Sunday, 7 August 2016

Age Problems In Nigerian Sports

A recent story on the BBC revealed that half of Nigeria’s Under-17 male soccer were disqualified from an upcoming international competition.  An excerpt reads A staggering 26 members of Nigeria's Under-17 side failed an age test carried out ahead of an African Cup of Nations qualifier.
A mandatory Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) screening of the squad revealed almost half were ineligible to play.
Only last year the Golden Eaglets, as they are known, won the FIFA U17 World Cup in Chile for a record fifth time.
The players who failed the tests have now left the training camp in Abuja.
They were staying there ahead of tomorrow's Cup of Nations U17 qualifying match against neighbouring Niger, which will still go ahead.
Many of the expected starting eleven passed the test.
Accusations of age cheating have blighted Nigeria's success at international age group tournaments in recent years.”

I would not start by bashing the players. Why? Over the last 14 months I have been working in the NGO industry and I am aware, with first-hand experience, how many young people, in both rural and urban communities, may not know their real ages from poor education of their parents to register births and by an overarching system failure to tackle issues surrounding birthing of children, data collection, control and management.
There is a national agency (the National Population Commission of Nigeria) charged with the registration of birth certificate issuance etc., however, due to a lack of sensitisation of its importance and duty and a lack of enlightenment of citizens, as well as high usage of TBAs (traditional birthing assistants) who should link up with the relevant agencies to register birth but may not, many children are born without any documentation of their birth in any national database.

Second blame will be on deep rooted system failure to provide basic amenities for its citizens.  What I mean is this... For many young people, worldwide but most especially in developing nations, sports can often be the ONLY ticket out of a cycle of economic disadvantage and it is indeed a means through which a lot of people have gotten out of slums, ghettos, a life of danger and crime.  So permit me to generalise and say that, often, we find children who haven't had basic services (birth registration, quality education etc.) come out as athletes because it is their last ticket out of poverty. If the system were better prepared to provide for its citizens, issues around age within our society will be history.  We would also have better nurtured young people who opt to become athletes.  Furthermore we must strive for a society and system where it's unthinkable to change age like underwear (a topic for another day).  There is a lot of work to do in terms of national image with strong focus on integrity and honesty.

Finally, I blame the entire structure of sports development through the Ministry of Youth and Sports Development. With the advancement of technology and its uses in all facets of life, it shouldn't take a competition’s MRI scan to disqualify athletes who are supposed to be of a particular age range.  Granted, there may be players who have knowingly falsified papers to have a shot on the team but as a norm in Nigeria and our sporting culture we ought to have routine MRI scans to comb through our pool of athletes so it isn't an international embarrassment, it'll be a routine weeding of wrongly categorised athletes, categorising them correctly to continue their careers and provision of more accurate birth and age records as a matter of national importance for the National Population Commission.
We really have a Ministry headed by a clueless man in Solomon Dalung.  I have never met him so I cannot speak of his person as an individual, but as an appointed officer, he ought to be sacked.
I've looked up his biography and I haven't seen anything to make me believe that he is the ideal Nigerian for the job.  I see a career civil servant, (no slight of any sort) who hasn't had any obvious interaction with sports and/or sports development.  
I admit, that whilst it isn't entirely necessary, it is very helpful if the minister had had some dealings with sports as an athlete, a trainer, a coach or an administrator.  I am yet to read about any ground breaking plan of his to revolutionise, restructure and rejuvenate our sports sector.  To work across other sectors so as to harness the abundance of youth in the country and the opportunities of entrepreneurship, diversification of economy and economic empowerment to the citizens.

We have a long way to go as a country and I am optimistic, often to a fault.  Sports has always been a tool for development if taken seriously and if technology is used to drive it as well.  Wearing a red beret and looking like a Thomas Sankara wannabe doesn't make anyone the ideal candidate to lead the and make a mark in the Ministry of Youth and Sports Development, having innovative sports development blueprints and robust implementation plans fit for the 21st century and beyond does.

My two cents.

PS: Hope we get a few medals in Rio!

The BBC link


Monday, 25 July 2016

Truly Ashamed Of Us

For anyone who hasn't been to Yenagoa, the capital of Bayelsa State, in the heart of the Niger Delta, it is a small town.  It is a small town, made popular by the creation of the state in 1996. Since then, 20 years ago, Yenagoa has only managed to have two parallel roads both named after pioneers in their vision of the Izon Nation; Chief Melford Okilo, (a stellar politician and one time governor of old Rivers State) and Major Isaac Adaka Boro (saviour of the Nigerian army during the Nigerian Civil War, from a locked up soldier to a strategic guerrilla warfare hero). These two men, were in their chosen fields the reason there is much to say about the Niger Delta and specifically old Rivers State and Bayelsa State.
For anyone who hasn't been to Yenagoa, we have only two parallel major roads and a “Sani Abacha express-way” that cuts across them both, so really not hard to sketch the map of roads of the city. 
For anyone who hasn't been to Yenagoa, we have no cinemas; we have no museums; we have no amusement parks; we have no statues, monuments or memorials… We have nothing of note to tickle imagination or foster creativity.  We have an abundance of hotels, car washes and joints and we are flooded with churches. 
I am ashamed of us, not because of what we have or what we lack, far from it… These are gradual establishments which come through time and after history…
I am ashamed because on a cool Friday evening in July, about 62 young minds gathered together to showcase their skills in the art of poetry and spoken word, rap and music, enjoy the arts and unwind after labouring through the week, (in an economy that is pegged to the governor’s mood).  I am ashamed that we chose to be expressive of ourselves, we chose to write, read, recite, rap, be comedians and violinists… I'm ashamed that we chose the pens over the pistols; we chose the microphones over the machetes; we chose words over wars.
I'm truly ashamed of us that we are an “embarrassment” to mainstream media, that the lack of “big-man” money behind us is the stain to our achievement and unworthy of applause or recognition.  Ironically, we didn't even seek it.  Without any printed posters, nor television or radio announcements we exceeded our expectations and doubled the attendance of our maiden edition and second edition alike…

I'm ashamed of this success.  Truly, really ashamed. 

PS: Yenagoa can by quite beautiful.
Melford Okilo Road, downtown Yenagoa


Wednesday, 10 December 2014

Age of Worry

grown up too fast

I remember Gary Coleman’s character, Arnold, in Different Strokes once said “I don’t want to grow up...”.  A line that has stuck with me over decades, albeit for no particular reason.  Recently I have been affectionately nicknamed Peter Pan and it has got me thinking... “Is my generation in the Age of Worry John Mayer beautifully sung about?”

Am I, like Peter Pan, refusing to grow up, metaphorically, of course?  I mean, I am constantly trying to figure out the world as it changes every day; lovers turn to bitter enemies, friends to foes, partners face-off in ugly lawsuits.  It is indeed a dangerous and scary world out there.  I remember once overhearing a train conversation when a young man said “I don’t want to get married cuz I don’t want to get divorced...” and that was shocking.  He was worrying about an ending before even starting the journey.  I recently read an article about some traits of unhappy people and the common thread with most of the traits was the burden of worrying.  Unhappy people worry a lot and in most cases unnecessarily.
This generation, in my opinion, is constantly paranoid.  The degrees of paranoia vary but we are worried about everything.  Our worries send us to bed and ironically our worries wake us up and chase us out of our houses.  Our worries make us apply for loans we can ill afford to repay, mortgages we avoid to look at and so on.  Our worries send children to school for and ‘education’ we fear may corrupt their views on the world but do so nonetheless for fear of them being left behind in this factory conveyor belt called life.  Our worries keep us in relationships long after their expiry dates afraid of being ‘alone’ and being happy with just that.  Worrying we will be broke and downtrodden, we apply for jobs we wished never existed  but we turn up anyway worried to be reprimanded and sacked.

On a wider community level we worry about the ozone layer, climate change, wars, diseases, hunger, poverty, slavery, sexism, racism, child trafficking, deforestation, animal rights, human and now I’m literally afraid if I continue listing I would have added a new worry on your ‘list of worries’ so I’ll stop with the listing; but you can imagine that our waking moments must be spent in mental rooms choking on the fumes of worry and paranoia.
In all fairness to this generation we have inherited some of the worries from our parents.  They worried about what kind of members of society they’d be raising and channeled us towards paths they deemed fit and development and we in turn will certainly pick the baton and continue the vicious cycle of worry.  We will worry for our own offspring; we would worry about cloud storage accounts being hacked, about religious extremists, revenge porn, the effects of social media on physical human interaction and our children’s safeties online, the incurable diseases of HIV/AIDS, cancer and Ebola.

In spite of this scary storm of despair, let’s look less at the things we can’t help and focus on the things we can help in the here and now; the sun, the birds and trees; the faces and smiles of children and our loved ones.  We can chose to spend more time in the present.

Worry less...

Monday, 10 November 2014

Virtual Pub- to be free

After my last post, I'm kinda buzzing from the euphoria of writing again and fuelled by mango-infused green tea and chat with a friend I almost instantaneously wrote this... enjoy!

Virtual Pub- 
to be free

I yearn for evenings and weekends,
when my circle of friends can-
gather around our virtual pub circle of life,
After their days at university lectures,
college halls and bread-winning jobs,
And indulge in intellectually stimulating discourse,
behind their touchscreens and keyboards.
Touching on valid points and smirking lines of-
touché when a rebuttal of wit is made.
Sitting upon our virtual pub stools, and around-
the round table, spilled with endless beers of information.
We bite on crackers of knowledge, chewing nuts of gumption-
and sip on wines of wise lines.
I try to sleep away my afternoons,
so I can hang out at night, defying-
time zones and body clocks,
As we banter away on policies in politics or the latest of our odysseys.
I soak it all in before they retire to rest for the night to-
start their routines all over again, as I the same.
For my waking afternoons-
My muse is the news,
Televised or otherwise...
I yearn for the evenings and weekends...
to be free again in our virtual pub...


Sunday, 9 November 2014

The Economics of Church

The Economics of Church

The one constant in life, after the certainty of death, is that change will always happen.  Thing will always change; babies will become toddlers, teenager, young adults and then old adults.  Eyes which could see miles away will struggle to see up close.  Speeches of wit at rapper-like speed will slow down to slow inaudible soliloquies.  Fields of seedlings will become forests of time-tested trees; so in life, change will always come and it is most times a good thing to embrace the change and adapt to it accordingly.
I have now become agnostic after years of being a Christian.  I was born and raised in the Anglican Church, grew up with its norms and customs but after several years of research and soul searching I have come to the conclusion that whilst it did a lot of good in my early formative years, I no longer need formal religion of any sort or the doctrines of a holy book to instruct or guide me through my journey in life.  I am still open to the debate of the existence of the Christian God, but that is for another day’s debate.
Because I have a fairly rich knowledge of Christianity in Nigeria, I will limit my address and my concerns to the churches in Nigeria.  After I moved from Ibadan, Nigeria in 2002, attending church in Wageningen, Holland felt like it was a bible study class in comparison to my previous experiences.  There were no cassocks, no choristers, no obvious physical feeling of being in a church (in my eyes) but I thoroughly enjoyed it.  I was actively involved; my father had given sermons, as did other members of the congregation and some visitors.  There was only one call for offering collection and most of the congregation emptied their €1 and €2 collections with a few €5 notes gracing the collection basket.  Tea, coffee and biscuits were a routine and if you had some Saturday night leftover homemade pastry you often thought of church to bring it to.  Such was my experience of church until I moved to England in 2006 to start university.  By that time, my journey of questioning the essence of religion and the existence of God was in full swing.  I had begun to feel and realise that some of the things the Bible spoke negatively about were in fact the modern society we now live in which I felt the Bible knew nothing of, but I digress.
I attended several churches in my first few months of my stay in Bradford, England and none of them, for different reasons, felt like church in Wageningen.  I often felt I had been judged in a few of these churches although that didn’t bother me much instead it made me critical of the brand of “flashy Christianity” which they purported.
Fast forward to 2013 and I have now returned to Nigeria and I am gobsmacked at the number of churches dotted around the city of Yenagoa.  In a short 3-minute drive I can count more churches than I have fingers; but we have a bloated population so maybe the number of churches is reflective of this population density.  This is an excuse I’m lending and I’m not convinced in the slightest.
Let me home in on the crux of the matter.  The new Nigerian society, in my opinion, is obsessed with two things; wealth and religion, quite an oxymoron, if you ask me, but who am I to say? After all, I am a despised unbeliever, flirting dangerously with the gates of hell, or so they say.
If we examine the weekly church schedules we would notice church activities for nearly 5 days a week.  The Sunday service and midweek service are staples of almost every church.  Monthly activities often include new month prayer session, end of month night vigils, thanksgiving services, harvests, weddings, funerals, child births, child dedications and most importantly, these days, tithes.  In a 12 month period you may also encounter many special occasions and ceremonies like visiting of bishops, archbishops, overseers, self-styled prophets and apostles.  All of which, might I add, have one thing always on the program – offering.
I have honoured a few invitations to attend church and I listen out attentively, the messages always seem to be about wealth seeking missions and a combination of overt and subtle calls for money to God in return for blessings, life, wealth and prosperity.  So I decided to do a little calculation; in a congregation of 100 people, if there are 4 calls for offering and each member put in N50 each per offering, after 4 rounds that’s N20,000 (just over minimum wage) from one week’s Sunday service.  Now I know there will be costs of maintaining the church building and powering the generators and all other operational costs but at the end of the day I wonder where does the rest of the money go?  The pastors and preachers often have book deals, CDs, shows and other media ventures generating their own income so I ask again, where does the money go?  I see clergymen and clergywomen donning the latest fashion trends and telephoning through the latest Galaxy and iPhone devices; their automobiles matched only by celebrities and government officials (and we know we’ll reserve our comments on the latter), so please I ask, where does the money go?
Stardom and celebrity status are now the vogue for God’s earthly representatives.  They say things like “Our Father God is a rich God, he is a king so we are his royal princes and princesses” then I look around the congregation and see paupers and I think to myself that the preacher and the congregation are supposed to be children of the same God and I’m sure he doesn’t see princes and princesses in his followers.  This new fad to be a star is amusing to say the least.  Talks of wealth, mansions and private jets are commonly associated with athletes and rockstars.  High rise buildings, mansions on acres of land and more luxurious SUVs than in a Hollywood blockbuster movie are now the trending habits of Nigeria’s Christian leaders.  The craze for wealth is driving churches to have expensive schools and universities on national and foreign soils amongst other money making ventures.
I can’t help but think that Jesus Christ borrowed a donkey when he rode into Jerusalem.  He didn’t seek out the best Arabian stallion flanked by a chariot entourage and trumpeters, no... A lowly farm donkey was what he borrowed.
The egocentricity and materialism of modern Nigeria has a bitter taste in my mouth and I detest it.  I refuse to indulge in a society that has come to this, but, to each their own and I often remind myself judge not, lest ye be judged.


Saturday, 16 April 2011

Bradford Bears

The past 14 months have gone by really fast but through all that there have been monumental events and lessons learned for the Bradford Bears.

William P. Obubo
+44 786 959 1042

Sent from my BlackBerry® smartphone

Saturday, 26 February 2011

Gone bald, 5 years on. Goodbye to the afro

Anyone who knew me back in 2006/07 period would remember how very insistent I was about never EVER cutting my afro.  I used to even say that even my father could not get me to cut my afro, so why would I cut it for someone less related to me.  I remember insisting it was my identity and trade-mark at the the early stages of  my last relationship, trying to convince my then girlfriend her mother would just have to accept that the afro is part of William.
In 2007 during my time as president of the Afro-Caribbean society, my best friend AJ Esin begged me to cut the afro for different reasons, the other executive members will threaten to hold me down and shear my locks, I'd tell them then, 'I'm not a violent person but you'll be sorry if ever you were the one who cuts my hair'.  When I think back on my life and my hair, it has just been a part of my life that made me stand out first before my personality would be given the chance to shine.  There was once a quote from my very good Trini-man, it read 'the only thing bigger than your ego is your afro'. Such was the appeal of my afro that people got used to the idea that William was first his afro then anything else.  In a room of two William's I was referred to Afro-William.
Looking back I would say that I used my afro as an ice-breaker, a confidence tool, a fashion statement, a play toy, a cushion or pillow amongst many other roles.  I'd elaborate, briefly, I'm lucky to have never been short of confidence and self-belief but my afro did wonders boosting my confidence as I've always been referred to as small or short but with my afro in full bloom the attention to my height is removed and the afro takes the spotlight and all the applauds. The types of shapes it can take, the length, the texture were all part of the package with the afro.  I reckon it is hard not to want to play with an afro or admire an afro.

This week gone by was the RAG Week (Raise and Give Week) in the Students Union of the University of Bradford and all monies raised would be going to the Bradford City Centre Project and Marie Curie Cancer Care.  The week is full of different charitable acts by the students such as a chairty football match, climbing the height of Mount Everest within the gym's climbing wall (911 times it would be) and a promise auction.  My  American Football team the Bradford Bears decided to put me forward in the promise auction. The vice-president asked me 'how much do you value your hair' and my response was 'very much' and he then said 'would you cut it for charity, Marie Curie' within seconds I said 'yes'.  We were both shocked by my response but I must say that the fact that it had something to do with cancer was what made me say yes.  I had had a chat with my dad earlier that day and he told me of a friend of his suffering from bone marrow cancer and it moved me.  I have been secretary of an awareness campaign last year, the Red Ribbon Society and we raised money for the production of child-friendly anti-virals for HIV/AIDS patients.  The fight against cancer is one I have supported for years but not actively contributed and I said to myself this was my opportunity to do my little bit extra.  So I said yes I will cut my 5 year old afro for charity.  The date wasn't set yet and when I told my close friends, I was greeted with sarcasm and disbelief and jest.  Nevertheless it didn't put me off as I was not out there to prove anything to them, I wanted to do my bit to help.  
The week after I agreed, myself and the Bears VP went round asking people to pledge, it had a very slow start, we ended the day with a total pledge of £97, I was not disappointed but I thought we could have done better. With a week to go we picked up pace and we both were excited with the generosity of students and staff, we soon beat the £200 mark we set ourselves so we raised the bar to £500.  The date of the shaving of my hair was set; 24/02/11. With a couple of days to go I was beginning to feel nervous about how I'd look and  how I'd feel without my afro, India Arie's song 'I'm not my hair' was my comfort.  On the morning of the 24th, I woke up washed my hair for a good half hour, dried it and combed it out to its full extent, one last time.  The money we had raised by this time was nearing £400 and the deal was highest pledger gets the opportunity to shave my hair, AJ Esin was determined to beat any pledges for the once in a life time opportunity to shear my locks without any 'retaliation' from me so he pledged £30.
The time was set to 2pm and I was ready and nervous, the cameras has started popping up but the most important tools needed were missing 'clippers and a pair of scissors'. My excuse was 'I've never had nay reason to own clippers for the past 5 years'.  Finally the clippers were brought, the location was set, I wore my Bradford Bears jersey and shoulder pads and clutched tightly unto a helmet for moral support.  
I was sat down, asked a few questions and the count-down began. I pulled on to my longest strands and handed them to Josh aka AJ Esin, he firmly gripped them and placed the blades of the scissors and the moment the crowd hit ZERO I heard the snip! The locks fell helplessly on my laps and I held them with open eyes and bid farewell as I brushed them to the ground. I couldn't bear to watch so I closed my eyes through the process only opening to dab my eyes with a handkerchief as tears were forming.  Moments later the spine-shivering sound of the clippers came and I knew this was the real deal.  Five minutes it took to shave my head of five years growing; a minute per year.
It was all done and I couldn't be any more proud of myself, the maturity and dedication.  I'd like to say a big Thank You to everyone who pledged and supported. As of now we have raised over £470.  Pledges are still welcomed.
I can now proudly say 'I am not my hair, I am the soul that lives within'.



During the shave