BY OLU AMADASUN
It was the only clay court classic in Africa. This is why to the Sport professionals and emthusiasts, the Simple Agenda is a comprehensive developmental treatises, that deals with all essence of sporting Life.
In specific terms, it is a massive sporting scholarship trajectory and blueprint that will address the basic sporting developmental needs of Edo state. It is targeted at sports as an educational vehicle as well as growth and development tool geared towards diversifying the state economy, grow the GDP and create wealth and jobs that would take away the teeming but idle youths of Edo off the streets.
As regards Ogbe Hard Court tennis tournament, the Simple Agenda is a wake up message. Sincerely, after late General Samuel Osaigbovo Ogbemudia, Pastor Osagie Ize-Iyamu(POI) has caught the vision of optimizing sports as education, socio-cultural and economic tools.
It is profoundly uplifting as the searchlight is being beamed and focussed on the comparative advantage of developing tennis and the revival of Ogbe Hard Court as part of analysing the gains of Simple Agenda.
The reenactment of glorious days at Ogbe Hard Court is a strong possibility.
The 1970s and 1980s witnessed great feats unprecedented in annals of the game in the Midwest and indeed Nigeria. Youngsters showed a class of their own and flaunted their wits and skills to rise not only to the top in Africa but also reach lofty heights in the global arena.
The tournament played a significant role in the socio-economic activities of Benin City. The classic led to a booming economy- hotels, restaurants, bars, healthcare, tourism and merchandizing in sports facilities and related goods increased maximally.
Ogbe Hard Court tennis tourney can be rejuvenated by any credible Edo government. In the past four years, it has been talk, talk but not working the talk as the Godwin Obaseki administration has not been able to come out with a discernible plan to get the tournament on stream in international circuits despite the several promises to revive the Benin tournament.
It can not be overemphasized that the championship stood out as the holy grail and arena of artistry. The Ogbe Hard Court was the most recognised Association of Tennis Professional tournament in Nigeria. Some of the world’s best participated in the championship.
How are the mighty fallen? Nigeria did not only lose but the habitat of the great kings, Benin City lost it’s attraction as the epicenter of tennis in Africa.
How does tennis or Ogbe Hard Court create a replacement for the likes of Nduka Odizor, David Imonitie, and Veronica Oyibokia, three of the most outstanding and sensational stars who carved a niche for themselves? Nigeria became near invincible with the prowess of these gladiators.
Odizor emerged the fiercest of the new generation as he reached the last 16 in the famous Wimbledon tournament in 1984.
What a debacle and irony of fate that the Midwest and indeed Nigeria which provided these leading superstars cannot boast of any notable stars today?
The dearth of stars and the bane of sports has been lack of foresight and levity in planning. It is said when you fail to plan, you plan to fail. Edo State has not done much in this regard as successive governments have failed to provide the right infrastructures and conducive atmosphere needed to grow and develop the sports sector.
There is no gainsaying that what is needed is that the state should brace up to its responsibilities with sports policy that can help to regulate and bring decency to the sporting scene.
This is one of the angles the Simple Agenda of Pastor Osagie Ize-Iyamu can address or focus on to arrest youths’ restiveness and create jobs and careers that are endearing, enduring, and sustainable.
It is clear that if POI coasts to victory his administration would be poised to repackaging and rebranding the tournament to draw attention and attract sponsors never like before. This is a sector that elicits private sector support and indeed driven with the right partners from corporate Nigeria.
Suffice to state that if Ogbe Hard Court is relaunched, tennis could make progress in Edo State and create the necessary jobs as sponsors would fall on each other to associate with the new brand as part of the Simple Agenda of Pastor Osagie Ize-Iyamu.
Olu Amadasun is a former board member of the Nigeria Football Association(NFF) and former President, Sports Writers Association of Nigeria(SWAN).