•9 Years After He Left Public Office
Bukola Olopade was the youngest commissioner in Ogun State during Otunba Gbenga Daniel’s administration as the governor of Ogun State. He is popularly called Ozogula, and for eight years he was the commissioner for youth and sports. Back then he never hid his undiluted loyalty to his boss, Governor Daniel. Apart from being the youngest Commissioner back in the day, he was very popular in the whole of Ogun state and has many youths on his side, he is known to be generous and deep-pocketed, and this made him very relevant in the state. One will think all this will go with the wind the moment another administration took over the state and was a rival to his boss and to the party he belongs, but even with all the criticisms he still remains strong and relevant in the state till date. His contribution to sports not only in Ogun State but south-west cannot be written off in another twenty years to come. When he was Commissioner, the sporting sector in Ogun State reached an international level and the state became the envy of all in Nigeria as a whole.
He contested once in 2010, and came so close but lost just when it mattered, Ozo, as he is fondly called, is the wise one with the Midas Touch. He made over Two Hundred Million Naira (N200m) available for wheelchair basketball. He also gave over One Hundred Million (N100m) to the Nigeria National League. With the Lagos city marathon, Ozo, as he is fondly called, has continued to break new grounds. He has made the impossible now possible and looks poised to leave his footprints in the sands of time.
He is known for his passion for marathon races. After organizing four editions of the 42km Access Bank/Lagos City Marathon, which currently ranks among the best marathon races in the world, Olopade has spread his tentacles to other cities, with two major events set to hold later this year in Abeokuta and Remo, in Ogun State.
Bukola Olopade, CEO of Nilayo Sports Management Limited, patent owners of Access Bank Lagos City Marathon, among other road races, is a man on a mission. The mission is to take road-race to all notable cities in the country and at the same time create opportunities and develop a support base for talented Nigerian athletes. He has added the Abeokuta N10km race coming up in November, and the Remo Ultra Race in December of this year, to its races, while Abuja Road Race may happen next year. He dreams of taking road races to all important cities and towns in the country to showcase to the rest of the world the unique beauty and passion inherent in Nigerian people and places.
In one of his recent interviews, he said “In 10 years time we will like to sit back and say Abeokuta Road Race, Remo Road Race and Uyo and Abuja races are gold label and the almighty Lagos and Abuja road races are platinum. That is our dream. There is a new love for athletics; that is where we are heading.” Before road races, Olopade found football. However, he admits athletics has become his newest bride. “Have I discovered a new favourite sport in athletics? The answer is yes. So, you find me in Japan and Qatar to watch world relays and World Championship respectively. I have a new love for athletics and if it is well articulated in this country it would empower many young people.
Reflecting on how it all started he further said, “To be honest, it is to the credit of Chief Solomon Ogba, the former Commissioner of Sport in Delta State and former AFN (Athletic Federation of Nigeria) President. It was him that threw the challenge at us when he said it was a misnomer for Lagos – one of the biggest megacities in the world – not to have a road race and that road race is becoming a phenomenon all over the world. So, we sat down and came up with a concept, which we took to the former Lagos State government that was able to quickly understand the benefit inherent in a road race and plugged in immediately.”
His first experience of watching a private sector work with government was the Gateway Games (2006 National Sports Festival) while he was commissioner. And that opened his eyes that the private sector could support sports as long as you have integrity.
He is the Managing Director of Nilayo Sports Management Ltd, the sports marketing firm that is spreading fitness and road races across Nigeria. He organizes the Lagos Marathon as well as the Remo Ultra Road Race.
He revealed that the Abeokuta Road Race which will be flagged off at 6 am on November 3 will commence from Iyana Oloke area of the ancient city and pass through some major monuments in the capital city of Ogun State before terminating at the Alake Palace. The route for the JAC Abeokuta 10km Race. However, the race route does not include the popular Olumo Rock, the iconic granite rock from which the city derived its origin.
This graduate of the London Sports business school is an astute administrator and a passionate football fan. He is loved by all in and outside Ogun State and till date, he is one of Otunba Gbenga Daniel’s Commissioner who still remains a force to reckon with in Ogun State nine years after leaving the office. Although he was busy in Lagos sporting sector during Senator Amosun’s administration, but he never left home and his people, he was always ready whenever they call and now he is back fully in the sporting activities. The vacuum of the sporting sector in Ogun State is wide because activity in the sports ministry has been very low in the last eight years, but with him introducing races in Abeokuta and Remo, one could only hope he will turn things around again in the Ogun State sporting sector.