• ‘It’s sad the government doesn’t recognize us’
Or years, Delta State in South-South Nigeria has been the dominant state in the nation’s sports, producing great athletes from various sectors, including track and field, boxing, tennis, and football.
From the then Mid-Western region in 1963 to Bendel State in 1976, and its creation in 1991, Delta has been the Commander-in-chief as far as Nigerian sports is concerned. And former Nigerian and African sprinter, Endurance Ojokolo says the city of Sapele in Delta Central is the goose that lays the golden egg. She feels that Sapele is where the majority of the athletes are produced and should be given its rightful place in Nigeria’s sports history.
“Sapele is the Mecca of sports in Nigeria because more great athletes have been produced here than other cities in the country,” Ojokolo told The Pearl TV. “But when it is time to appoint people into key positions in Nigerian sports, nobody remembers Sapele despite our efforts in making sure that more athletes are produced for the nation’s sports.”
Apart from producing stars for the then Mid-West and old Bendel to rule the National Sports Festival from its inception in 1973 to Bendel ’81, Sapele has also played a key role in assisting Delta to rule the festival since Bauchi 2000 to Abuja 2018.
Ojokolo ruled the sprint event, both in Nigeria and Africa for many years before Blessing Okagbare came into the scene in late 2000.
Apart from the duo of Ojokolo and Okagbare, Sapele is where Nigerian sprint sensation, Divine Oduduru was born and brought up.
Sapele is also the home of a former Nigerian sprinter, Olusoji Fasuba. Another athlete, Endurance Abinuwa, is also from the town.
Ojokolo stated yesterday that the city had a culture of discovering young athletes and nurturing them to become world stars. “Even before I was discovered in 1989/1990, Sapele had been at the forefront of producing great stars for Nigeria. In those days, there was no standard stadium in Sapele, but there was a tradition for the coaches to fish out the young athletes with abundant talents. That had been the old tradition in Sapele to date.
“Apart from producing star athletes, Sapele has also produced more coaches for the country. The likes of Daniel Etsebiminor, who produced Blessing Okagbare is one of the biggest grassroots coaches in this part of the world.
“But it is painful that no prominent citizen from Sapele is considered for appointment as far as the nation’s sports is concerned. Nobody cares about how we produced the athletes for the nation. It is becoming worrisome to me. Even at the state level, we are not given our due recognition.
“Last year, Delta hosted the African Senior Athletics Championships in Asaba, and I attended as a spectator. I won the African Championship, both as a junior and senior athlete for many years. It was hosted in my own state but nobody looked at my direction. It is discoursing to some of us because we use our personal resources to cater for the young athletes and nurture them to become stars. When they become stars, the state officials will lay claim to them as their products. The government should look at our direction byways of appointments so that we can produce more stars for the nation,” Ojokolo stated.