Sen. John Owan-Enoh, Minister of Sports Development, has assured Nigerians in Diaspora that entertainment and culture will be at the front burner of sports development in the country.
He gave the assurance at the reception organised by Nigerians in Diaspora Commission (NiDCOM) for the National Basketball Association (NBA) legends “Lisa Leslie and ‘Chiney’ also known as Chinenye Ogwumike” in Abuja.
Leslie and Chiney are members of the President Joe Biden’s inaugural Advisory Council on African Diaspora Engagement in the United States.
Both legends are in Nigeria to provide invaluable guidance to reinforce cultural, social, political, and economic ties between U.S. and Africa, and promote trade, investment, and educational exchanges between the U.S., and Africa.
NBA, a professional basketball league in North-America comprising 30 teams, is a major sports league in the U.S. and Canada, considered the premier basketball league in the world.
He said, “Beyond football we have several sports: What I am trying to do is balance that beyond football, we have other sports, this is not about football therefore, this is about basketball.
“I am glad this is happening now that the U.S., President considered this as best time to send Leslie and Chiney to three African countries, it is good Nigeria is listed among the three.
“In terms of the NBA and the Women’s NBA (WNBA), Nigeria performing talents have been incredible, notably in the increase of talents and their contribution.
“It is not just about their talent but collaborating cultural exchange; sport sector will not have made significant improvement without combination of entertainment and culture of our people and I am here to promote that.”
The Chairman/CEO, of NiDCOM, Dr Abike Dabiri-Erewa, commended Leslie and Chiney for their passion to grow sport talents in Africa.
According to her, there will be lots of engagement with the duo to promote growth of sports talent not just in Nigeria, but Africa at large.
“We believe as Africans you are diasporas, if we cannot make Africa the way it should be as a continent, the world will continue to look down on us as black people.
“So, it doesn’t matter where you are, let us do all we can for the beauty and benefit of this continent.
“We will continue to engage with you and we hope that the NBA Vice-President Africa, Gbemisola Abudu will do a lot more while here in Nigeria,” she said.
Also speaking, Abudu said since the establishment of the Council in Nigeria in 2022, there have been no opportunities to have the NBA legends in the country.
The NBA vice-president said, “The fact both of you are here today is a big honour”.
Abudu said, in the history of the NBA we have had 120 players of Africa descent, more than 50 of those have been of Nigeria descent.
“In the history of WNBA, we have had 10- First/Second generation WNBA-players of Nigeria descent and this tells you the level of talent Nigeria has, not just from talent standpoint, but commercial standpoint.”
She said the organisation within the 10-years reached 250,000 youths through its Power-Point programme, adding that plans are underway to expand the programme.
Mr Tochukwu Ebere, Chairman, House Committee on Diaspora Affairs, said as a nation of more than 200million people, the legends were celebrated for their doggedness.
According to him, Nigerians have achieved remarkable feats in various fields of life, including science and technology, Medicine, Arts, American Football among others.
“We celebrate you and salute your sports doggedness, you came you saw and you both conquered.”Whenever women successes are ranked one thing remains sacrosanct, both of you are in there with the very best,” he said.
Meanwhile, Amb. Samson Itegboje, representing the Minister of Foreign Affairs, extolled the NiDCOM boss for putting the event together to honour the legends.
“Leslie and Chiney have not just achieved unparalleled success in their respective fields, but become beacons of inspiration to countless individuals globally.
“Their unwavering commitment to excellence, resilience in the face of challenges and dedication to making positive impact is now example for all of us,” Itegboje said.
Chiney, 31-year old Nigerian, a Stanford graduate, WNBA player and an NBA analyst for ESPN, is the youngest female in the council.
Leslie, an American former professional basketball player currently head-coach for Triplets in the BIG3 professional basketball league is an early-star of WNBA and four-time Olympic gold medalist.