Last time I contested in 2006 against my very good friend Bello, my colleagues felt at that time it was his turn to run and lead the club and there were no hard feelings about it. I waited for another two years to run again and in 2009, I contested and won.
What are the challenges of leading members of a club of this calibre?
The responsibility is enormous. It is greater responsibility to be a leader among leaders. Every member of this Club is a leader in different fields. In government, politics, business, civil society, everybody is here. Invariably when you are leading people who are also leaders, you have to display a high level of maturity and responsibility
Are you not intimidated by the profile of some of your members?
That is why I told you that here you are a leader among leaders. To be captain here is great responsibility. You have to observe the club rules irrrespective of who is involved. We have the Senate President but he is a club member so when he comes in here, he obeys the rules of the club. This is one area we don’t compromise. We are very strict on application of laid down rules and regulations.
What is your vision for the IBB Golf and Country Club?
I have already started on a good note. We are one month old now and we are running a good club, a balanced club, we make sure that everybody is taken along and properly integrated. That is the first major step towards ensuring that we don’t have factions in the club. The objective is to make sure that every member of this club is working towards one major goal. I am also speedily approaching the issue of infrastructure and quality membership. In as much as we have fantastic infrastructure here, we are still aiming at the best. We still believe we can get it better than what we have presently. We really need to have the right people here to make good use of these facilities and that is one of the important things I am trying to address at the moment. So we are going to do quite a lot. More importantly, as a matter of policy, I am working hard to demystify golf. We want to open the game to the public. As Nigeria woke up and go to the stadium to watch football, we are working on a programme that will ensure that people wake up and come to the golf course to watch people playing golf. This is because it is just like any other sport and in other climes, it is not a sport for the rich. Golf is for everybody. It is played by all irrespective of age and financial background. We want to encourage our children to play golf. This weekend, there is going to be a major tournament here and we have taken the initiative to bring along the children to come and watch the closing day activities.
It is good you want to demystify golf but have you considered the challenges you will face due to the general belief that the sport is elitist in nature and meant for the rich only?.
We have to change such mentality by embarking on the catch them young programme. If we go to the primary schools to arouse the interest of the children, bring them here to watch how the game is played and the rest, we would not have any serious problem achieving our set objective. They will begin to aspire to play the game. Moreover, we have the kiddies section here but not many children are coming to play so we want to expose them to competitions. Therefore, anytime we have a major tournament, we would bring them here as spectators and they begin to watch and I don’t think there is any better way to arouse their interest.
There are so many other golf Courses in the country. Which of them challenges you to keep improving?
This is Nigeria’s premier club. And I repeat this is Nigeria’s premier club. The other clubs may be older but they don’t have the kind of facilities we have here. So the Ikoyi Golf Club, Enugu Golf Club, Benin Golf Club, they might be older than this club but in terms of quality, this is the number one and it ranks among the best golf courses in the world. This is a championship club. Do you understand what I mean? You can bring Tiger Woods to play here. Most of these golf clubs can’t boast of the required facilities.
Are you an active or passive captain? If you play the game actively, for how long have you been playing?
I have been playing golf actively for about fifteen years now. I have been playing since I was about thirty something years and I am still paying golf. I am very passionate about the game of golf. It is something I like to do on daily basis. I am not here for leadership. I may be captain for just two years but being a golfer is for the rest of my life. I will play golf till I die.
Finally, it is one thing to have this kind of magnificent facility but entirely another thing to have tournament winning golfers. Do you have champions in this club?
This is the home of golf in Nigeria. Number one in Nigeria and number two, this is their home. When you are talking about professional golfers you find them here. The regular winners are members of this club. They have their category. The golfer who is currently leading in Nigeria is Umoh, he is our member. Talk of Odoh, he has been on the ladder for several years as number one. Majority of us who play golf here are amateurs. We play for entertainment and physical exercise.
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