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The Primacy of Truth

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The Primacy of Truth (Part 1)
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Bruce Ijirigho, Godwin Obasogie and Charlton Ehizuelen. These three names would probably only ring bells in the minds of readers of this piece who are over 50 years old.

What about Humphrey Edobor, Christopher Ohenhen, and Augustine Eguavoen?

Edo was the melting pot of champions. It was difficult to be a sports superstar in the 1970s and 1980s without some sort of connection with Edo and Delta (then Bendel State).

Unfortunately, between the 1990s and the 2000s, the Edo sports genius seemed to have been banished to the distant and marshy place “Where the Crawdads Sing.”

From the time when we had several thriving football clubs that mesmerized Nigeria’s soccer fans, including New Nigerian Bank Football Club (NNBFC), Bendel Insurance, and Bendel United, to the point where the NNBFC was relegated and disbanded, Bendel United folded up and Bendel Insurance banished in perpetuity to the lower divisions, Edo State seemed to have permanently lost its sports luster.

What had happened? Certainly, our genealogy of being descendants of war and sports heroes had not changed.

The variable of how we organized ourselves as a people was however the most likely culprit.

In those 1970s and 1980s, Dr. Samuel Ogbemudia was undeniably the linchpin connecting Edo to international sports glory.

The renowned humanist, Tai Solarin, once described Ogbemudia in an article published in the Sunday Tribune of September 24, 1973, after the Mid-Western State won the National Sports Festival, and I quote, “Your Excellency, whether it was your intention or not, you are like an all-conquering hero, storming the whole country. You are shattering my contention that the army is now jaded and spent and now holding on, till January 14 1976 to return to the barracks with the speed of a frightened cat.”

To produce the Olympic heroes I started this piece with; i.e. Bruce Ijirigho, Godwin Obasogie and Charlton Ehizuelen, among others, Ogbemudia brought a certain kind of passion and devotion to his work as a military governor.

For two months, he moved the headquarters of the Mid-West State to Afuze Sports Village; trained with athletes, dined with them, and slept in the same camp with them. The end thereof was a spectacular sports glory.

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Unfortunately, the glory was soon lost. Our sports descended into the abyss and groped in the dark for nearly 20 years, always falling below the reputation that was firmly established by our forebears.

But today, literally today, the 30th day of May 2024, seven and a half years into Governor Godwin Obaseki’s stewardship as Edo State Governor, hope beckons. A victory march led by none other than Her Excellency, Dr. Mrs. Betsy Obaseki has taken off from Western Boys High School and will terminate at the Government House, Benin City.

What is the cause of this celebration, you may ask? The Edo State-owned female football team has won the national league for the first time in our history of women’s football! Edo Queens, after running a blistering campaign in the 2023/2024 season of the Nigeria Women Football League (NWFL), triumphed over five other best clubs in the country at the Super Six Playoffs to clinch a ticket to represent Nigeria on the continental stage of the CAF Women Champions League.

The globally acclaimed Betsy Obaseki Women’s Football Tournament (BOWFT) certainly contributed in no small measure to the attainment of this enviable feat.

Earlier, within the seven and a half years that Obaseki has held sway as Edo’s Governor, Bendel Insurance, was promoted to the Premier League after spending over ten years in lower divisions, ending the 2023 regular season with a record by going 18 matches unbeaten in the Nigeria Premier Football League. They also fought their way back into continental championship after 34 years of absence from that scene.

Obaseki is restoring the Edo glory sector-by-sector, and the area in focus today is sports.

As we celebrate our football heroines today, let us spare a thought for Governor Godwin Obaseki, the administrator who set the stage for this indelible history to be created.

This brings me back to my recurring question, will these football queens, their parents, brothers, sisters, friends, and all lovers of sports in Edo State and the Diaspora sit idly and watch the Lions and Tigers take our sports back to the rubbish bin of history again?

The jury is out and the battleground is the gubernatorial election on September 21, 2024.

Sadly, not many will read this. Our people are inundated by a deluge of tall tales and they can hardly find space to accommodate the Primacy of Truth.

*_Osagie, a journalist, is the Special Adviser to Governor Godwin Obaseki on Media Projects_*

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