PAUL EGONU: I want to use martial arts to change the world

PAUL EGONU: I want to use martial arts to change the world

Taiwo Alimi

As a first born and first boy in a humble family of nine children, Comrade Paul Egonu would have ended up in the farm or a community teacher if martial art had not come found him.




Coming from the volatile south-south region of Nigeria, Egonu, as a boy, was filled with a natural image of impacting positively in his community and country at large, from infancy. That helped shape his young mind to indulge in martial art or any other sport that would help him to develop his life saving philosophy. Egono is today the President of Muaythai (Thai Boxing) Federation of Nigeria (MFN).

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Though he would have taken to football or table tennis like many Nigerian boys, Egonu chose combat sport. He related how posterity led him to it: “I tried football and table tennis and opted for combat sport because I see it is a better sport for me. In early 1996, I became a member of Karate club in Port Harcourt. Along the line, been someone that has passion for karate, I see that karate is part of sport, though at the initial time I did not intend going into it as a sport. I just wanted to build myself up. Later on I began to see the need to advance my career in martial art as a part of sport. I went on to compete in karate and metamorphosed into kickboxing and from kickboxing to muaythai (Thai boxing). In 2002 I was part of the first muaythai demonstration in Edo state.”

His passion grew for muaythai and not even his parents could stop him. “In my early time my parents were not in support of it but I did not mind I forge ahead.  What really helped me them was that I attend school outside my home so sometimes they don’t know when I’m in extra moral lessons and when I’m in karate class. So, along the line events began to unfold and they have no option than to let go. Before they would realize I’ve already gone far. I’ve developed great passion for the game and they had no option than to allow me be.”

From an athlete, Egonu has grown in rank and file to becoming the vice president of Rivers State Karate club and president of Muaythai Federation of Nigeria and he takes delight in speaking of muaythai otherwise known as Thai Boxing with glee.

“Muaythai is not really new in Nigeria. As far back as Imo 98 National Sport Festival, it has been mentioned. I participated in the first muaythai demonstration in Edo 2002, Abuja 2004, and Gateway games in 2006. We have been appearing but administratively, muaythai is yet to appear on medal table and that has kept muaythai in the back.”

Muaythai is different from other sports based on its philosophy and the tradition part of it. That is what singled it out of other sports. There is the musical and ritual aspect of the sport which is not in other sport. Muaythai is built upon five pillars of respect, honour, fair play, excellence, and the tradition. It is the traditional part of the game that differentiates is from others; the drum, the bell that accompanied the sport to boost the morale of the fighters. All these things singled muaythai out.”

While not happy with the way Nigeria governments and those in authority take sports with a pinch of salt, he believed that sports can be useful in stemming the rising rage of crime in every facets of the country.

“We look at sport as a secondary career in our society, or a career that should not be taken serious. But it is not like that, sport changes the world. We are not putting as much effort that we ought to put into sport because we think that it is a game for the less priviledge ones which is not supposed to be. Sport as I see it is one of the tools that unites the world, one of the tools that integrates a nation, it integrates people quickly. I am convinced that even here in Nigeria, the National Sports Festival was conceived to unite all parts of Nigeria and the world, after the civil war and as I research further I see that the Commonwealth games are used to unite the Commonwealth nations. Sports in Nigeria are not taken serious and that is why it is not faring well. It is time for us to begin to change our orientation towards that. Let’s use sport to better our people, our states and our nation. Even to better our world. We need to add efforts to ensure we utilize the full potential of sports in our country.

“We look down on sport in Nigeria. Now I will give you an instance. A good number of those that commits crime in this country are in the age of 15 and 32 years bracket. These are the active group in the world of sport. So, if I can be able to use sport to engage this set of people, diverting their attention from the things that would lead to violence, I believe I have achieved my vision.  And beginning from this little beginning in the long run I might be able to use sport to change my world. This has been my philosophy.”

Few administrators that have spoken up in defense of Nigerian born Bahrain quarter miler Ebelechukwu Agbapuonwu (now known as Salwa Eid Naser); facing a two year ban months after breaking the 400m record in Doha. The Athletics Integrity Unit (AIU) said Naser was under scrutiny for missing three drug-testing cases.

“It’s not that I’m speaking up for her but I’m speaking as an athlete. An athlete will be participating in a world reknown competition and after nine months a group will come up with a fact that the person did not meet up with a requirement. After nine months. And the medal would be retrieved back. My questions are who organized the tournaments? Who are the officials? Who does the screening? And what qualification prompted her to participate in the championship. Those are the things that agitated my mind even before we come to the colours of her skin and where she’s coming from.

“It’s painful that an athlete  will take part a competition, perform exceptionally well and months later he or she will be called back and the medal and honour retrieved from her/him. It is a letdown.

“We in Nigeria and Africa need to begin to stand up for this; I don’t think a thing like this will happen in the United States or Europe. Why do we allow it? I don’t know. That is why I am speaking out and the better we begin to speak up for ourselves as a people and as a country the better for us. It is not just Salwa alone, it has happened to other African athletes from Kenya. When you are been given this kind of ban, you cannot take part in the Olympics and other big tournaments,” added Egonu.

SHORT AND SHARP WITH EGONU

MENTOR  

I have only one and he is popularly known. Anybody in the game of martial art; kungful, boxing, taekwondo, karate or muaythai, must know this person. His name is Kingsley Yakow David popularly known as Grandmaster. While growing up as a child I look up to him and he has been my mentor all these years. There is none beside him and till today I still look up to him.

PHILOSOPHY  

My philosophy is to see that my environment is full of good life driving mechanism; good life fulfillment and a peaceful one. I want to go to bed in the night with two eyes closed. But I cannot do it alone. That is where the next one comes in: philosophy of integration and togetherness. If we work together in the same faith and same vision, we will achieve much. That is why I chose this path of living that says; start it in micro group and in the long run it will saturate the world. Your little beginning can make a great impact. That is the reason why I have chosen this part of life to see how I can use sport to actualize my vision of changing my family, changing my community to change my country and in extension my world.

NIGERIAN ATHLETES AND CORONAVIRUS

The issue of coronavirus has affected so many things especially sports. Many world tournaments have been postponed while some have been cancelled out rightly. So, it has affected athletes and deprived them from what they love doing and their daily living and financial benefit from sporting activities. In as much as I would like to thank the sport minister for giving a relief to many athletes, many of them are still facing challenges to meet up with life expectation. However, my advice is that athletes should continue to keep fate and hope that one day this pandemic issue will come to pass and sporting activities will resume fully. As administrators too we should keep fate and urge our athletes to keep training and keep fit and one day all this will come to pass.



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