God bless our Blessing Okagbare

July 31, 2014
3 mins read

I WAS tension-soaked on Monday night as sprinters lined up for the final of the Women’s 100 meters at the 2014 Commonwealth Games, in Glasgow, Scotland. This was directly because Nigeria’s Blessing Okagbare was one of those searching for glory. She won her semi-final race, posting the fastest time of all the athletes including the favourite, Veronica Campbell-Brown, many-time World and Olympics Champion. At the 2012 London Olympics, Okagabre had similarly run a fast semi-final of 10.92secs., but was to come last in the final with an underwhelming 11.01secs! It was a painful disappointment for the courageous young lady that has become a visible ambassador of Nigerian athletics. She carries herself with so much grace, determination and modesty.

But back to Monday night. Even the commentators tipped Blessing Okagbare to do something spectacular because of the way she had attacked her heats and semi-final. When the starters gun boomed, our Blessing got a marvelous start and by the seventy-fifth meter, it was clear she was headed for the first position. She dusted a star-studded line up and by posting a new Commonwealth record time of 10. 85seconds, Blessing Okagbare broke Debbie Ferguson’s twelve-year-old record of 10. 91seconds.It was a most wonderful evening for Nigerian sprinting, recalling the glorious eras of Nigerian domination of Commonwealth sprinting.

I saw a jubilant Governor Emannuel Uduaghan of Delta state in the stadium and recalling what Uduaghan did to promote the young lady’s career, I sent him a congratulatory text. Emmanuel Uduaghan supported Blessing Ukagbare’s career through the generous provision of training grants to assist her, ensuring that she could train in relative security.

Relative security

That meant that she could choose the meets to participate in, in line with a programme worked out with her coaches. The result is that she can pace herself according to her programme and peak at the right time for the most important competitions. We must not underrate the importance of this level of support, for any athlete or sports person. During the 1990s, Nigerian sprinters were some of the best in the world. But they had to depend on participation in the lucrative athletics circuit to earn a livelihood. They were often left to their devices by the nation’s athletics authorities; so by the time the major international events come and all of us are expecting these athletes to excel, they were already burnt out by the exertions in the circuit.

Burden bearer: It was this problem that Emmanuel Uduaghan took away from Blessing Okagbare and it was therefore no surprise, that the young lady did all of us proud in Glasgow. I was so delighted on Monday night that I posted a short piece about Blessing Okagbare on the Nigerian Collective online forum.

This must be the third piece I have written about this young ambassador of Nigerian sports in the past two years. I think her examples of commitment, gracefulness and patriotism should be widely recognized, celebrated and emulated in Nigeria.

Blessing Okagbare is a noteworthy representation of the best of Nigerian womanhood and youth and I talk as a father of four daughters, that our girls, ladies and women possess remarkable qualities that should be encouraged and nurtured for national development. I think every positive female role model should be publicised, especially in Northern Nigeria, where the force of tradition has often been used to hamstring the education, advancement, social and sporting participation of our women.

There is no society that can reach the level of development that it aspires to or deserves, where the women are not given the ambience to flower.

I think in a very young country as Nigeria is today, with 63% of our population being under 25 and 75% under 35, we need to redouble effort to provide the ambience for the flowering of our young in positive, nation building endeavours.

And what is more edifying as the field of sports? Young people have tremendous energy to burn and are always full of ideals. We need to provide the outlets to creatively and positively direct this energy otherwise, they will find the negative outlets, since nature is said to abhor a vacuum.

We must revolutionise our sports, in the manner that the late Chief Isaac Akioye did during the 1970s, which then provided the platform for Nigerian dominance of many sporting disciplines and a consistent development of elite sportsmen, into the last few decades. Blessing Okagbare has once again shown what our young people can be about. May God bless our lovely Blessing Okagbare, the Commonwealth sprint champion!

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