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"Student competitors are unified through sports"
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"Student competitors are unified through sports"

Oluwafemi OgunjobiSport can unite people across ethnic and social divides and be a welcome respite for book-weary students, writes Oluwafemi Ogunjobi, 21, a Commonwealth Correspondent from Gbongan in Nigeria as he describes a massive event hosted by his university.

Especially in Nigeria, a country with a diverse religion and ethnic set up, sport is regarded as a unifying factor. Sport is generally known to be part of the human spirit to excel; equally it trains one for hardship, instills values, and encourages competence and a spirit of perseverance.

 Last month, between the 12th and 22nd of February, the campus of Obafemi Awolowo University (OAU), Ile-Ife in South West Nigeria, was agog with over 5,000 participants for the 24th edition of Nigerian University Games (NUGA). It was 30 years since OAU hosted such an event. One after the other, fifty-six universities trooped in.

Visitors to the university were welcomed right from the university gate by big bill-boards with the inscription “Time to drop the books and lace the boots”.

The Varsity’s Vice Chancellor, Prof. Bamitale Omole, explained that the event ended the uncertainties surrounding the hosting of the event, which he said was part of the activities marking the institution’s 50th anniversary.  Ahead of the game, the university rehabilitated facilities needed for its hosting, Omole said, adding that OAU has a history of excellence in sport, and is the first University to hold such sporting events at a single venue.

For the ten days the event was held, the campus was a beehive of business activities. Traders were provided with makeshift market space to offer various services to the participants and guests. Hawkers also had a field day.

When our correspondent visited the New Bukateria, sport representatives from different universities were seen in group discussions. Restaurants and bars, which were almost closed down as a result of the six-month-long Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) strike that ended last December, had a hectic time controlling movements of customers in and out of the places.

A few days before the event, OAU students were asked to vacate their Halls of Residence to accommodate the over 5,000 guests. On arrival, the visiting students were lodged in the school hostels.

The event featured 15 games which were held simultaneously across the venues. Schools had stiff competition in the various sports. The weak ones were dropped along the way.

It was not all sport. Participants were thrilled at musical shows organized by Diamond Bank and MTN Nigeria. The OAU’s Amphi theatre was filled to capacity as Nigeria’s popular artistes, Whizkid, Banky W and Wande Coal buzzed the crowd with their songs.

The closing ceremony was held at the main bowl of the University stadium, which also was the venue of the final match between the OAU team and their opponent from the University of Calabar, South Eastern Nigeria. The match was tough for both sides but the host school, OAU, carried the day after a lone goal scored by Olanrenwaju Ajibola at the 53rd minute of the match.

After the final match, it was time for medal presentation. The OAU team came third at the medals table with 12 gold, nine silver and 15 bronze medals. The University of Lagos (UNILAG) was the first runner up with 13 gold, 10 silver and seven bronze medals. The University of Port Harcourt (UNIPORT) led the table with 63 gold, 41 silver and 16 bronze medals. It was the fifth time that the UNIPORT came first in NUGA.

Dr. Ken Anigweje, UNIPORT’s head coach, said early preparations enabled his team to be ahead of their counterparts from other universities.

The OAU head coach, Chike Egbunu-Olimene, said the feat achieved by his team qualified the school for the West Africa University Games and World University Games.

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About me: I am a purpose-driven Nigerian, student, freelance writer, and youth development advocate. I am continuously involved in productive activities that affect human lives, purpose and dignity.

I am passionate about writing. I seek to bring global headliners together through it, and equally to demonstrate how passionate commitment to excellent reporting and storytelling makes a difference in the lives of people everywhere.  I also love travelling and playing soccer. 

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Opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of the Commonwealth Youth Programme. Articles are published in a spirit of dialogue, respect and understanding. If you disagree, why not submit a response?

To learn more about becoming a Commonwealth Correspondent please visit:
http://www.yourcommonwealth.org/submit-articles/commonwealthcorrespondents/

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