“How would I ever be able to show gratitude to you, or repay you?
“God will continually enwrap you and your household in His Grace, Glory, Honour and Favor.
“He will bless your dream and cast his divine favour on your heart desire.”
“My brother and good friend, by my association as Commissioner of Police with a lot of politicians in power today, and the ignorance of the electorate, your success in politics will definitely be an uphill task.
“It will involve a lot of intrigues, blackmail, and finance.
“However, your courage to venture into unprofitable ownership of Segun Odegbami International College and Sports Academy is commendable.
“The school has become a really international academy with most of the graduate students on scholarships in USA Colleges of which my son, Obiesili Aghanya is a beneficiary. By the Grace of God, you will succeed in politics, all things being equal.
“My son departed today for St. Jones College, New York City. I appreciate you. God Bless you’.
Rtd. Commissioner of Police, Aghanya Ibe.
Both messages speak. I am speechless. For the boringly umpteenth time I feel obliged to let Nigerians know about this small laboratory of learning and of sports in Wasimi Orile, Ogun State.
Against all odds, it is functioning effectively and efficiently, admitting ordinary boys and girls with passion for sports, particularly football, and churning out, after a few years, gifted scholar/athletes that work very hard to combine academics with sports and access the vast opportunities available in the sports planet to further hone their talents and get a solid grounding in life through a great education.
That small seed planted in Wasimi some 11 years ago is designed to serve as a model for Local and State governments, and assure them that what an ordinary Nigerian, a retired footballer with little resources can do, the government can do a thousand times bigger and better, and achieve results that can impact the entire state in many ways.
The lives of the children will improve significantly, including their health, their character, their leadership and responsibility qualities, and their engagement with the innumerable opportunities available in the world of sports.
My responsibility to Nigerian parents is to make them aware of the opportunities that exist for their children to pursue their sports dreams within academic environments.
My responsibility also to other private school owners as well as Local and State governments is to make them see the immediate necessity for facilities for sports and physical education to exist abundantly, and to be deployed effectively, in their schools through programmes embedded in the curriculum.
My responsibility to Nigeria is to let the people know that the combination of sport and education has the power to impact and change the lives of their youths positively.
And, that one of the institutions that provides this special opportunity is SOCA. It is working.
It is real. The new academic year is about to start. Parents should find out what to do now by going to socaschool.com. This is not an advert.