Dr. Gloria Obajimi, is an ex-international Athletic, Quarter-Miler, Lecturer and Registrar, National Institute for Sports (NIS), President of National Association of Women in Sports (NAWIS), and President of Triathlon Federation of Nigeria. In this interview with PHILIP OYEDE she spoke on measures to restore Nigeria’s glory in sports. Excerpts:
Madam, please do tell us about your days and reign as an athlete?
I got involved in athletics when I was a student of Saint Theresa College, Ibadan. During the Western Region, secondary schools students of missionary colleges (my school, Loyola College and others) used to go to Liberty Stadium in Ibadan to practice various sports as their extra curriculum activities. Coaches were engaged to train the students. I tried doing various games like hockey, cricket, tennis but I was not okay with them. I opted for athletics most especially long distance races and found suitable for my frame and had passion for it. As a result of this I took to long distance race (440/880yards). So, I started representing my college in inter-secondary schools games, national sports competitions nationwide, winning notable medals and laurels for her. Because of my exceptional performances, I was invited to the western region camp and national camp to represent great and blessed country, Nigeria in All African Games under the auspices of Amateur Athletics Federation of Nigeria (AAFN). This was in 1971, 1973 and 1975 putting up exceptional performances and notable medals and laurels for Nigeria. nicknamed Ayan-Antelope by my spectators, fans and contemporaries. As a student of University of Ife, I also ran for my school representing her in Nigerian Universities Games (NUGA).
What is the role/relevance of National Institute for Sports in the development of sports?
NIS was established by law from the recommendation of Gen. Adefowope (rtd) led team to Germany to under-study what the German Government was doing then that made them excel in sports. Their findings and reports made Nigeria Government partner with them. Consequently, the role or responsibility of NIS is to train and develop the human resources, coaches, managers and administrators, who will in turn train and impart athletes with the right information that will enhance their performances; the relevant personnel that will formulate the required policies which shall enable our governments, philanthropists and corporate bodies promote sports to the benefit of all. We run residential courses and start off from 6am, with warm up/aerobics, lectures. The federal government is trying its best to fund NIS and sports. Though, some people are of the opinion that NIS should be replicated in all Geo-Political Zones. It is okay, but constant funding will be a big problem owing to the economic situation.
As a national athlete, what record did you break, set or create in your days?
When I was a student of University of Ife, I broke an existing record and set another in 800mtrs that was not broken until Bauchi 2000.
As a wife, mother, career woman, academia and registrar, how do you cope and manage your time in discharging your duties and responsibilities even with the challenges each has?
The schools I attended and sporting training helped me a lot in instilling discipline in me in time management. So, I know how to apportion time to all my daily activities and balance up.
What do you think can be done in Nigeria by all stakeholders in sports to restore its lost glory?
Foremost, I proffer grassroots sports development – “Catch Them Young,” let relevant authorities (Nigeria School Sports Federation and others) organize age group competitions in primary and secondary schools regularly where new/fresh talents can be discovered, groomed and nurtured to stardom, hereby become elite athletes. Let the coaches do their work well.
Then, the tertiary institutions follow suit, overseen by Nigerian Universities Games (NUGA) and Nigerian Polytechnics Games (NIPOGA).
Relevant government authorities play their parts and provide infrastructures and funds as at necessary, athletes take seriously their trainings with more passion and commitment. Let corporate bodies support and sponsor competitions as their corporate social responsibilities geared towards sports development and youth empowerment. Let philanthropists and well-meaning individuals play their part as well, and adopt, sponsor and endorse athletes with exceptional abilities and performance in various sports. Thereafter, Nigeria will rule the world in sports. Then everyone will be laughing!