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Nigeria’s Oldest Club Gets Facelift



Club 1901 in Kogi State, wears a new look, courtesy of the state governor, Alhaji Yahaya Bello. SAM EGWU reports.

In those days, Sir Lord Lugard, after a day’s hard work, found a comfortable place to relax and unwind. People were not so much aware of his choice of number 7 Mount Patti road, Lokoja. A place known for its serene, distinctive features, which later became the cynosure of every eye today in Lokoja, the Kogi State capital.
This is the most auspicious time for Lugard ‘s choice of place, now known as, ‘Club 1901’ Lokoja, presumably the oldest club in this part of West African sub region.
Lugard’s statement concerning the centre where he used to spend some time to relax, record has shown as a law and was never challenged, because an argument against him was treated with disdain as disobeying the higher authority of the symbol of power and authority.
The choice of number 7, Mount Patti road, Lokoja, as a location to site a club, was based on the fact that when Lugard and his men closed from work, after the day’s hard work, he needed a place to relax his brain and the nerves before retiring home to bed. It was also a meeting point at which people separated to their different quarters till the following day’s work. Number 7, Mount Patti road, became the ideal choice as events and circumstances today have come to prove him right.
At the back of the club, was located the official residence of the Governor General, walking down the slope along the road was the seat of power. The offices used by Lord Lugard during his reign in Lokoja, are still very conspicuous despite some distortions on the relics.
The efforts of Umeh Obosi in seeing that the club takes shape and its location does not go unnoticed have paid off. He puts a high premium in ensuring that a huge burden is taken off the shoulder of members through innovative moves to actualise his dream of making Lokoja club great with enduring marks.
He brought in lawn tennis and some indoor games like scrabble and chess. He calmed the discomfort of members who were wondering about the future of the club.
Also, Pharmacist Benard Ojumu’s contributions towards the development of Lokoja club 1901 cannot be over-emphasised. This group of dedicated personalities, made sure that the club regained its prominence and remains a force to be reckoned with in this part of West Africa sub region.
The turning point in the 117 years history of Lokoja club, took place when Kogi State governor, Alh Yahaya Bello, was installed as the grand patron of the prestigious Lokoja club. He has brought innovations and a classic display of modernity for the club to be a trail blazer in the comity of clubs, in the country and even beyond.
Up to March 15, 2018, there was always the possibility that without a standard, the club would collapse through lack of funds. The members were using personal funds to put up some renovations. But with the installation of Alhaji Yahaya Bello, who, by organography of leadership, the governor of the state, as the patron of the club, the future of the club became clear, defined and outlined.
Lokoja Club 1901 has come to stay. Henceforth, it would be a great force to be reckoned with and the envy of other clubs. The installation event, which took place at the club house, no doubt, was a symbol of the beginning of good things to happen to the first ever club, of its kind, in the country.
The facts remain, as the public relations officer, Comrade Zakari Adamu (aka Dubu) of the club house said, while giving information on the activities to our reporter, that other governors before Yahaya Bello, had tried their best in their contributions to develop and uplift the club, but the contribution of Yahaya Bello, without equivocation, cannot be equalled, as he has ensured that the old structures gave way for renovations because they have become an eyesore.
Before the intervention of Governor Bello after his installation as grand patron of Lokoja club, it was not easy to demonstrate the concrete advantage and narrative of a developed centre like a club to any group of town people. It is now obvious that there is the possibility of having a library where archival materials could be retrieved for research purposes.
A great deal of ceremony accompanied the installation of the governor. The installation ceremony coincided with the inauguration of the new executive members of the club. Governor Bello, at his investiture as the grand patron of the club, had promised to, within the limited resources, give the club a face lift.
Bello informed the members of Lokoja club 1901, of his desire to give the club a facelift for the benefit of present and future generations. He maintained that the present structure of the club did not befit the confluence state anymore and deserves to be upgraded to a world class standard.
Those things that were lacking before Bello’s intervention, such as event centre, affordable chalet for members of other clubs from different parts of the country, dressing room for members to refresh after games, shops outside the club for members to look out for things to buy.
It was further gathered that provision for a swimming pool has been made and it is a matter of time before it takes off. The president of Lokoja Club 1901, Comrade Tom Abutu, said his team would leave no stone unturned in supporting Governor Bello’s administration to succeed.
He pledged their loyalty to the governor in his determination to set a record of improving the welfare of the people.
Abutu stressed that Lokoja club was popular but the structures were a complete negation in trying to equate it with other clubs elsewhere until the situation was rescued.