IN far away Caracas, Venezuela, the Nigerian Basketball team qualified for the London Olympic Games. It was our first time and what a way to do so. The team took a bronze medal at the Afro Basketball championship last year in Madagascar, but was re-jigged with a new set of US-based players.
They were positively audacious and along the way, Nigeria beat Greece and Lithuania two of the best teams in the world and finally qualified by defeating the Dominican Republic. Watching those remarkably fit young men, Olumide, Diogu, Skinn, the Aminu brothers, Dagunduro, Obasohan and so on, I felt even prouder about the possibilities for change and development of our country.
It is teamwork of the Basketball Federation led by TJ, which facilitated the amazing feat for Nigeria. TJ was a youth corps member in the 1980s at the Kwara State Sports Council in Ilorin and was as devoted to the game then as he is today. A few weeks after his election as basketball federation chairman, we met in Abuja and he spoke effusively about his vision for the game in Nigeria. I am so happy to see the incremental improvement in basketball in our country.
On a more fundamental level, watching the young Nigerians from their different backgrounds, play together with a sense of purpose, strengthened my optimism about our country. If we can work together to earn a responsible nation-building ruling elite, able to inspire a sense of national purpose, we can certainly build a truly remarkable country. The basketball team is like a green shoot of growth in an arid wasteland!