Ogbemudia, a nation builder through sports takes a bow
O many Nigerians, particularly those in the sports circle, former governor of the defunct Midwest Region and old Bendel State, Dr. Samuel Osaigbovo Ogbemudia, who died at the age of 84 in the early hours of yesterday, was a builder, great motivator and mobilizer, as well as excellent manager of men and material.
His era as governor led to the discovery of many legends, who later ruled the nation’s sports, Africa and the world at large.
Ogbemudia was a populist, who dedicated most of his time to reconstruction of facilities damaged during the Nigeria Civil War. His desire to initiate improvements, particularly in the areas of sports, paid off for the region and the nation, when he built the Ogbe Stadium, a complex that was later named the Samuel Ogbemudia Stadium.
Perhaps, what stood the late Ogbemudia out as the greatest of all governors in the region was his vision for sports men and women. His decision to set up the New Era College after the superlative performance of Midwestern State contingent at Lagos ’73 National Sports Festival proved to be a remarkable step.
Within a short period, New Era College became the ‘headquarter of trophies’ in the region. Ogbemudia laid the sports foundation for the likes of Bright Omokaro, Sunday Eboigbe, Humphrey Jebba, Lucky Imafidon, the Eguavoen brothers (Sunday and Austin) and the late Stephen Keshi, (football). There were also David Imonitie, Veronica Oyibokia, Ejiro Omonode (tennis), Joe Orewa, Peter Konyegwachie, Jeremiah Okorodudu (boxing), Solomon Ogba (athletics), Charlton Ehizuelen (long jump) and Brown Ebewele (decathlon).
Many will recall how Ogbemudia brought Coach Alabi Aisien from P & T Vasco of Enugu to Bendel Insurance FC, a decision that paid off shortly after, when the club defeated Rangers 3-0 in the final of 1978 FA Cup in Lagos.
Ogbemudia’s vision for sports led to the construction of Afuze Games Village, a complex the state used to overpower host, Lagos, at 1973 sports festival, and 1975 as well as Kaduna ’77.
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