Leadership (Abuja)

10 November 2012

Nigeria: Sports Can Unify Nigeria - Oritsejafor

For those who think the life of a pastor starts and ends on the pulpit are mistaken as most clergies are sports lovers. Christian Association of Nigeria president, Pastor Ayo Oritsejafor is no exception. Adding his voice to the number of well placed Nigerians who believe that sports can be a veritable tool to promote the nation's unity, he said the sector, if properly harnessed can unify the nation beyond measure.

To show his love for sports, the CAN/PFN President last weekend successfully assembled some of Nigeria's greatest footballers and ex-Super Eagles players about half of whom made up the dream team and eventually became the nation's first Olympic gold medalists at the 1996 Atlanta Olympic games in USA.

The event which was hosted in the oil rich state of Delta witnessed the assemblage of legends like Taribo West, Austin Jay-Jay Okocha, Stephen Keshi, Friday Ekpo, Emmanuel Amuneke, Uche Okechukwu, Samson Siasia, Henry Nwosu, Samson Ozugula for a novelty match against the All Stars of Delta State to mark his 40 years in the ministry at Warri Stadium.

Speaking exclusively with LEADERSHIP WEEKEND SPORTS, he revealed that he believes in the power of sports to unite people beyond their differences. He stated that Nigeria should also exploit this unique avenue to help create unity among its peoples especially in challenging times like this.

On his love for sports, he said: "Sports connects generations, breaks barriers of tribe and nationality and is a unifying factor for a nation, state and the world. Sports has a way of breaking anger and ending frustration. Sports is too powerful so I believe that anybody that has the interest of Nigeria at heart must and should be interested in sports; as a result, I am very much interested in sports."

On his ability to attract such footballers, he said it wasn't him but credit must go to his beautiful wife, Helen Oritsejafor and Taribo West, former Eagles defender as brains behind the experience. He stated that he was a mentor to Taribo West and that his relationship with the former player now a pastor made the event possible. According to him, some of the players had also contacted him personally even though a lot of input and strategizing came from Taribo West.

He said sports is a powerful unifying tool which Nigeria has been under-utilising but now impressed that President Goodluck Jonathan recently organized a sport retreat in Abuja to refocus the industry. For him, the move by the president is the right step in the right direction even though he said he would have loved a lot more to be done because the president can achieve a lot from sports when it is used as a tool.

"Sports will soften the ground, open doors that he (the President) otherwise assumed were shut; it will do wonders for him and the nation. In regard to sports, I have some projects up my sleeve but I am not the type to talk until I perfect them. At the moment I am working on my sports plan and as soon as I am ready I would let it out."

On whether he believes the federal government is serious about the development of sports, he said: "I am not in the federal government neither am I on his cabinet nor his inner circle so I do not know anything that goes on in his government. It is hard to tell you sitting here how sincere he is although I will be surprised if he is not sincere because it will not do him any good. He has nothing to gain if he isn't.

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