• Monday, May 20, 2024
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Okocha and Bolton University


On Monday Bolton University in the United Kingdom announced it was going to award scholarships to 10 Nigerians in honour of ace soccer star, Austin “Jay Jay” Okocha.

The annual value of each of the scholarships is two thousand pounds (about N550,000). In addition to the sum, each of the awardees will be able to watch matches involving Bolton Wanderers Football Club 15 times a season, and will receive personal letter of congratulations from Okocha.
Okocha, during his time in Bolton managed to inspire a generation of Bolton Wanderers supporters and many other football lovers all over the United Kingdom. Blessed with enormous football skills, Bolton supporters fell in love with Okocha and most of them will forever remember him as one of the best footballers to play for their club.

However, in a heartwarming way, the impact Okocha made in Bolton and in the UK went beyond football. His commitment and hard-work on the pitch and his actions outside of it endeared him to millions of football lovers in the United Kingdom. In the process, Okocha became a worthy ambassador of Nigeria.
While Bolton is a relatively small city compared to more popular cities in the UK such as Manchester, Birmingham, Liverpool etc, it will not surprise many that Bolton is one of the most popular cities in the UK amongst Nigerians. The reason is Okocha. Before Okocha moved to Bolton from Paris Saint German in France, not many Nigerians had heard of Bolton, and perhaps not many Nigerians would have wanted to go to the University of Bolton, but Okocha’s stay in Bolton has changed all that. To come up with a scholarship that will improve and cement this relationship is a fantastic initiative.

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By accepting to collaborate with the university for this purpose, Okocha has once more, this time, off the pitch, written his name in gold. The scholarship, though inadequate to cover the entire expenses of any student in the university, will afford those Nigerian students opportunity to have foreign education. For this reason, the scholarship is a welcome development. Furthermore, the Bolton University and Bolton city will continue to benefit from the arrival of at least 10 Nigerian students in the city each year. The club will benefit by growing its supporters by at least 10 foreigners and in this case Nigerians every year.
As Bolton and Okocha have come up with this wonderful initiative, we hope many more will now follow. Experiences have always shown that cultural affinity and attachment is stronger when anchored on education. Many graduates that will benefit from this scheme will forever remember Bolton and Okocha. The long lasting result and impact of such relationships can only be imagined. Indeed, this is one initiative that will have tremendous benefits to Nigeria and Nigerians. In many other cities and towns that Nigerian footballers have made their mark, we hope that the universities in these places will follow suit, and extend scholarships to Nigerian students.

This initiative, however, throws no one unpalatable lesson that calls for deeper reflection from us all as Nigerians. It is a reminder that we do not appreciate those amongst us that have made their marks outside the country and in the process given our country the much needed positive image. We all appreciate that we are a great nation and have great people, but the ultimate benefit will not accrue to our country if we do not use our strengths. Our strengths outside the shores of this country are our people that have made lots of achievements and are easily recognised outside Nigeria. For instance, those in the UK, including those in the United Kingdom Government will readily recognise Okocha and Nwankwo Kanu than they will recognise many of Nigerian government officials. This strength can be used in circumstances other than football. Bolton University and Austin Okocha have just thought us how to do it.