By Temiloluwa Erinle
The Speaker of the House of Representatives, Honourable Femi Gbajabiamila, was present at the opening ceremony of the 26th edition of the NUGA Games on March 21, 2022, hosted by the University of Lagos.
Hon. Gbajabiamila was the chief guest of the event. As such, he spoke to the congregation of honorees, university athletes and delegates, students, event organizers, and many more present at the ceremony.
First, he saluted the “great Nigerian students.”
“I salute you all,” Mr. Gbajabiamila continued. “I salute the Vice Chancellor, the Pro-chancellor, Honourable Minister [of Youths and Sports], very reverred Pastor Bakare, and of course, Pastor Etua.”
He then expressed his great pleasure to be live at the occasion, “to be in a gathering of young men and women who are here to exhibit, to bind, to bond together, to show their talents – in a gathering such as this.”
“It was the great Mandela who said, ‘Sport has the power to change the world, it has the power to inspire, it has the power to unite people in a way that little else does. And it speaks to youths in a language only they understand.’ Now, we are going to be hearing that language or listening to that language of sports in the next 7 to 8 days, where we are going to see talents unbundled. This is going to be a harvesting ground to see world athletes, recruit[able]athletes …” he affirmed, referring to athletes of about 80 universities gathering in the University of Lagos for the NUGA sporting events.
Demonstrating what is a playful bathos, the Speaker then expressed his sentiments for the host university — his alma mater.
“There’s not a doubt in my mind which university is going to come first … where UNILAG is contesting, it reflects the saying about Lagos: Lagos no dey carry last.”
The sentiments were met with an interrupting mix of loud cheers and playful thumbs-down.
When the reactions suitably reduced, the Speaker continued, speaking of the glaring topic of national unity that was amply illustrated by the mix of represented cultures on the sports complex’s football field.
Before, the athletes, donned in various wears and traditional garments, had danced, saluted and demonstrated to the ever cheering crowd at the fans’ corner, university by university, then moved past the crowd into the field one after the other.
“Like I said, university sport has a way of bringing people together. I have here today men and women from the North, from the East, from the West, from the South; I have seen [the]young and [the]not-too-young; I have seen men of different religious persuasions – Muslims, Christians are bound here tonight … somebody said even the traditional believers. So, everybody has come together, and this is a melting pot, this is what we need in Nigeria today: the unification of colours, the unification of tribes, of ethnicit[ies], of religions; so that in that we will see our strength […]
“I believe God in his wisdom created Nigeria with so many ethnic groups, so many languages, so many religions, so that we can harness that … those differences, harness the strength, bring them together — to make Nigeria a great country.”
The Speaker concluded in his most heartiest mood, “I am glad to be here. This was the same university I attended several years ago. At that time I was the champion in swimming, table tennis, long jump […]”
“I was a champion; hundred-metre dash, two hundred metres. What other sport is there? I was the champion of all sports.”
Honourable Femi Gbajabiamila shared some more playful sentiments and finally wished that the “upcoming games prove successful” and full of champions, thereby closing his remarks, and left the podium to light the NUGA Torch of Unity.