Senator John Nanzip Shagaya
By Olawale Ajimotokan
Senator John Nanzip Shagaya has revealed how former Military President Ibrahim Badamosi Babangida approved the building of the IBB International Golf and Country Club after he saw the former President of Cote d’Ivoire, the late Felix Houphouet-Boigny play the game in Yamoussoukro in 1987.
The IBB course, which was opened to play in 1992, is Nigeria’s flagship international golf course and the first 18-hole all green layout in the country.
But Shagaya, who celebrated his 70th birthday tournament Saturday, recalled that General Babangida, who himself is not a golfer, initiated the move to construct a golf course in Nigeria’s new capital city, after the President Golf Club in Yamoussoukro, made a lasting impression on him while attending the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) conference in Cote d’Ivoire in 1987.
Shagaya, who at that time was Nigeria’s Interior Minister, was on Nigeria’s delegation to Cote d’Ivoire for the West African nations’ regional grouping conference when the decision on an international golf facility was pondered.
“I must confess to you that it was during one of our visits in 1987 to Yamoussoukro when I accompanied IBB to Cote d’Ivoire for a conference that we got the inspiration to construct a golf course in Abuja. Then at a point, President Felix Houphouet-Boigny went on to play a round of golf and Babangida at that time decided to go along with him. It was when we returned from Yamoussoukro that the former Minister of Federal Capital Territory, Air Vice Marshal Hamza Abdulahi and myself, were charged with the responsibility of ensuring that what we saw in Yamoussoukro was brought to Nigeria. And that was how we started to build a world class golf course in Abuja from 1987,” Shagaya, who later became the foundation captain of the golf club, reminisced.
He recalled that Houphouet-Boigny and his golf pal, President Dauda Jawara of the Gambia, could not believe their eyes when they saw the lush looking course in Abuja on their visit to Nigeria for an ECOWAS Summit in 1992, prompting them to heap commendations on the government for investing in a golf layout that every Nigerian will later come to cherish.
The IBB course was set up on 101 hectares of wetland in the Three Arms Zone, with the iconic Aso Rock and nearby rolling hills providing a scenic backdrop.
The course has played host to three Nigerian Open Championships in addition to several professional and amateur golf tournaments.
Shagaya reflected that the decision taken 25-year ago to build the course was noteworthy, considering its benefits to many retirees and a new wave of generation of young Nigerians who are learning about how to play golf.