Sports

Corruption in Nigerian league almost forced me out of sports –Olopade

The CEO of Nilayo Sports, Bukola Olopade, who has been organising Road Races in the country in a recent interview on a Whatsapp group, FUBS, and monitored by CHARLES OGUNDIYA has stated that former president of the Athletic Federation of Nigeria, Solomon Ogba, galvanised him into organising marathon. Excerpts…

Why did you fall in love with marathon of all sports?

I actually fell in love with marathon for two reasons, while writing my thesis on the revolution going around road races, I did visit a few marathons and I discover beautiful business inherent in road races, but what actually galvanised me and drove me to road races was Chief Solomon Ogba, who remains my mentor in all ramifications. He told me in 2012 that I should look at Lagos a mega city without a marathon, he advised me to talk with the governor and put together a road race in Lagos and that just woke something in me.

As sports commissioner, what were the challenges you faced over eight years in Ogun State?

I was a very lucky commissioner for sports because I had a governor who supported me through and through. Otunba Gbenga Daniel who really loves sports, gave me all the tools, the financial backing, the connection to be able to attract private sector to support our initiatives. So, I don’t think I had any challenges from that front. I think the toughest challenge I had to face was the corruption in football, with regard to Gateway Football Club, the fact that why we were busy playing football andmaking sure that the game was played clean, people on the other hand were busy bribing referees and corrupting them while destroying the fabrics that football was built on. That was very tough for me, at a time I was very angry, not just with the administrators, but even the club owners who at some point I called privately and asked that question why are they corrupting the referees and bribing them and making it difficult for a true champion to emerge. That was really a thorn in my flesh and I kept on complaining, so that I will say was my biggest challenge while administering sports in Ogun State. We were able to develop sports, able to change a lot of things, we were able to put facilities in place for different sports, we significantly empowered lesser sports like people will say because I don’t call them that, sports that were not given the right impetus they deserved, we actually spend a lot of funds on sports like Special Sports, boxing and a lot of combat sports.

How do you feel today that all those facilities are now in bad shape?

Naturally, I am sad with the way the facilities are right now, unfortunately the last government totally ignored sports, I have a fantastic relationship with the current governor of the state, Prince Dapo Abiodun, a lot is going towards restoring the facilities to what they used to be and also a sustainable maintenance strategy, most likely through concession or putting together a maintenance firm, to be doing a lot of maintenance around those facilities.

Governor Gbenga Daniel actually picked you to fight cultism in Ogun State tertiary institutions, who actually recommended you to the governor?

Nobody recommended me to the governor; what happened was that I went into politics in year 2000, I decided to contest for the House of Representatives, I went without a godfather and I did everything I had to do, I actually won the primaries but it was taken away from me by some leaders with directives from the then president, Chief Olusegun Obasanjo, that the ticket be given to a former Speaker of the House of Representatives because his father’s support was needed in Egbaland. I remembered that one of the questions they asked me was who was my father, was my father a politician which was not, but they were surprised that I was in control of all the youths in Abeokuta South and Abeokuta as a whole. They had to appeal to me to calm the youths down, which I did and I eventually gave the ticket to the ex-speaker. Immediately I traveled back to England but I was persuaded to return and join the campaign train and I was promised a position of commissioner. But as politics is, the people I left the ticket for except Otunba Gbenga Daniel, decided that I was too young to be a commissioner and decided to give me Special Adviser on youths, I was asked to work on how we can stop the killings going on in the state at that time due to cultism and I will say that was my greatest achievement, stopping young men from killing each other and creating a substitute for them, a lot of them today are doing very well in their various industry. People have tagged me with different achievements, but like I said, my biggest was fixing and repairing the lives of these young men who the society had given up on.

While growing up, did you ever find yourself in any trouble?

I was actually a very good child growing up, I got into trouble once when I went to play for Greater Tomorrow against Robber Road on Christmas day, its unheard of, leaving the house on Christmas day to play football. Luckily for me, I was not flogged by my mum or dad, but my mother gave me a punishment, we call it ‘Ijoko idera’ in Yoruba, meaning sitting on the ground with both your legs off the ground and your hands suspended. After that day, I vowed not to get into trouble again.

You studied law but yet to go to Law School, why?

I went to law school briefly towards the late 90s, but my eyes were fixated on money, so I had to withdraw because I couldn’t work or do any other things, so I concluded it wasn’t time for me. Since then, I have been engaging myself in one responsibility or another and since then I don’t really have the time to go back to law school, but I take solace in the fact that there are people older than me who still go to law school at that age and are doing well in the noble profession. Next year, I will be handling over to one of my able hands to become the CEO of Nilayo while I go back to school atleast for a year.

Looks like law was not your first choice, was it a case of studying law just to please some people?

Law was always my first choice, unfortunately, I scored 236 in JAMB, the cutoff mark for Law was 237 and they refused to allow me study law, that was how strict the system was in the 80s, they however offered me English, my father advised me to take up the course since I was still very young, that was why I took it up and no regrets at all because it actually prepared me for studying law and for so many other things in life.

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