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World Number 7: Eniola Mariam Bolaji as Poster Child for Governor AbdulRazaq’s Investment in Youths, Sports Development – ‘Yinka Fafoluyi

3 min read

Nigerians, particularly Kwarans, are elated with Eniola Mariam Bolaji’s stunning exploit at the Spanish Para-Badminton International 2024 Level 1 tournament in Toledo, Spain. The Kwara-born Para-Badminton star defeated her opponent, the World number 6, Oksana Kozyna, from Ukraine 2-0 to clinch the gold medal in the women’s SL3 at the 2024 Spanish Championship.

Bolaji’s artful blitz, which earned her the gold medal after beating world’s fifth best badminton player Mandeep Kaur, has equally moved her from her previous position in the world of Para-Badminton to number 7. She has etched her name in history as the first Nigerian and African to win Spanish Para-Badminton International Championship 2024 and a gold medal.

Bolaji, who came into the limelight and had her debut less than five years ago under the Governor AbdulRazaq’s administration, has won several awards for Kwara State and Nigeria.

In 2021, she won a gold medal at the Spanish Para-Badminton. And in 2022, she exploited her enviable badminton skills to clinch two medals for the State of Harmony at the National Sports Festival. Unprecedented!

The para-badminton star won two gold medals for Kwara State at the National Badminton Championship in 2023, won a gold medal at 2023 All Africa Para Badminton Championship in Uganda, and clinched another gold at the 2023 Fazza Dubai Para Badminton Championship. As the year passes, Mariam has made it a habit to make Kwara State and Nigeria proud.

Discussing Bolaji’s stunning exploits in the badminton game is incomplete without the support she enjoys from Governor AbdulRahman AbdulRazaq over the years and his massive investment in sports development in Kwara State. Since 2019, he has continued to touch all aspects of sport in the state, including facilities and athletes.

Recall that in less than two years, Governor AbdulRazaq came on board, he embarked on the renovation of Kwara State Football Academy Hostel, complete renovation of the Basketball Court, renovation of Kwara State Stadium, renovation of the Twin Handball Court, renovation of the Twin Volleyball Court, construction of the Tennis Court, construction of Squash Court, among others. All these wouldn’t have been possible without a sport-loving administrator like His Excellency.

What about Governor AbdulRazaq’s sponsorship of athletes who gained admission to the United States to study? Returning the Kwara State Sports Festival meant to discover raw talents after 15 years of abandonment? Handsomely rewarding athletes and officials who represented Kwara at the National Sports Festival, Edo 2020? Releasing funds to the state’s sports association to participate in national and international championships? The list is endless! He brought Kwara United from the Nigeria National League (NNL) to the Nigeria Professional Football League (NPFL) and continued to motivate them till they played in the CAF Confederation Cup. To keep their spirits high, the governor has not only been constantly attending to their subvention; he’s also increased it.

What about the achievements of his massive investment in sports? Nigeria No. 1 in squash (female), Nigeria No. 2 in squash (male), Africa No. 1 in Badminton, World No. 8 in Para-Badminton (female), and Current National champion of the Under – 16 (male and female) in squash, Current Africa Junior Female Champion in Badminton, Participated at the National Youth Games 2019 and won a total of 23 medals (3 Gold, 8 Silver, and 12 Bronze) and in 2021 and won a total of 32 medals (10 Gold, 10 Silver and 12 Bronze) to mention but a few.

Governor AbdulRazaq’s investment in youths is particularly outstanding. He’s elevated the youths in the state to become lawmakers and policymakers. Kwara students representing the country at the 2024 World School Debate, also known as the Odham Cup, is a testament to his investment in the youths.

Recently, Governor AbdulRazaq, who was worried about the sorry state of Olofa and Lafiagi Township stadiums, directed the state’s Ministry of Housing and Urban Development to commence work on the re-appraisal of the facilities for urgent attention. For a man whose investment in sports has been yielding fruits in recent times, there is no doubt that he will revamp the moribund stadiums.

While Eniola Mariam Bolaji receives applause for making Nigeria and Kwara proud at the Spanish Para-Badminton International 2024 Level 1 tournament in Toledo, Spain, we should also give Governor AbdulRazaq his flowers for not only massively investing in sports development in the state but also supporting Kwara athletes including Eniola Mariam Bolaji.

‘Yinka Fafoluyi ANIPR is the Senior Special Assistant, New Media to the Kwara State Governor.

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