The game of Rugby is set to take a new look in Nigeria. This is because a new helmsman has taken over the running of the game in the country. He is dynamic and dedicated to the game. And he is one of the few financiers of the game in Nigeria. The new helmsman of the Nigerian Rugby Football Federation is big real estate player, Kelechukwu Mbagwu. He is the new President-elect of the group.
This ruggedly handsome real estate player has been into Rugby since age 10. He is the GMD of CMB Building company, one of the leading real estate companies in Nigeria. He is a Rugby enthusiast. His love for Rugby dates way back to when he was a kid and he has kept the fire of Rugby burning inside him for years. Last week, he told City Peoples duo of SEYE KEHINDE & ISAAC ABIMBADE how his love for Rugby started and what his plans are for the game now that he is in charge.
How did your love for Rugby start?
It started when I was in school. At the age of 15, I learnt the game of Rugby in England. But actually it started before that. It started at the age of 10 when I went to watch the game of Rugby with my brother at St. Gregorys College. He was a very good Rugby player in his time, and was older than I was. I love the game, I love the physicality of it, carrying the ball and running round the little pitch.
It was a lot of fun. It was in England that I actually started playing. My love for the game just took off from there. It was so well suited to my personality, my ability, my physique. I never looked back after that when I came back to Nigeria eventually we were able to locate Rugby-playing centres within the states and that ensured that I could carry on with my participation in the game and it has just become part of me.
How come you haven’t lost interest in the game and what has kept your interest going?
I guess, after I finish playing and the fact that I became part of the administration. First of all Lagos Rugby Club, and then Racing RFC and finally we set up our own Rugby club, Carring Rugby, RFC I have continued to be involved in the game at every level. Four years ago, I became involved in the national body as chairman of the sponsorship Committee after which the rest is history. I decided to run for the Presidency.
Now that you are the President of the main body what is your main goal and focus?
My paramount objective in creating a solid structure and a database for Rugby, putting it on a sound footing. If we don’t do this we would be wasting our time. We have not done this in the last 15 years or 20 years. Its time to do it. I have the complete focus of getting this done.
How come the game of Rugby is not popular in Nigeria?
Yes, I agree with you that Rugby is not as popular as it should be in Nigeria that is because we don’t have a structure. We have not organised a proper structure. We need to be playing Rugby everywhere in the country, we need to get the big guys, the rightly built people, the fast guys, to understand the game and to want to play Rugby rather than basketball.
Do you plan to take Rugby to the schools?
Oh yes. Very much so. That is part of our manifesto. That is the 2nd point on our manifesto, bringing Rugby to the schools. My ambition is to get the young JSS boys playing Rugby game, learning the game and by the time they leave they are playing for their schools, they are vying for places in the national school circuit.
How are you trying to get all the other Rugby enthusiasts to buy into your dream?
First of all the board members, the people who were elected with me love the game and they will all work with us. Secondly, there are a few individuals I have reached out to and spoken to. People like Mr. Ibukun Obatoyinbo, Mr. Dele Coker, Mr. Dayo Adebayo, Tunde Ayenusi, Tunde Akerele, these are Rugby enthusiasts who have long since followed the progress of the game including even Mr. Martin Crawford, the gentleman who supported me when everybody were against me. I would love to welcome him back into the fold and work with him to build a solid organisation for Rugby in Nigeria.
Is Rugby a Lagos sport or is it across Nigeria?
Oh no, we have it across the country. It is very strong in Lagos yes. Lagos has the greatest number of teams but in Kano it is very strong thanks to Martin Crawford I spoke about earlier, in the East, Abia, Imo, Enugu State, it is very strong, thanks to a very young man called Dike. In Delta State, they’ve got 2 teams. 3 to 4 months ago, I understand that in Yenagoa there is a Rugby team as well. People are being coached across the country and the game is being, more deeply increased in leaps and bounds, its wonderful.
A few minutes ago you explained that you have plans of taking Rugby beyond the shores of Nigeria to the West African sub-region now that your friend is the President of the Ghana Rugby Federation. Is this true?
Yes. It is now but that was not the original plan. But now that the Ghanaians have taken the lead and reached out to us to say lets work together, that we should collaborate, I think it is a fantastic idea and we are fully behind them.
How do you plan to get the suspension lifted on the game in Nigeria?
Once we get the letters which I believe have already been done, we will first of all send them to Rugby Afrique, we will also make a proper representation to explain whatever else they misunderstand. We are being fully backed by the Loc, the Nigerian Olympic Committee. That is the most respected sports covering body in the world. I think that they will listen to reason. It isn’t just an off the cuff disorganised suspension, if I may call it that. No. They said you are suspended until you do the right thing. We’ve done the right thing and now its time to send them the documentation and the proof that we’ve done the right thing, I strongly believe that those gentleman and ladies are unbiased. They will lift our suspension.