A businessman and investor, Dotun Sanusi, speaks with SAHEED SALAWU on his new project, Ilaji Football Academy, which he says is to engender a revival in sports development in Nigeria.
The truth of the matter is that the kind of sporting facilities provided by the government are either decayed or not adequate enough to give us a desired result; a conducive environment to develop talents. When I was young, there were facilities in public schools but now the facilities are no more there except in private schools. A society is supposed to be advancing but in ours, what we see is decay. Public sporting facilities are no more there for the young ones to grow their talents and that is why many of them are going to advanced countries in Europe and in other parts of the world. I believe I can assist the government in the quest to retrace our steps and bring back the glory of sport in Nigeria.
Is there any link between the idea of this academy and the recent Ona-Ara Sports Festival organised for secondary school students?
This academy is a part of a much bigger plan that started with Ona-Ara Sport Festival, which was meant to expose talents among students between the ages of 13 and 17 within the locality where Ilaji Farms and Ilaji Stadium and Resorts Centre are situated. Now is time to integrate those talents into the academy and our focus is not only to make sure that these youngsters grow in their sporting careers but also to see them excel in their academic career. Mark you, the academy is not only for Ona-Ara; it is for all Nigerians and people from other parts of the world. It is a global initiative. The academy is meant to bring about revival and signpost Nigeria back to greatness in sporting activities.
How far do you think you are going to go with this initiative?
I am not doing this for money. It is borne out of my passion for humanity. So, I am pursuing this to the last drop of blood in my body. The idea of this academy is a product of my love for the society that made me. We have been given the opportunity to grow and showcase ourselves to the global community as regards the businesses we have flair for. I want to do the same for the younger ones and one of the ways I have chosen to do this is to develop their talents in sport and nurture them into world players. And I believe that what we are doing right now will become self-sustaining in time. In about 10 years, it is our hope that we will be able to produce world-class sports men and women. We are already building a research library and sporting classes, where they will be receiving lectures from our instructors.
Do you have a blueprint for this project?
I have been to Asia, Europe, America… different continents of the world and I have tried as much as possible to study their systems in terms of sport development. I have seen the reasons why things work there and don’t here. There is a plan of action for this vision which is going to be executed by experts.
What do you see this becoming in the foreseeable future?
Ona-Ara Sport Festival was our first outing here. And, to God be the glory, the event has continued to reverberate as a huge revival in Akanran and, indeed, Oyo State as a whole. I must express gratitude to the governor, Senator Abiola Ajimobi and the entire members of his cabinet for being supportive of the programme by making the environment conducive for us to operate. The academy is going to be one of the best in the world. Soon, this facility will be producing some of the best football players in the world.
Are you looking at the possibility of international partnerships on this project?
We are already in discussions with top football academies around the world.
As a sport enthusiast, what is your favourite sporting activity?
I enjoy watching virtually all sports but Football is my favourite.
Top Nigerians like the late Chief M.K.O Abiola had undertaken projects in the past that were similar to yours. They were passionate like you are now but at a point, the projects died. Have you thought about this?
Chief M.K.O. Abiola really did his best to turn around the fortune of football in Nigeria. But I have been able to gather people of like minds and share this vision with them. This is not a sole effort