The immediate past Auditor General of Benue State, Mr Humbe Mkena in a recent interview with The Voiceports’ Terfa Alaghga, described the training they received during their secondary school days from the missionaries as rigorous and aim-catching such that no student of their time had any reason not to perform in whatever sports that they were identified in. Excerpts:
Did you do sports in your youth?
Of course I was a sportsman to the core.
Where, when and how did you begin?
I began at the Gindiri Boys Secondary School in Mangu local government area of the then Benue Plateau state, when the missionaries would take us by trekking for up to a hundred a fifty kilometers before our breakfast, lunch and dinner. That is, each fifty kilometers before the meal. The exercise was during sports week for one week when academic activities were put on hold.
Who was the principal of the school at that time?
A British missionary by the name Derek Joy was the principal of the school at that time. This man whose father was a personal physician to Queen Elizabeth of England, was a trained pilot who served in the British Air force as a Flying Officer, fought in the World war ll. Coming from that background, he had programmes that assisted us in our training in whatever aspect of sports that any of us was inclined to, be it football or athletics. The training we received was rigorous and aim – catching such that no serious student had no reason whatsoever, not to perform in his chosen field.
Can you recall other students that were your class mates at that time in Gindiri Boys Secondary School?
Why not. We had the likes of Jack Moses Ekwe- Ekwe who was nicknamed Jack stones for his prowess in football and athletics, former governor of Bauch state and later national chairman of the then ruling PDP, Adamu Muazu, General Johnson Ochoga retd, Captain Sunday Adoba retd, Prof Suleiman Bogoro, Executive Secretary tetfund, Reuben Zongo nicknamed boots who was our goalkeeper, Sunday Nimzing the football captain aka Corosco, David Dachomo aka mai boot, Ben Bewarang aka Arrow, myself who was nicknamed Mkena ooo and others too numerous to mention.
Why were you exceptional in sports?
I believe that was how God designed it as a gift from God because while we were doing any of those training activities, some students were dodging, while others at a point could not cope, so withdrew while some deliberately refused to be involved in sports. But I knew I was gifted in sports and that was why I excelled and represented Nigeria in athletics (150 metres)
How did it happen?
In the course of our training, the school also organised inter – house competitions in which I competed for my house, the Red House and at a point, the state government became interested in what we were doing and they followed the trend of events as when you won from your house, you were picked to represent the school at the local government level and the state. The first time I represented the state was at the Second National Sports Festival. When the Benue Plateau contingent was on their way to Lagos for the Second National Sports Festival in 1975 through Kaduna, we heard of the coup overthrowing General Yakubu Gowon by General Murtala Mohammed. We were asked to return to Kafanchan at once. The NSF was cancelled as well as the Festival of African Arts and Culture but after a week, it was reopened and we proceeded to Lagos for the fiesta.
Did you win any laurel at the Festival?
I won a Silver medal in the 1,500 metres that I competed in.
Can you remember those you contested with?
I competed with the likes of Joseph Abuchie who represented Government Teachers College Mkar, Geoffrey Guda from St Andrew’s Secondary School Adikpo and then Richard Chimbir( Hero Baba) who all came as members of the Benue Plateau contingent.
Were you honoured by the government upon return?
I was not but to some extent, the then Director of Sports, Mr Shonekan prepared me for another competition that was held in Kano and that was where I had the privilege of shaking hands with the then military governor of Kano state, Col Sani Bello. In that competition too I won a Silver medal.
Did you participate in any sports apart from athletics?
Yes. I also played football for the school. I was a very strong defender, playing in the right full back position.
Was there any competition you won that is still in your memory?
We played in the secondary schools sports and defeated Teachers College Zawan 1-0 at the Rwang Pam stadium stadium, Jos. They were very big boys but we humbled them.
Did you make any impact in that game?
Very well. I was like a road block in the defense and no attacker from the opponent dared my side and we paraded mesmerizing strikers like Jack Moses Ekwe – Ekwe( Jack stone) who made the team outstanding and a host of others which I earlier mentioned.
Did you continue with sports after graduation from secondary school?
No, I did not because my elder who as I was graduating, was also graduating from the University of Jos and he wouldn’t allow me. He said over his dead body would he allow me to do sports. So I had to return to Makurdi and gained admission into MCAST Makurdi and then to the University of Jos but behold when I got there, I participated in the inter – faculty football where I was invited to play in the Uni Jos school team but because of my studies, I declined and finally bid bye to sports.
Compared to your time, do you see today’s athletes as being committed?
To some extent they may be committed but in our days, there was no money but we were doing it in order to make a name first, and were making it too and then the interest but today, sometimes they are more interested in the money and when they eventually get it, they don’t want to give their best.
What is your advice for the upcoming athletes?
They should build a name around them and then be disciplined because discipline takes you to any level and you win laurels.