A TRIBUTE BY OKEGBENRO
On this day, August 27, exactly 70 years ago in 1952, a star was born into the family of late Pa Jacob Adebola and Madam Bintu Odegbami; the former, a retired Nigerian Railway worker, and the latter, a successful and very popular trader. They both hailed from Wasinmi Community in Ogun State and long settled in Jos, Plateau State where they lived into their advanced years.
That little star is Nigeria’s sports icon, serial entrepreneur, master storyteller, great writer, broadcaster, educationist, author, actor, publisher and sports administrator per excellence, Chief Patrick Olusegun Odegbami.
One of the most popular Nigerians of his generation, Big Seg came into everything desirable quite early in life…fame, money, travels, cars, houses and the good life. By a stroke of divine luck, he had successfully managed the highs and lows and is in good health (in the company of his loving wife and children) and can happily look back and thank God.
Nigeria owes this man a deserved acknowledgement and celebration on a day like this given his contributions to national development via his three areas of passion—sports, education and youth development/entrepreneurship.
Though he came into prominence in the late 60s through football, starring as a member of the all-conquering Western State Academicals, then onto NTC FC, WNTV/WNBS FC, Housing of Ibadan FC; it was when he joined the popular Shooting Stars of Ibadan from 1970 to 1984 that he shot into true stardom and attracted national attention; earning an instant call up to the senior national team as a 22-year-old in 1974. He however did not play for the national team until 1976, making his debut against Sierra Leone and going on to establish himself as the poster boy of the team until October 30, 1981, when he made his last appearance in a 2-1 home loss to Algeria.
To be sure, he was still at his football best but had to consider early retirement owing to a recurring knee injury that defied huge investments in treatment at home and abroad; halting his glittering career and leaving him to pursue even more expository, technical and creative endeavours within and outside sports, which had kept his name and image not only relevant but soaring till date.
Big Seg’s ability to switch, interplay and multi-task in different extreme roles, requiring completely unrelated skillsets, to my mind, has been his defining strength over the years. At different times since leaving active football, he has been a newspaper columnist, writer, publisher, television producer, sports school proprietor, actor, track and field athlete manager, football administrator, national team manager and much more… making a success of all. It is on record that this great man conceptualised and created Nigeria’s first wholly private sports show on television, Saturday Sports Special, in the early 90s.
A man of many novelties, Big Seg did not only give Nigerian sports fans quality entertainment on this show but also delivered an unforgettable legacy by his ingenuity in featuring two little but very sharp boys, Wole Opatola and Shina Okeleji, then in their early teens, as co-presenters.
To his eternal credit, the two youngsters are now very accomplished sports journalists holding their own in the industry. Wole runs a successful sports publishing and radio/TV production business in Benin while Shina is a leading producer at BBC World Service.