Gbajabiamila, Dare, others preach discipline, excellence as NUGA begins in Lagos
• Oyedeji, Ajunwa light torch as athletes go to ‘war’
The University of UNILAG, on Saturday, was filled with bright lights, culture and beauty as the 26th Nigerian Universities Games (NUGA) flagged off. Although it was a day filled with speeches, there were signs, from the demeanour of the athletes, that this year’s competition will present exciting times for the over 70 universities listed for the games.
Among the activities that heralded the competition was the official lighting of the NUGA torch and oath-taking by the athletes.
Present at the event were top dignitaries and officials from the sporting and academic world, traditional and religious leaders, as well as top political officers, who lent their star power to the mega event that shut the whole of Akoka down.
The dignitaries include Minister of Youth and Sports Development, Sunday Dare, Speaker of the House of Representatives, Femi Gbajabiamila, UNILAG’s Pro-Chancellor, Senator Lanre Tejuoso, Deputy Governor of Ogun State, Noimot Salako-Oyedele, and a representative of the Lagos State Governor, Mr Sola Aiyepekun.
The General Overseer of the Redeemed Christian Church of God and the Mountain of Fire Ministries was represented by Pastor Jaiyeoba from RCCG Region One and Godwin Enahekna respectively, while Pastor Tunde Bakare and his wife, as well as Pastor Ituah Ighodalo, also graced the event. There were also former athletes, including Olympians, Chioma Ajunwa and Olumide Oyedeji.
NUGA President, Professor Stephen Hamafyelto, who led scholars to the event, spoke about the unity the competition seeks to foster, just as UNILAG Vice-Chancellor, Prof. Oluwatoyin Ogundipe, expressed his delight, despite all the obstacles, at being able to host the games seven years after it was last held at the University of Port Harcourt.
He promised that the games would be more colourful than the previous one, adding that best-behaved athletes and universities would be honoured at the end of the games.
“We want to make use of this rich pool of talents and expose them to the world so that foreign scouts can discover them,” he said.
Tejuosho emphasised the need for college life to preach peace and harmony amid Nigeria’s different ethnic groups, saying the games show the country’s unity at its finest.
“All tribes are represented here and are united in one goal, competing to win,” he said.
Group executive director, GTCO, Segun Agbaje, admonished the athletes to make the best use of the facilities provided by the games to promote their schools and country.
Sports Minister, Sunday Dare, promised that NUGA would be the avenue to select athletes for the World Universities Games held in China in June and the Commonwealth Games billed for London in July.
Speaker of the House of Representatives, an alumnus of the university, Femi Gbajabiamila, eulogised the great number of students present at the ceremony. He said, “I’m gratified that this is happening after seven years with a total of over 70 universities and about 14,000 athletes.
“Nelson Mandela said the sport has the power to change the world. It has the power to inspire and unite people. It speaks in a language they understand, we will be hearing and listening to the language of sport in the next seven to eight days, where we are going to see new talents.
“This will be a harvesting ground to recruit athletes. It is not in my mind which university will come first; it is the university that will come second that I am worried about,” he said.
He added that what Nigeria needs is a long-lasting cohabitation amidst diverse tribes and religions. “I have seen universities from the North, West, and South… I’ve seen men and women of different religious backgrounds, Muslim and Christians. Everybody has come together; this is what we need in Nigeria today.
“We don’t care about colours, ethnicity or religion… we can use our strength, unleashed to every nation of the world. I look forward to new records that would be broken here this week.”
Olympians, Oyedeji and Ajunwa lite the NUGA torch to herald the competition, which will hold for the next one week.