Cross River State Governor, Senator Bassey Edet Otu has taken steps for the rehabilitation of ex-Olympian, Etim “Ironbar” Bassey, who has been living on the streets of Lagos for several years.
The governor, who met with the medal winning athlete with some state officials led by the Speaker of the Cross River State House of Assembly, Rt. Hon. Elvert Ayambem, at the temporary Governor’s Office in Calabar, Tuesday, said he was touched by the dire straits in which Bassey has found himself and as a citizen that has contributed to putting the state and Nigeria on the sports map, globally, it was the right thing to do.
“I am touched by the situation you (Ironbar) have found yourself and it is the right thing to bring you back home and get you something to do. What matters now is the legacy you have created. So, forget all that you have gone through and look to the future and this administration is here to see you back and to contribute to sports development in our state.
“We will rehabilitate you. You are to see the Commissioner of Sports for immediate employment where you find fit so that you can be meaningfully engaged. I wish you the best,” the governor said.
Speaking earlier, Speaker Ayambem said after a resolution by the State Assembly, he led a team to Lagos where they located “Ironbar” and persuaded him to return home as directed by Governor Otu.
The Speaker was full of commendation for the governor for always putting the people first and expressed the confidence that with the exemplary conduct by Governor Otu, many more abandoned athletes will be found by their respective states and duly recognised.
Speaking on the development, Ironbar expressed his gratitude to the government and could not contain his joy at being “found and given another opportunity at dignity and recognition.”
Bassey, popularly known as Ironbar, first came into limelight as a weightlifter at the 1981 Lagos Sports Festival where he won a gold medal and won another gold at the National Festival Sports in Benin City that same year.
He will go on to compete in the African Weightlifting Championships in Port Saeed, Egypt and won three Gold Medals. His reputation will be cemented at the 1982 Commonwealth Games where he won a Bronze Medal.
However, fate had other plans for him at the 1984 Olympic Games in Los Angeles where he tore a muscle and his participation and medal hope was cut short.
He will spend all on medical bills and with no help insight, Ironbar turned to filling potholes, directing traffic and generally keeping maintenance of roads around Ajah area in Lagos until the intervention of the state government.