Nigeria’s first Olympics medallist and a proud son of Lagos, Nojeem Maiyegun was the centre of attention again on Sunday, as he was recognised and rewarded by the Household of God Church at the annual Karis Awards Ceremony, for the feat that put the searchlight of the world on Lagos and Nigeria.
In 1964, the then 23-year old Light-Middleweight boxer had broken the glass ceiling, and won a bronze medal at the Tokyo Olympics. The feat marked the beginning of exploits for Nigerian boxers at that stage, and opened the floodgates for future Nigerian Olympians to dream of standing on the podium at the biggest sporting event in the world.
And last Sunday, the glamorous Karis Awards showcased not only the excellence of the ‘golden’ Bronze Medal that ‘Omo Oloja’, as Maiyegun was known in his boxing days, brought home, but also highlighted the values embedded in the thought process that birthed the awards.
The 24th Karis Award glittered like the Christmas trees that welcomed guests to the event. The list includes the representatives of the Oba of Lagos, the Minister for Youths and Sports, Sunday Dare, the President Nigeria Boxing Board of Control, Dr Rauf Ladipo, the Public Relations Officer of the Nigeria Olympics Committee, Femi Adetula, the captain of the Nigeria Olympic Team to the London Olympics in 2012, Olumide Oyedeji, gold medalist in Men’s 400 Metres Relay at the Athens Olympics in 2004, Ene Udo-Obong, Chairman Brila Group, Dr Larry Izamoje, the President of AIPS Africa, Mitchell Obi, members of the Maiyegun family, and Supersport presenter Mozez Praiz .
The event opened with the red carpet, where the gorgeously dressed guests expressed their appreciation to the Household of God for the initiative that has blessed deserving Nigerians, regardless of tribe and religious affiliations.
The Maiyegun family were full of praise for the recognition of the icon of their family, with the son of the boxer, who was present at the event stating that he is happy and satisfied that his father is being so honoured.
The highlight of the event came when the Minister, Sunday Dare declared that the awards has opened his eyes to the need for the government to officially recognize past Olympians, and promised to immediately, on return to Abuja, set up the machinery that will go into the archives to unearth and find ways of honouring those who had brought fame to the nation at the Olympics.
Maiyegun is the third sports person to be honoured at the Karis Awards. Incidentally, the first sports person to receive the award was Hogan ‘Kid’ Bassey, the first Nigerian to win a World boxing title; he was posthumously honoured in 1998. In 2011 former Enugu Rangers and Green Eagles goalkeeper, Emmanuel Okala became the second sports person to receive the award.
The organizers of the award have promised to make the awards more inclusive from next year, with the promise of throwing the nominations open to members of the public.