-Explain why event didn’t hold this year; call for private, corporate sponsors
The organisers of the Oba Kabir Shotobi Independence Day Marathon, have appealed to students and the generality of Ikorodu residents, for its inability to host the event again this year, stating that it was mainly due to economic situation in the country.
Mr Bello Oladimeji Akeem, Chairman, Oba Kabir Shotobi Independence Day Marathon, who made the appeal in an interview with THE IMPACT on Sunday, October 1, 2023, in Ikorodu, also said that the grand event will hold next year, hopefully.
The sporting event, which was initiated by the former Majority Leader, Lagos State House of Assembly and four term lawmaker that represented Ikorodu between 2007 and 2023, Hon. Sanai Oyeniran Bolanle Agunbiade, had been held for six times out of the eight years existence of the race that started as a mini – marathon.
Bello also explained that the annual event didn’t hold last year because of the tensed political situation that characterized the electioneering in Ikorodu, in the build up to this year’s general elections.
He said that the objectives of the race are for the social and economic development of Ikorodu Division.
“I want to appreciate God and thank Hon. SOB Agunbiade for his efforts in developing sports in Ikorodu Division. He actually started developing the long distanced race in Ikorodu when he was the President, Gribbs Club of Nigeria. We held mini – marathon in Ikorodu in 1989 and 1991. The record is there”, Mr Bello said.
“Otutuloro, who was the Commissioner for Sports, used to grace the occasion. The Nigeria Police used to give us a lot of things like their riders.
“When the opportunity came again for him after developing himself, precisely in 2016, he put up an organizing committee to start a mini – marathon. His interest was in two folds: development of sports in Ikorodu and two, to immortalise the name of the monarch and bring sports tourism to Ikorodu, on every 1st of October by having athletes on the streets of Ikorodu, and for everybody to celebrate the lndependence Day. That was why he made it a yearly event.
“Last year, the event could not hold despite all our preparations. We had everything in place; bought all the kits and equipment needed for the medical checkup, and tests and forms were ready, before we discovered that the security of our students could not be guaranteed because of the political crisis that was in Ikorodu, at that time. So, we had to jettison it which resulted in the loss of money that was sunk into the preparations”, he said.
While stating that every effort of the organisers to get sponsors over the years to sustain the race, did not yield result, Mr Bello also explained that the challenging economic situation is solely responsible for the inability to hold the event this year.
“This year is the eighth year that we started the marathon event, but we have had it six times and this good six years, Hon. SOB Agunbiade has been the sole sponsor despite all our efforts to get private individuals and corporate bodies in Ikorodu and outside, involved”, he said.
“I remembered that we went to Indomie, Ota, Dangote, and we wrote to a lot of companies and people, but nothing was coming forth and he decided to be sponsoring it solely because of his interest in sports.
“A lot of people in Ikorodu has been asking me questions, especially the schools; the students are so disappointed that we are not going to hold the marathon this year again.
“The reason we cannot hold the marathon this year is the economic situation. Annually, we spend between N10 and N12million, and by the time we prepared our budget for this year, the cost has risen to four times what we used to spend”, Mr Bello said.
“People only see students running on the marathon day, but not all that go into it: talking about kits, press conference, adverts, no matter how many the students are, they have to underwent medical checkup and all the materials that they used are purchased by the committee. Over 1000 students put in for the marathon two years ago, but about 800 participated in the event”, he said.
“I want to thank the Sports Commission; they came with their personnel. They gave us two doctors that came for a week to examine the students. Then, we had to arranged for others which we paid for, to ensure thorough screening because we cannot do marathon without making sure that the students are fit to run.
“So many things usually go into the preparations, and we pray that God will help us so that our economy can bounce back. In the interim, we have been looking for private individuals and corporate bodies that can come on board.
“Maybe it was because SOB was a politician, and they don’t want to collaborate with a politician to execute the programme. But he was determined for the six years consecutively that we have had it in Ikorodu, by being the sole sponsor. We are pleading for private and corporate sponsors to come on board and collaborate with us.
“He is ready to continue with the event, but only that the cost this year is too outrageous to the point that he could not bear it alone. To show his determination, about a month ago, he was still insisting that we had it, but one thing that is paramount to us is that the standard of the marathon should not be lower than what we have been having.
“We don’t just want to have it. People must be able to rate our performance higher than the previous editions if we are to stage any other edition. It is better to graduate from the lower to the higher level than the other way round”, the planning committee chairman said.
He charged private individuals and corporate bodies in Ikorodu Division to buy into the race with their sponsorship, and join the organisers in sustaining the laudable initiative.
“More importantly, we must stress this, Ikorodu people and organizations should wake up and come forward to continue this programme. We started the Oba Shotobi Marathon before the Lagos City Marathon. It is an avenue for economic development. People come around: the artisans that work with us always get patronage and vendors, during a week screening that usually preceed the marathon race and on the day of the event, usually have boom in sales”, he said.
“Furthermore, the students are the greatest beneficiaries of the event, especially those that won. Some of them are abroad, and we have students in Ikorodu that have chosen marathon as a career.
“We just want this event to come back, hence, we are pleading on behalf of the good people of Ikorodu, that we should not allow the marathon that is known all over the world to just go down”.
Mr Bello reiterated the readiness of the organisers to continue with the marathon race, once the economic situation in the country improves and sponsors come on board.
“We are ever –ready to go ahead and stage the event. Some of the gadgets that we acquired for tests last year are still intact as well as some other equipment l, and we don’t intend to sell or throw them away.
“We have the intention of hosting it next year, but our prayer is that God should intervene in the economy of this country. Once the economy is boosted, there is nothing that can prevent us from hosting it.
“We want this to be a yearly event, and for the government and corporate bodies to see its importance and come into it”, he said.
On behalf of the initiator and organisers, the planning committee of the race, pleaded for the understanding of the students and residents of Ikorodu, who have now missed the marathon for two consecutive years.
“On behalf of the sponsor and organisers of the Oba Shotobi Independence Marathon, I want to apologise for the inability to host the event this year. This morning (Sunday, October 1) when I was going to the Church, I saw students running from Ota Ona to Itamaga. May be they have been looking forward to it since we always staged marathons”, he said.
“I want to appeal to them to just bear with us for now, and by the grace of God, we will be back on the track next year, hopefully, our economy would have been better. We are also on the lookout for people that would collaborate with us, so that next year, we have private individuals and corporate bodies joining us in bringing back the marathon named after the Ikorodu monarch, Oba Shotobi”, he pleaded.
Looking back to the inception of the race, the planning committee chairman, thank the Ijede and Ikorodu West Local Council Development Areas, the two councils among the six in Ikorodu Division, that have been supporting the marathon race that always involved hundreds of students every year.
Why also acknowledging support from the Sports Commission, Mr Bello also charged the Lagos State Government to get more involved in supporting the Oba Kabir Shotobi Independence Day Marathon, and ensure that the race continue to serve its objectives.
“I want to appreciate two local governments: Ijede Local Council Development Area and Ikorodu West Local Council Development Area. There has not been any assistance from any other since we have been hosting this programme, apart from these two local councils”, he said.
“We had support all the time during the administration of Alhaji Fathiu Salisu in Ijede LCDA and Hon. Sulaimon Kazeem Olanrewaju, in Ikorodu West LCDA.
“We always write to all the local government areas in Ikorodu for support. Ijede LCDA always gives us their ambulance.
“We have been involving the state government. We usually write the sports commission every year before the unveiling of the programme at the palace, and it is based on that that we usually get two doctors from the Rowe Park. And, for two consecutive times, we had meetings at their office, but it’s always disappointing that we don’t see them on the day of the marathon, their officials won’t be on ground, but their doctors and nurses were always around and they have been so wonderful. They were led by one Dr Sule”, Mr Bello said.
“I want to appeal to them that we want the Oba Shotobi Marathon race that is being hosted every year to be as huge as what usually happened during the Lagos City Marathon, because Ikorodu is the only community that has been hosting a marathon, and we should not allow it to go down like that.
“We need their collaboration and support so that we can come back to the track and for every boby to again, enjoy October 1 anniversary, starting from next year, hopefully”, he further pleaded.
“We want to thank God for the sponsor, organisers, friends and security agencies that have been working with us for the past 8 years. We are appreciative of Oba Kabir Shotobi, Obas in Ikorodu division, Chiefs in Ikorodu division, LASAMBUS, LASTMA, Rowe Park, CALEB University, General Hospital which is always on alert for any emergency; Ayangbure palace, Education District II, Ministry of Education, Public and Private Schools in Ikorodu Division and our media friends”, he said.