'I was expelled from 1992 NUGA because of politics’ -Sowore

In the concluding part of our interview with Presidential aspirant Omoyele Sowore he talked about his expulsion from NUGA in 1992 and why makes sacrifices for Nigeria and Nigerians daily OLUKAYODE THOMAS reports

 'I was expelled from 1992 NUGA because of politics’ -Sowore

Winning an Olympic Games medal is to many athletes the pinnacle of success in sports. Nations that dominated Olympics sports today are those that invest in sports at tertiary institutions level because today champions are normally between the ages of 16 and 25 years; when they are universities and polytechnic.

That is why only four Universities in the state of California, a state in the United States namely: the University of Southern California, Stanford University, University of Los Angles, and the University of California, Berkeley have won over a thousand medals in the Olympics, probably more medals than the whole of Africa.

While we don’t have institutional supports for students to excel in sports, students who are willing are discouraged. Sowore recalled his experiences at the University of Lagos.“I'm happy you mentioned NUGA.

In 1992 I was selected to go to NUGA as a professional swimmer. Then we had a protest against the military and I was dropped and expelled from the University of Lagos.

“So politics was more important than our careers and our talents, so I never went to NUGA to swim. NUGA 1998 which was the next I attended, we had to disrupt it for political reasons.

“All the swimmers that were expelled, we took them to NUGA '98 and that was my last protest in Nigeria before I left in 1999. I just realised that Nigeria wasn't ready for anything.

“Take a look at it: every year an average of 1000 Nigerian students leave the country to seek better sporting and academic opportunities in the US, Turkey, Europe, and the UK, and it happened in 2021 when the Olympics happened and all these kids with Nigerian names representing other countries.

“Everybody is Nigerian but running for other countries because that's where they ran when Nigeria couldn't provide the opportunities they wanted, and they were doing better than us, some of them winning medals, whereas it could have happened here.

“We never did because we didn't have the opportunities. See, 2024 is the next Olympics but nobody is preparing for the Olympics. Three months to the time we will start rushing them to a camp somewhere and try to get them to the Olympics.

“Meanwhile the people that are going to run for the US and other countries in the Olympics in 2024 they've been preparing them 20 years ago. “My daughter is 14 and my son is about 12 years old. They have been training them since they were 10 and 8 with the hope that they can represent the US in some kind of sport.

“My son has done football and taekwondo; my daughter does football; and volleyball. For every child, the focus is 'What can you give to your country?' “And the moment they see the potential, you no longer pay school fees. But here, you will see the potential but the child is a victim of bandits and terrorists.

It's very sad and when we say this, it will sound like we're exaggerating, we're alarmists, but that's the reality. “You and I grew up in this country and we know that we have dreams and aspirations, and our dreams and aspirations are shielded from our parents. Your father might say 'Hey, I want you to be a doctor.

“In your mind, you might say 'I don't want to be a doctor but you won't say it to him. I studied Geography and Planning but I ended up as a journalist because my father was not there to say I must enjoy maps. I was interested in transportation and water supply. It's never happened. “When I finished Geography, my main course of interest was groundwater and hydrology.

I don't even know how it works today. Education is what is important for you to decide what you want to do, not what your parents think you should be, and here we are; everybody is now at the point where what you study is how to run away. They call it 'japa' right? It is very shameful.”

Sowore has repeatedly put your life on the line in the struggle for a better Nigeria. Why does he believe so much in Nigeria inspite of the state we're in now? Why do you make all of these sacrifices and continually risk his life?.

“It's a hard question to answer but I think it's mostly about humanity. I'm in a place where I can put my life on the line and could be recorded; what about the people in Zamfara, Sokoto, and Katsina who are not privileged to put their lives on the line in a way that you could even tell, and yet their lives will be snuffed out, so I think it's just part of my own DNA to fight for what's just and right and what my conscience tells me is right.

“So I just can't wake up and know that people could benefit from my act of bravery and conscience and just sit back and say 'I don't care, just lead my life as normal, be the big man that everybody hopes or thinks I am, and not care about several other persons that are victims of the same system. I think that's the way I look at it, but sometimes I can't explain it. “