By Dare Kuti
It is with great sadness, I announce official burial rite of our Traditional Sports on 28th November, 2022 at the 21st National Sports Festival in Asaba, Delta State.
Ayò, Abùlà, Dambe, Kokowa and Langa will suffer great humiliation in the presence of the high power Federal Government delegates; Traditional Rulers in Delta State and the good people of Nigeria.
While some of us will be mourning at the opening ceremony of the NSF, traditional dancers will be entertaining the spectators. What an Irony! I am 100% sure that some of the athletes while making procession will wear their traditional attire (O ma see o). We all know Delta State is a state filled with diverse tribes which includes; Urhobo, Isoko, Itsekiri, Ijaw, Anioma as some of their high chief will be sitted.
The labours of our heroes past in traditional sports is about to be in vain if the removal stands. While Nigeria’s Sports men and women will partake in American, Asian and European Sports, our own traditional sports has been relegated to the bin.
For those that don’t know the traditional sports that were unceremoniously removed by the National Council on Sports, below are five of them:
Ayo: Ayo is named a Yoruba board game. This game has become very popular in many African countries, not only in Nigeria. The game usually requires two dexterous players who are trying to get more seeds. There are twelve holes in the game: six ones on each of the sides. The players are allowed to act during thirty seconds. It is applied the anticlockwise format is applied. The one, who gets more seeds than the opponent does, will be the winner.
Abula: is very close to modern volleyball. There are eight players in each one, four from every side. The rest of the team members are waiting on a bench to substitute their teammates. But there is a main distinction between volleyball and Abula. Playing volleyball players must use their hands to hit the ball, but in Abula, players need a wooden bat to do it. The winner is the team which gets highest points.
Kokowa: Kokowa is a traditional wrestling: this Nigerian traditional kind of sport has close connection with the traditional customs in most of the states.
Dambe: There are many variations of boxing in Nigeria. Dambe is one of its variations and reminds the traditional boxing. This kind is very popular in the northern part of the country. The main rules of Dambe are very strict and obligatory for execution.
The players have one of their fists wrapped into a bandage, while the other fist remains free. The action takes place in a sand-filled circle. If one of the players steps out of this circle, he will be immediately disqualified. It equates to defeat.
Langa: Langa is one of the most popular traditional sports commonly found among the Hausa/Fulani ethnic group of the northern parts of Nigeria . It is also played among Yoruba youths as lakanlaka without serious organized competitions. As a team sport, it scored 3 gold, 3 silver and 3 bronze medals at the last National Sports Festival, at Gateway 2006 also at Bauchi 2000, Edo 2002 and Abuja 2004. Langa is gradually spreading to southern parts of Nigeria. It is also approved for primary and Secondary school curriculum by the Federal Ministry of Education.
Some of these fans do not get to see traditional sports due to their various environment but the National Sports Festival would have been a platform to showcase our traditional sports. Elders in our communities play Ayò for recreational purposes and playing it at the NSF would have further cemented it as a global game.
By now, Nigeria should be leading the charge on how to make a case for Traditional Sports at the African Games formerly All African Games but we are seen championing the removal of the games at the prestigious National Sports Festival.
The Director of Sports/Commissioner of Sports who are the custodian of Sports in the 36 states of the Federation including the FCT should rise up on this perilous times/occasion. Like I said in my previous article, a white man cannot put an African culture above his own.
Farewell to the various Traditional Sports ahead of the National Sports Festival. Since the games of the land will not be featured in Asaba later this month, I’ll be suggesting we scrap the Trado Sports Federation as the National Council on Sports deem them useless.
Let it be on record that it was during the time of a High Chief in Ogbomosho that Traditional Sports did not feature at the National Sports Festival.