By Azeez Mustapha
The huge crowd at the Abubakar Tafawa Balewa Stadium in Bauchi was in some way metaphorical. It gauged the pulse of the state and by extension the Northeast. And the verdict of the actors, a motley of stars and starlets, was that safety has returned to the zone. With that has also returned life, both night life and day-long socio-economic activities.
The stadium buzzed in ceaseless animation from June 26 to 27th. The event was the second edition of the African Children Talent Discovery Foundation (ACTDF) talent hunt and mentoring programme being promoted by Noah Dallaji, an entrepreneur and philanthropist.
In both essence and relevance, the event achieved two major objectives: Providing a platform for identifying talented young Nigerians in their teens by experts and legends that graced the occasion as resource persons and facilitators. The second import of the talent discovery show was that it held peacefully in an open place in Bauchi, north-eastern Nigeria, without any security incident or even as much as a whiff of security threat. This not only proved that the northeast is safe for all forms of socio-economic activities, it also dismantled long held notions that insurgency has cankered the entire north east zone and has rendered the states prostrate.
Christened Engr. Noah Dallaji Legacy Project, the talent hunt covered football, music, entertainment and the arts. The purpose is to identify raw talents from the vast pool of young talented Nigerians, nay Africans, and painstakingly husband and nurture these talents into high flyers and global brands in their respective fields.
Now in its second anniversary, this year’s edition featured mainly football during which young talents between ages 16 and 18 were auditioned under the supervision of Nigerian and international soccer legends.
Ahead of the gathering of stars and would-be stars in Bauchi, chairman of the foundation, Noah Dallaji, an engineer famed for philanthropy and avid sports promotions across the continent, told journalists that the programme was in furtherance of ACTDF’s vision and mission to discover and develop Nigerian talents to solve some of the challenges of insecurity and other social ills bedeviling the Nigerian system, all of which when tackled will lead to the development of the country.
Nigeria boasts a preponderance of talented youths. And just like Pope John Paul II once said “artistic talent is a gift from God and whoever discovers it in himself has a certain obligation: to know that he cannot waste this talent, but must develop it.” There is wisdom in the Papal message, to wit, talent can be wasted if it is not discovered. And once discovered, it must be nurtured. This is exactly what the Dallaji initiative sets out to achieve: to help the young ones discover their talent and to help them nurture such talent for the betterment of society.
Dallaji puts it succinctly: “It is important to develop the natural talent in order to maximize opportunities for a purposeful life. So this is what we have been doing to see how we can fill the gap of opportunities for the young ones in the country to make impact and be useful to themselves, their communities and the society at large.
“Every man has something (talent) in him that can be activated to make the person useful in life but this talent has to be discovered first and then developed. I believe we did not come to this world to be spectators rather we have come to participate in the affairs of the world. So you must try and discover why you came into this world. And immediately that happens, we begin to be useful not only to ourselves but for the greater good of society”.
Indeed, there is a lesson to be learnt from history. There is no useless child. There is a tincture of heroism in every being. Lionel Messi was born with a health defect yet he has surmounted it to become one of the greatest and best footballers in human history, triumphing over heavily muscled men in a sport where brawn is often considered an advantage. We see such conquest against odds in many places, in diverse disciplines. And that’s because these latter day conquerors were at a time discovered and their talents groomed.
In the case of the ACTDF initiative, Dallaji has lined up a mixed cast of Africa’s brightest and best in football. But for the Covid-19 pandemic and its associated travel restrictions, the likes of Ronaldo de Lima, David Beckham and serial trophy-winning manager Jose Mourinho, would have graced the occasion in Bauchi.
But the negative pandemic effect did not dampen the spirit of the organisers. From the rest of Africa, football prodigy Lomana LuaLua, Stephen Appiah, Khalilou Fadiga, among others berthed in Bauchi to join Nigerian soccer outliers in the mould of Dan (The Bull) Amokachi, classy Austin Jay Jay Okocha, wily Nwankwo Kanu, pacy Garba Lawal, Trojan Taribo West and sturdy Austin Eguavoen, among others including the project coordinator, lion-heart Emmanuel Babayaro, who showed commendable project management skill putting up the event.
It was two days of intense classroom and on-field work as those who made the finalists’ list played side by side with the legends. The intention was to boost the morale and courage of the young ones as well as afford the legends the practical opportunity to sift the highly talented from the average talents.
Those who were finally selected squared up on the pitch where their mentors also served as their coaches before the crowd was treated to a novelty match between the Friends of Dallaji and Bauchi All Stars.
The plan was to take the finalists to the ACTDF Academy in Abuja where they will undergo further training and honing of skills before they are exposed to foreign clubs for trials.
While Amokachi served as project chairman, speed master Tijani Babangida is the ACTDF Ambassador. The initiative though targeted at teenagers also served as a reunion for living legends of African football most of whom made waves in Europe winning critical trophies and being exposed to the best training facilities under the best tacticians of the Beautiful Game.
Talent makes a way for those who discover theirs and nurture it. Dallaji, a well-travelled and highly exposed scion of Bauchi State knows it and he’s helping young Nigerians not only to discover their talent but to also nurture it. Football, in particular, has helped to alleviate suffering and poverty across the world. Some notable football personalities today were once persons from pauperized homes and dingy communities. But their talents have turned their rags to riches. Those who grew up in drugs and crime-infested communities who naturally would have taken to crime and criminality have been shooed off the path of infamy to the path of fame. Some successful Nigerian footballers who have played in Europe and for Nigeria bringing honour for club and country grew up in Ajegunle, a poor and crime-prone suburb of Lagos. Today, though born into poverty, they no longer bear the marks of poverty. They have used their talent to redeem their families and the families of many from the darkling grip of poverty.
A successful businessman, Dallaji is contributing to build a stronger Africa by helping indigent but talented youngsters across Africa realize their dreams. He’s a man full of good deeds. Above all, he has used the Bauchi talent show to demonstrate to the world that the north east is safe for big business and mega-socio-economic activities. The flashes of insurgency have been restricted to border communities, thanks to the renewed fighting spirit of the Nigerian troops. It’s time to re-think the Northeast as a safe place to do business and host big shows.
- Mustapha writes from Abuja