In May, Kelvin Idehen and his Edo kinsmen Mufu Yahaya and David Osaghae all based in the United States of America, USA, pooled resources to fund a refresher course for judo coaches, referees and elite judokas in Edo State.
Kelvin, who coordinated the group assigned the responsibility of conducting the programme to his former coach, Edokpolor Ihaza.
When news of the programme hit the judo community, it was received with feverish excitement.
Judokas from across the country bombarded Edokpolor with calls to express their interest.
The irresistible attraction in the programme was the grading of judokas by the Grading Committee of the Nigeria Judo Federation, NJF headed by Edokpolor.
The other members Obed Ogunedo and Dickson Egbowon were expected to be on ground for the programme.
A syllabus for the one week course was designed and June 28 to July 2 was fixed. The Samuel Osaigbovo Ogbemudia Stadium was chosen as the venue.
Edo State judo officials were contacted to secure the venue for the programme, and address all logistical issues.
Edokpolor and his assistant Dickson Egbowon travelled to Benin City on the eve of the programme.
On Monday, when the programme was billed to begin, the former national coach went to the venue and upon inquiry learnt that the deputy governor was yet to approve the request for the venue.
Edokpolor was stunned.
He narrated his ordeal in his home state to judoblitzng.com when he returned to Lagos.
“I am still in a shock that those in authority could treat judo with such levity in spite of the laurels the sport has won for the state.
“When I arrived Benin City, I met the Facilities Manager who told me that the request for the hall was yet to be approved by the deputy governor.
“He promised to follow up the next day and the waiting game started.
“I resumed every day at the venue by 7 am and left by 6 pm waiting for the deputy governor’s approval.
“From Monday till Saturday when I eventually left Benin City, the deputy governor was yet to approve the request”
“Curiously, while the judo hall was under lock and key, the hall for gymnastics in the the same complex was open”.
“After I left Benin City, I heard that the hall was opened for wrestling and taekwondo programmes.
“The frightening revelation is that the state judokas do not have access to the hall. They train in an open space for an indoor sport”.
Edokpolor appealed to the present administration in the state to emulate the Ogbemudia sports policy which did not discriminate against any sport.
According to him “In the 70, while we were competing, the father of old Bendel State, Dr. Samuel Osaigbovo Ogbemudia treated all sports equally.
“That was why Bendel State was a colossus in all sports during his time, from football to boxing, from judo to athletics”
In his reaction to the Benin City incident, Kelvin, who in the early 90s ruled Africa and the Commonwealth judo was upset that the authorities could frustrate such a laudable project initiated by those in the diaspora.
He said: “What happened to the refresher course in Benin City that it could not hold is the reason why Nigerians in the diaspora are very reluctant to come home and invest in the development of the nation.
“Just imagine what we invested in the project and how it was frustrated by those in authority. How do they want us to feel?
“For the records, this refresher course that was sabotaged is not my first support to judo in Edo State.
“I have been supporting judo in the state for sometime. And I am happy doing it because Edo State provided me the platform to be a judoka and flourish as a judoka.
“From representing the state, I progressed to representing the country. From that point, I made my mark as champion in Africa and in the Commonwealth”.
“Today, I am a judo coach in the United States of America.”
Kelvin said though the unfortunate incident in Benin City was painful, he would continue to support judo in Edo State.
“What just happened is a bitter experience but it won’t deter me and my Diasporan brothers from supporting our great state. We gained so much from the state and we must give back.
Sounding upbeat, Kelvin revealed: “We have a lot of plans for judo and judokas in Edo State in the nearest future.
He declared “We are Edo people and we are judokas. Nobody or incident can separate us from Edo Judo. We’ll support it till the end of time”