Okpekpe: 5th road race for Re-industrializing Africa,By Issa Aremu

The 2017 (5th edition) of the Okpekpe international 10km road race held last Saturday May 13, 2017, in Okpekpe, town, Etsako East Local Government Area of Edo State, Nigeria. Special commendation to the organizers of the annual international sports event.  In particular, my dear friend, Mr. Mike Itermagbor, the private initiator of Okpekpe public/private partnership competition brand.

Yours comradely has been privileged to be part of this singular (West) African race since inception in 2012. Thanks to my association and comradeship with the grand patron, two term NLC President, two term Governor, 5th term front runner of the race; Comrade Adams Oshiomhole who inaugurated the maiden edition of the race. Everybody hailed Comrade Adams Oshiomhole who built the hitherto neglected 25 kilometers long road during his first term as Governor of Edo State. The road was commissioned by Presidential Candidate Muhammadu Buhari in 2015. Special commendation must go to his successor, Governor Godwin Obaseki for taking the race to a higher level.  Okpekpe international 10km road race is a practical dividend of sustainable development and good governance. In Oshiomhole’s words last Saturday; “I’m happy that the program has outlived my own tenure of office and that is the way it should be” “It has direct impact on the social economic and commercial life, not only on this part of the country but for the people of Edo State. The inflow of internationals due to the race will provide the necessary exposure for Okpekpe and Edo state to develop even further“.  Today, Okpekpe international 10km road race organized by Pamodzi Sports Marketing is the only road race in Nigeria that is recognized by both the (International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF) and Association of International Marathons and Distance Races (AIMS).

This year’s edition assumed special importance. Beyond  the race for prize, 2017 edition provides for participation for other noble causes namely; orphanage, women empowerment, cancer and the cause championed  by yours sincerely; re-industrialisation of African Continent. A lot of dignitaries graced the event and also participated in the race to either create awareness for cancer, run for orphanage and run to re-industrialize the country. Governor Godwin Obaseki ‘s wife Betsy and  Oshiomhole’s wife, Iara promoted noble causes of women empowerment and orphanage respectively. As the Vice President of IndustriALL Global Union, I led the over two hundred workers-members of some of the Nigerian affiliate unions of IndustriALL global union who with captioned T-shirts and banners  participated in the race for re-industrializing  Africa.

IndustriALL  Global Union with headquarters in Geneva, Switzerland, represents 50 million workers in 140 countries in the manufacturing and mining, energy sectors for better working conditions and trade union rights around the world. Africa is a wealthy continent, blessed with an abundance of raw materials. Yet Africans don’t profit from this, because value is added further up the supply chain, after we keep on misguidedly export the raw materials. Nigeria is a classic case; crude oil is exported, while refined petroleum products are imported, in the process millions of jobs are exported in a country with 50 per cent unemployment. South Africa and Ghana have abundant gold, platinum, diamond. They export them in raw forms while importing jewelries. Nigeria exports cotton and imports assorted smuggled fabrics. Africa unacceptably lacks comprehensive industrial policy. Its time Africa added value to its abundant raw materials through comprehensive beneficiation/value addition programme that would create millions of sustainable decent jobs. Africans need to industrialize their economies to create quality, sustainable jobs, and lift people out of poverty. For industrialization to succeed, we need infrastructure: effective transport and communication networks, reliable electricity supplies, anti-smuggling policy and a transparent regulatory framework. Africans must produce what they consume, consume what they produce.  This requires intervention and coordination by the African governments at all levels and also by regional and continental bodies. It also provided an opportunity to acknowledge and commend the Federal government’s diversification policy. Recently Federal government declared Mondays and Wednesdays every week, as Made-in-Nigeria Dress Days across the country “as part of measures to uplift the nation’s culture and promote Made-in-Nigeria textile products”. Patronage of local fabrics and indeed all locally produced goods should be everyday’s commitment for 180 million buyers. Africans must wear what they produce and produce what they wear.

Inspired and energized by IndustriALL’s goal of ensuring Sustainable Industrial Development, African affiliates have taken industrial policy issues to government and employers on the urgent need for beneficiation and value addition in Africa. The race  is part of the efforts to build a  momentum around 2017 Africa Industrialization Day on 20th November through mass demonstrations and policy engagement with the Ministries of Trade and Investment in Africa. Minister of Sports Solomon Dalung was for once a star guest at this year’s edition with his added voice to IndustriALL’s Campaign. Witness him; “I concur with the movement of industrialization and diversification of the Nigerian economy. Without industrialization, there is no way we can move forward. With this I associate with the campaign of workers and as one of you, …..I also want to lend my voice that we must industrialize Nigeria. Forward ever, Backward never.”

It is now an open knowledge that Ethiopian duo of Luel Gebrasilasis and Azmera Gebru, emerged winners in the male and female categories. The fastest Nigerian female athlete in the race, Deborah Pam, finished in 38 minutes, 15 seconds and was followed by Elizabeth Nuhu from Nasarawa State in 38 minutes, 41 seconds, while Rose Ajusho came third in 38 minutes, 55 seconds.


Issa Aremu, mni