By OUR CORRESPONDENT
Nigerian golfers with their counterparts from Ghana, Cameroon and Ugandan on Friday teed off on the green course of the IBB International Golf and Country Club Abuja for inter-countries double match play to commemorate Nigeria’s 63rd Independence Day anniversary.
The international match play which has been a major part of activities to mark Nigeria’s independence anniversary teed off shortly after the hoisting of flags of the participating countries amid funfair.
Speaking to newsmen shortly after the hoisting of flags, the captain of the Nigerian team, Mr Olabanjo Obaleye, said even as Nigeria is prepared to host and win, they are using the match to promote friendships and international diplomacy.
“We are the host and it would be difficult for any one to come to Nigeria and beat us, especially in the game of golf. But, just like the Ugandan and Ghanaian representatives have said, it is not about winning but friendship. It is about international diplomacy and business networking beyond the borders, that is what golf is all about and that is what we are trying to promote,” he said.
Obaleye, who is also the captain of the IBB International Golf and Country Club, noted that despite the challenges facing Nigeria there is more that unites Nigerians than what separates them. “Our independence at 63rd is not a joke, just like every other country we might have our ups and downs but we thank God that we are still standing as a one united Nigeria.
“We believe that at the end of every tunnel there is always a light and we are hopeful that Nigeria will get better. Whatever we can do at our own level to promote Nigeria, we have to do it because we have no other country apart from Nigeria.
“We are the giant of Africa and we have to show that in everything we do, that is why this year’s independence golf tournament is different from what we have been having over the years. Here, we have three different countries coming to celebrate with us on our independence anniversary and we are going to have business part of it on Saturday night where the business delegations from Cameroon, Ghana and Ugandan will sit with our business community at the round table to discuss. The national president of Nigeria Golf Federation, Otumba Olusegun Runsewe will also be there to further showcase Nigerian rich culture to the world.”
President of the Achimota Golf Club and captain of the Ghanaian team, Frank Adu Junior, said their mission this time is to change the narrative of winning at home syndrome between Nigeria and Ghana.
“Achimota Golf Club has had this relationship with IBB for a long time and it is reciprocal. At Ghana’s independence they come down and at Nigeria’s independence we come to play with them and it is a cherished relationship. “When they come to Ghana we win and when we come here they win. But we want to change that narrative by beating IBB here at their home ground this time and for the first time,” Adu said.
Team Uganda’s representative, Ivah Mangala, described the international match play in commemoration of Nigeria’s Independence Day as welcome development, saying it will open up business opportunities.
“I’m here in Nigeria for the first time and we are very excited as Ugandans to join you in celebrating your 63rd independence anniversary. Nigeria is Africa’s big brother and as Ugandans we would like to be part of the Nigerian economy. We hope this international match play will open up business partnerships,” Mangala said.
The event chairman, Mr Akabon Enebong, said the international match play will spring up development of golf in the country. “For the first time we are having four countries participating in our Independence Day Tournament and we have been able to bring business people into Nigeria for investment that will encourage a lot of youth to go into the game of golf.”
The inter-countries match play will end on Saturday with the singles while Sunday will be the grand finale of the tournament that features over 500 golfers where the overall winner will be presented with a brand new car, courtesy of PAN.