Sunday, 8th July will go down the annals of history as the Team Nigeria contingent was made very welcome on their arrival in London. Over six hundred leaders of the UK Nigerian community came together to provide an incredible evening of support and motivation filled with entertainment and networking activities.
Organised by the Central Association of Nigerians in the United Kingdom (CANUK), the event was described by the President of the Nigeria Olympic Committee, Engr Sani Ndanusa as an unprecedented show of support by Nigerians outside the motherland, the like of which has never taken place. The athletes, led by the Deputy Chief de-Mission Alhassan Yakmut and the Chief Coach Innocent Egbunike, initially surprised at the large turnout soon relaxed in the company of their brothers and sisters based in the UK. They were only able to stay for two hours as they have begun the last lap of their very strict training regime for the London 2012 Olympics commencing on the 27th of July.
The Deputy High Commissioner, Ambassador Toyin Lawal represented the Nigeria High Commissioner, Dr Sarki Tafida OFR, CFR. With a black belt in Taekwondo himself, Ambassador Lawal assured Team Nigeria of the full support of Team Nigeria throughout their stay in the UK.
CANUK’s chairman, Mr Bimbo Roberts Folayan commended Team Nigeria for producing over fifty Olympic standard athletes for the Games. He said the attendance reflects a tip of the massive iceberg of support the contingent already has from the almost three million Nigerians in the United Kingdom. Confirming that Nigerians will come out to motivate the athletes during the Games, he reassured them that they should feel at home in the UK and produce the best effort they possibly can during the Games.
Mr Folayan was also full of praise for the leaders f the UK Nigerian community that came together to organise and fully fund the event without any penny coming from any government arm or organisation. The celebrities and leaders of the UK Nigerian community that organised the event include: Patti Boulaye, Ms Julie Coker, Alistair Soyode, Chima Olugh, June Douglas, Charles Khran(the Faciitator), Funmi Le Moign, Mrs Ronke Adeagbo, Mrs Ronke Udofia, Ike Onuorah, Theodora Ibekwe, Janet Latinwo, Dr. Peter Ozua, Femi Okutubo, Dr Ife Akintunde, Obafemi Adenuga, Omusa Baba Ohyoma, Aisha Sanusi, Mrs Gladys Olowu, Dayo Olomu, Yemisi Jenkins, Victor OMOS, Ugo Arinze, Ibiam Agha, Baba Oladimeji, Ola Wright, Yemi Soile, Stephen Sodje, Ope Bankole, Diana Kolawole Sanusi, Hellen Manufor, Tunde Adelakun, Greg Abani, Dr Boma Douglas, O.A. Mpi, Mike Abiola, Winston Bell Gam, Chief Yemisi Sanusi, Susan Fajana ? Thomas, Chief Mrs Adebayo, Sarah Ibrahim, Dr Ademola Salau, Dr Mustafa, Mr Oyebamiji, Dr Henry Akpabio, Mr Ajoku, Dr Roland Ogunremi, Mrs Tina Ali, Dr Bayonle Bello, Dr Jude Chukwuma, Stephen Ogunremi, Ideh Patrick, Yusuf Tockan, Shola Ogunseitan and Bimbo Roberts Folayan, the Chairman.
The event was attended by leading Nigerian celebrities from all over the world including Team Nigeria, Daniel Shittu, the Sodje brothers, Victoria Okafor, Miss Nigeria UK, Dr Albert Okoye, Adebayo Jones, Sir Richard Taylor, the Mayor of Brent, the Mayor of Enfield, the immediate past Speaker of Hackney, many Nigerian Councillors, Ministers of the Nigeria high Commission, Baba Wande as well as leading Nollywood stars like Olu Jacobs, Joke Silva, Segun Arinze, Kepy Ekpeyong, Bimbo Akintola, Justus Esiri, Okechukwu Ukeje, Kemi "lala" Akindoju, Tosan Ugbeye, Ifeoma Fafunwa. These Nollywood stars are part of a program organised by the Bank of Nigeria to promote international investment into Nigeria.
An highlight of the evening was the presentation of medals by the Nigerian Council of Elders (NCE), another member organisation of CANUK. They presented medals to each of the athletes that qualified, commending them for their achievements. Accepting the medals on their behalf, the Secretary-general of the Nigeria Olympic Committee, Mr Tunde Popoola, was full of praise for this initiative and reassured all that the athletes will do their absolute best.
The Nigeria Olympic Committee President, Engr. Sani Ndanusi also unveiled the commemorative brochure on the London 2012 Olympics.
It was indeed an event that was Olympic in conception, organisation and delivery.
Shola Ogunseitan, the Publicity Secretary, Central Association of Nigerians in the United Kingdom