By Steve Alabi
As professional chroniclers of sports history, we sportswriters get so engrossed in our passion that we forget our own imperishable contributions to the development of sports. We make it a point of duty to celebrate and applaud others with regularity and seriousness but take our own contributions for granted. It is meet and proper to laud others but it is also good to celebrate ourselves.
It is in this light that I join the current leadership of the Ondo State Council of the Sports Writers Association of Nigeria (SWAN) to celebrate my main man and collaborator, Ayo Ogedengbe, the enigmatic sportscasting oracle on state television for decades. Baba Ogandu, as he is affectionately called, was rightly inducted to the Hall of Fame at the well organized SWAN Awards Night held in Akure last month.
They don’t make them like that again. Bold, knowledgeable, inquisitive, daring, trailblazing, passionate, involved. I am talking about my own generation of sportswriters, particularly those of us who had the unique grace to pioneer this great beat in the old Ondo State.
As trailblazers, the lot fell on us to shape the beat, to mould it, to cast it, to build it, to fashion it, to construct it, in fact, to create it in our own image, so to speak. Whatever we did was going to be the standard. And what a job we made of it.
Sports reporting brought Ogedengbe and myself together.
He manned the Sports Desk of the old Ondo State Broadcasting Corporation, OSBC while I did the same at Nigerian Television, NTV Akure. We became like Siamese twins. Boy, we made some history together. We criticized but we were not armchair critics. We covered sports as if our lives depended on it but we went beyond this to influence things for the better.
We not only made sports a must menu on radio and television of the time, we also created the platforms that made stars out of the sportsmen and women in our own corner of the country.
Up till our time, the known stars were those plying their trade in the so-called big cities of Lagos, Ibadan, Benin, Enugu, Port Harcourt, Jos, Kaduna and Kano. Our reports and programmes gave media exposure to hitherto unsung heroes practising their talent in the state, thus acknowledging them as authentic sports stars that they were but denied by distance from the so-called happening centres.
We not only created exposure platforms for our sportsmen and women, we also engaged in advocacy that resulted in huge improvements to policy and infrastructure. It is impossible to talk about the refurbishment and upgrading of the old Akure Sports Stadium by the Olabode George and Abiodun Olukoya regimes in the late eighties without talking of the ceaseless advocacy on radio and television by Ogedengbe and my humble self.
Thanks to the listening ears of the regimes in question and our little efforts on air in those days, the Sunshine State today has a sports arena of some dignity. It is not what we campaigned for but it is serving the purpose for now. What we campaigned for was a new stadium entirely. The Agagu administration later embarked on the construction of a new stadium but the succeeding administration strangely cancelled this lofty project. Different folks, different strokes.
The establishment of the defunct Ondo State Sports Institute enjoyed massive support from us. Unfortunately, the Institute, located at the picturesque Idanre hills, was frustrated to extinction despite our support. When we created Sunshine Stars in January 1995, and I became the pioneer Team Manager, the next natural thing to do was to bring on board my main man.
Without any remuneration whatsoever, Baba Ogandu worked tirelessly with the rest of us who pioneered the club to put it on a very sound footing. He was our unofficial Paymaster, a job he did with great candour and honesty to the satisfaction of the usually insatiable footballers.
He had earlier exhibited these same virtues when we established SWAN in Ondo State in 1985. As the pioneer Treasurer of the association, he established accountability standards that have endured till date. In the whole of five years that we served, he kept unimpeachable records of everything. When the time came for a new executive, he selflessly rejected overtures to succeed me as the chairman, and humbly reverted to being a member.
Between the two of us, we wielded much influence but the power of influence that we wielded as watchdogs was entirely deployed to promote or safeguard our sports. That is why we have a rich history of positive contributions to sports development in our area of influence, the old Ondo State.
I am indebted to Ayo Ogedengbe, a man of great intellect and depth, for a much cherished and dependable friendship, and even more so for his great and exemplary contributions, commitment and dedication to the development of sports in this much beloved state.
I am also enthused that a tradition of excellence has been established in SWAN with a rich line of industry leaders who continue to show great commitments. We are very proud of the late Babatunde Carter, Rotimi Ajayi, Kehinde Lamidi, Eddy Manuel Bassey, Taiye Fagbuyi, Tunde Akinsemola, Dupe Balogun, Dayo Johnson, Wahab Bankole and others who keep the flag flying.
Kudos to everyone.
Last Line: When I wrote the piece above earlier this year on April 1, 2020, it was to celebrate my friend and main man, Ayo Ogedengbe.
He was hale and hearty.
Last Wednesday, the devastating news came, that he had answered the ultimate call. A mighty has fallen but we take solace in the worthy life he lived.
May his soul, and the souls of other departed sportsmen, through the mercy of God, rest in peace, Amen.
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