I am thinking about how all this started and where we now stand on the eve of the most powerful, most coveted, most lucrative, and most followed single event in history coming again to Africa for the second time, but this time with a different objective from when South Africa first hosted it in 2010.
This time, Nigeria is leading 5 other West African countries to play host to over 1 million visitors beginning to arrive in various cities in the sub-region. The objective has been to make the rest of the world to experience whatever the sub-region has put together to showcase and celebrate the product of the fastest and most ambitious regional development project ever undertaken by the 300 million-plus people of West Africa.
The heart of this project is located in Ogun State for deliberate and strategic reasons beyond the football event. So, here I am in the little village of Wasimi in Ogun State, ageing gracefully in my little ‘London’ that has also benefited from the all-round infrastructural development of the entire State, as a part of a greater Nigeria, and even greater West Africa, that is taking place and has benefitted not just the region. The entire Black race is already reaping bountifully from this concluding, 10-year journey preparing the region to host the world.
Already, there is rapid development across all sectors of the polity.Nigeria is presenting 5 of the 12 venues. Ogun State that is championing the entire process is, deservedly, providing one of the venues in Nigeria.
The State is ready to welcome the great assembly of humanity by creating the environment that has been welcoming and celebrating another global assembly of Black people on earth in an annual cultural festival that has been running since 2020, designed and deployed as a tool to restore the culture, the values, the dignity and pride of the Black person as equal partners with the other races in the world in the global pursuit of happiness by all people.
Across Ogun State, following the architecture designed by abundantly available experts led by Professor Wole Soyinka, in the fields of Arts, literature, science and technology, leisure and entertainment, and other disciplines related to the grand objective, structures and facilities have been erected to accommodate and entertain hundreds of thousands of cultural pilgrims to the State.
With the addition of the World Cup project, in 10 years, I have seen Ogun State join several other States in Nigeria and neighbouring countries in the West African sub-region, to develop whole sectors of their economy, from medical health to commerce, trade and industry, immigration, security, transportation,
hospitality, education, finance and banking, entertainment across the spectrum of music, theatre, film, drums, dance, culture, literature, and modern technology in preparation to host the World Cup.
10 years have come and gone and here I am running through what was thought of in 2019 as a ‘mission impossible’.
We are about to see a demonstration of the fulfillment of a simple dream conceived, nurtured and cultivated in the intellectual bowels of Ogun State, with a clear mission to turn the State into the site for a new world order, a new Black civilization in a new environment that will be ‘home’ to all Black people to live, to invest, to work and to celebrate their advancement in all fields devoid of any form of discrimination, and accorded the respect and dignity they have always deserved but have been denied for over 600 years.
I recall how the seed of this journey was planted in the politics of Ogun State in 2018, and cultivated in 2019 in a simple vision to make Ogun State the centre of a cultural and economic renaissance that will culminate in the hosting the FIFA World Cup in West Africa in 2030 in a deliberate visionary 10-year masterplan.
I am now retired but not tired, still hard thinking and hardworking, counting the blessings of the Universe:
- Since 2020 Ogun State has been hosting an annual global Black and African festival of arts, culture and entertainment.
- The State is now a model of a new democratic culture where the people choose their leaders without the overpowering influence of money and poverty. Following the recorded success at the 2019 gubernatorial elections, values and virtues now count ahead of money and hunger as political weapons.
- There is also a new democratic practice that embraces and reflects the cultural peculiarities of the different peoples and environments of the world, particularly Africans, following the failure of Western ideological prescriptions to deliver Africa from the pangs of underdevelopment, hunger, poverty and disease since Independence.
- Ogun State now has Africa’s biggest Sports Academy/Institute, Africa’s biggest film, photography, music, and dance academies, and Africa’s biggest ‘stage’ for the promotion of theatre, drama, arts and literature.
- Ogun State is a now Africa’s Mecca of Sports development with 54 sports and arts academies spread all over State.
- The Ogun International Green Court Tennis championship is now a truly international event attracting a regular army of the tennis faithful from around the world.
- The State schools’ sports festivals are now well established as a tool for development of the combination of education and sports involving all the State’s primary and secondary schools.
- The State has hosted the first Black and African Scholar/Athlete Games comprising over 80 countries in 2022.
- A rural and urban renewal development programme across the State, with facilities that cater for the health and physical well-being of the ordinary citizens, is embedded in the new architecture of villages and towns, with provision for recreational spaces, with cycle and running tracks to promote the power of exercise and physical activity as essential tools for health.
10.There is a massive ongoing environmental effort to make the State a model of cleanliness and physical aesthetics.
11.Most of the State is now well lit, powered by alternative energy sources to drive day and night commercial and social activities that have transformed the State a once-laid back Civil service State, into an attractive tourist haven, and safe, beautiful, a model of the best place to live, to work and to invest in Africa.
I am thinking about all of this and more from my retirement hilltop home in Wasimi looking down into the valley below. It is an incredible sight, what my once-small hamlet in dense vegetation has become in 10 short years; how a small dream has expanded to become an avalanche of development that has taken Ogun State to Olympian heights in such a short time.
Papa Obafemi Awolowo, Chief Bisi Onabanjo, Chief Tunji Otegbeye, Chief Simeon Adebo, Chief Dauda Adegbenro, Chief Jonathan Odebiyi, Chief Moshood Abiola, Funmilayo Ransome-Kuti, Chief Hubert Ogunje, Chief Soji Odunjo, and a legion of other great sons and daughters of Ogun State whose shoe laces those of us that showed up in 2019 seeking to govern the State were unworthy to untie, must be dancing excitedly in their graves at the giant strides of the people.
I can remember 10 years ago vividly, the Christmas and New Year period before the 2019 elections, the challenges that my team and I faced, our visit to Comrade Amballi, the then Chairman of the State Chapter of the Labour Congress at the NLC Secretariat, in Abeokuta, and how he restored my status as a Comrade. I had first derived that title during my student days at The Polytechnic, Ibadan, when I co-founded The Black Nationalist Movement with a few others and we called ourselves Comrades, drinking lavishly from the teachings and lectures of Tola Adeniyi, Ebenezer Babatope, Kanmi Ishola Osobu, Comrade Ola Oni, and several other members of the leftist movement in Nigeria then.
I can recall that bleak end-of-year, with little money in our pockets, plenty of challenges on the political field, and unforgettable times spent mostly with my son Tito, who was then going on 5, but is now, in 2030, a lanky 15-year-old ‘man’.
I recall the thoughts that were racing through my mind at the time, how I was unwilling to bend my ways and beliefs. How, in order to expect a different result from the norm and escape from Donald Trump’s ‘shit hole’, the first and most fundamental thing I did was to do things differently, with faith the size of a mustard seed.
I recall my passage through the crucible of fire, the pain, the sacrifices and ceaseless hard work driven by the kind of spirit that is embedded in those that take on great risks, seeming ‘impossibilities’ and win!
Such people are bred very readily in the world of sports where I come from. So, here we are in 2030, the ‘impossible’ has now become our reality. We are on course to a new world order, its seed planted in the soil of Ogun State.
Ogun State has been re-designing and reconstructing its basic social, political and economic structures, slowly but steadily. It is about to showcase the product of its 10-years effort as it welcomes the rest of the world to the 2030 World Cup.
That is the future!