I came across an interview by The Drum with LA Lakers new media director Nick Kioski about the fan engagement strategy that the club has put in place after the retirement of their legend Kobe Bryant.
I’ve been a journalist for 11 years now. For the last seven years I’ve worked in sport and core football for the last five. The first thing for me had always been about the story. I concentrated on sharpening my story sniffing and telling skills, that’s all that mattered.
But in 2016 I started to feel that there was more to sport than just the story, which unfortunately abounds so much in Nigeria – stories of corruption, neglect, negligence, in-fighting, etc.
As a journalist you want to have your fingers in the juiciest stories. But I began to think that there should be a better way. Why do people in Nigerian sport act the way they do?
I wanted to know why sport thrives in other parts of the world but not in Nigeria. I love stories of triumph but wasn’t seeing enough in the local media where reports of corruption abound.
It was the reason why I left my job at Goal Nigeria last August to pursue a Master of Sport Administration at the Russian International Olympic University.
My mind has opened up to the limitless possibility that sport offers a country endowed with immense physical ability like Nigeria.
While this piece is just a tip of the iceberg, it is my hope that in 2017, administrators will begin to focus more on the issues that really matter.
Sports ministries from state to the Fed should be looking at increasing the number of people who have access to sports facilities in order to increase participation all over the country.
For too long we have been fixated on qualifying for international competitions while failing to develop a strategy for creating a healthy society.
My advice to my friends who will hold political office in the years to come is, do not see sport as just another portfolio for putting your friends who have no experience whatsoever. It’s a key portfolio where you need experience in order to engage youth and create a long lasting healthy and strong society.
Sport is about winning medals and the glamour of stardom, but it’s also beyond that.
Sport is about increasing participation and ensuring that every boy and every girl in every community all over the country can have access to sports facilities in order to improve their health and lifestyle. We should have a deliberate strategy to engage them instead of placing all our focus on qualifying for the World Cup.
I’ve recently been in touch with other Nigerians who are studying for future management roles in sport. I believe that this crop of passionate people will help to transform our understanding of how the industry works when they return home and get the opportunity to bring their experience to the ground.
I wish Nigerian sport all the best for 2017.
I first met Dennis Akagha in January 2015 when we both attended a Dirtpol focus group at the University of Lagos. The discussions centred around public perception of the Ebola virus, a few months after the country had been declared free of the disease.
You can guess everyone’s amazement when he let it out that he had survived the virus and that his fiancée had been taken by the disease. Suddenly, all the news reports of previous months came together to be embodied by this bespectacled young man who sat across from me. To show that I wasn’t one of those guilty of stigmatization, I reached out to shake his hands.
We took a photo at the end of the discussion as he told me how his fiancée Justina Ejelonu, a nurse at First Consultants Hospital, contracted the virus on her first day at work and how he had to deal with neighbours who were afraid of contracting the virus from him. It was also shocking to note that no one from his work place ever got in touch during the tribulation.
One could sense strength and purpose in his voice as he spoke of plans to set up an NGO to help victims of stigmatization across the country and the continent.
Months later, Dennis is in India undergoing training to set up a social venture at the Kanthari Leadership Institute for Social Visionaries in Kerala, India.
On Friday, August 14, Dennis would hold a Twitter chat in remembrance of his fiancée Justina Ejelonu. He would answer questions using the hash tags #CelebratingJustinaEjelonu and #RIPEbola.
In a recent interview, Dennis tells me about his healing process. Excerpts below:
It’s been a year since your fiancée Justina Ejelonu died as a result of contracting the Ebola virus at her work place, do you feel that she could have been saved if the disease had been found out earlier?
Well, I still believe everything happened for a reason, I have no right to question God because He knows best and understands what happened. Some persons were brought to the hospital earlier and they still did not make it. Humanly thinking I would say yes, but God still knows best and why everything happened the way it did.
You were with her through it all, do tell us how it all happened. She just got a new job at First Consultants, what was your plan together?
Justina and I had big dreams and visions but our major concern was to cement the relationship to become husband and wife. We wanted to do things right but due to some financial challenges on my part, it was really a problem for me, although we had done introduction and were hoping to finalize the whole process by September last year. Our plan was to set up an NGO for children, premature babies precisely, because she fell in love with babies born too soon during her NYSC days. But first thing was settling down as husband and wife. However, the Ebola incident cut everything short.
A year after her death, how have you found healing and what are you doing now?
Finding healing has not been easy, most especially with someone you truly love. After her death, I found myself doing those things I ordinarily wouldn’t do just to find healing
What are the things you found yourself doing after her death?
This one is personal sir. All the same the healing couldn’t come but I believe it’s a gradual process and it might require someone to be in the picture before I fully heal.
You contracted Ebola from Justina, how did you survive?
I survived by the grace of God…nothing more, nothing less.
How did you overcome the trauma and stigma?
Well, I think one of the things I did to overcome the trauma and fear of people towards me was to speak to the press immediately after I was discharged. I spoke with Sahara Reporters, then to Vanguard. That was how my story began and that was able to solve some of the problems I had even in my neighbourhood. Although some persons still avoided me even till December. This gave me a general overview of what people who are suffering from one infectious terminal disease or the other are facing in terms of stigma and discrimination, for instance HIV/AIDS.
Your fiancée died, you lost your job, people were afraid of you, you were stigmatized, some other person would have given up on humanity. How were you able to find equilibrium and bounce back to living a whole life again?
First was my determination to bounce back and secondly my family members and the family of Justina, most especially her mother and her elder sister, they all showed me love and care. I was always checked on to know how I was doing. My family would always want to see me around the family house, this helped me a lot. I also found solace in the presence of God (church).
Familial support and faith are always very important. At the moment you’re in India doing a social work programme, tell us about this and what your plans are when you return home.
I am not doing a social work programme but undergoing a training that will enable me set up a social venture in Nigeria. This passion was as a result of my personal experience as a survivor of a dreaded disease and what I went through as regards stigma and discrimination. Ebola may not come into Nigeria again but people need to know that being infected with diseases such as HIV, cancer, etc is not a death sentence. These people need to be loved and cared for. As a matter of fact, my dream social venture is to spice up the lives of these kind of people that the society has given up on.
A nursing organization has named an award in honour of Justina, do you think this is a good way to keep her memory alive?
As a matter of fact, yes. The initiative started this year but before then they paid her family a courtesy visit and sought permission from her parents. That was a very good move by the Nursing World Organization and I applaud them for that initiative.
Join the #CelebratingJustinaEjelonu chat at 10am on Friday, August 14.
FIrst published by Bella Naija
On Thursday, August 13, 2015, my LLM class had the distinct honour of listening to Prof Shizhou Wang from the Faculty of Law, Peking University in the People’s Republic of China. The lecture was about anti-corruption and criminal law in China. Prof Wang’s CV is very intimidating and I had looked forward to the lecture for some time. In person, he cuts a very imposing figure.
The lecture opened with the history of the anti-corruption legal regime in China from the Yu Shi Tai since 221 BC to the modern system. He noted that corruption is a serious socio-political problem which usually skyrocket in periods of transitional. I noticed that one of the focal points of the Chinese anti-corruption system is the so-called ‘official…
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