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A STAR, AN ICON, A PHLANTROPIST,AN ENTERPRENUER CELEBRATES HIS 70 BIRTHDAY TODAY

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The late Pa Jacob Adebola and Madam Bintu Abeke Odegbami, the former a successful and well-liked businessman and the latter a retired worker for the Nigerian Railway, welcomed a star into their family on this day, August 27, exactly 70 years ago in 1952. They both came from the Wasinmi Community in Ogun State, but they had long since made their home in Jos, Plateau State, where they lived well into their 80s.

little star is Chief Patrick Olusegun Odegbami, a serial entrepreneur, master storyteller, excellent writer, broadcaster, educationist, author, actor, publisher, and the best sports administrator in Nigeria (MON).

In modern-day Nigeria, turning 70 is undoubtedly a significant thing. The causes are plain to see. But enquire of any attentive observer of the celebrant’s everyday work ethic, intellectual pursuits, and athletic prowess.

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Big Seg, one of the most well-known Nigerians of his generation, had early access to fame, wealth, travel, vehicles, homes, and the good life. By a divine coincidence, he had successfully navigated the highs and lows and is in good health; with his devoted wife and children; and is able to look back and gratefully express his gratitude to God. Big Seg is the epitome of a gentleman: incredibly charitable, laid-back but fun-loving; always polite; highly detribalized; witty; friendly; fearful of God; and an expert on the dance floor.

Given the contributions he has made to national development through his three areas of passion—sports, education, and youth development/entrepreneurship—Nigeria deserves this man a day of recognition and celebration. It was when he joined the well-known Shooting Stars of Ibadan from 1970 to 1984 that he shot into true stardom and attracted national attention, earning an immediate call-up to the senior national team as a 22-year-old in 1974. He first gained notoriety through football in the late 1960s, shining as a member of the all-conquering Western State Academicals, then onto NTC FC, WNTV/WNBS FC, and Housing of Ibadan FC. But he didn’t start playing for the national team until 1976, when he lost 2-1 to Algeria at home. After that, he established himself as the team’s face until October 30, 1981, when he made his final appearance. Even though he was still at the top of his game, he had to think about retiring early due to a persistent knee injury that resisted expensive treatments both domestically and abroad. This put an end to his glittering career and allowed him to pursue even more scholarly, technical, and creative endeavours both inside and outside of sports, which have helped to keep his name and reputation not only relevant but also on the rise to this day.

Big Seg’s defining talent throughout the years, in my opinion, has been his capacity to transition, interact, and multitask in many extreme roles involving entirely separate skill sets. Since retiring from professional football, he has held various successful positions as a newspaper columnist, author, publisher, television producer, owner of a sports school, actor, manager of a track and field athlete, manager of a football administrator, manager of a national team, and many others. In the early 1990s, this remarkable man devised and produced SATURDAY SPORTS SPECIAL, Nigeria’s first entirely private sports television programme. Being a man of many novelties, Big Seg not only provided the Nigerian sports fans with top-notch entertainment on this show, but he also left an indelible legacy by featuring two young boys, Wole Opatola and Shina Okeleji, who were then in their early teens and are both very intelligent, as co-presenters. To his eternal credit, the two young sports writers are now very accomplished and competitive in the field. Shina is a top producer for the BBC World Service, while Wole owns a thriving sports publishing and radio/TV production company in Benin.

Big Seg continued delving further and deeper into more creative endeavours in athletics even though he had already expanded his creative powers into fields outside of sports, namely education and entrepreneurship in the previous 30 years. In Wasinmi, Ogun State, he established Segun Odegbami International College & Sports Academy, the nation’s first secondary school with a focus on multiple sports, in 2003. Odegbami could certainly be characterised as “creatively restless.” He has an extraordinary ability to come up with one fantastic idea after another. Those who know him well will attest to his limitless creativity.

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