Multi Sports Centre (MSC) at the College of the Immaculate Conception (CIC), Enugu, Enugu State, Nigeria
According to Nelson Mandela “Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world”. That powerful weapon of change was witnessed today at the commissioning of a Multi Sports Centre (MSC) at the College of the Immaculate Conception (CIC), Enugu, Enugu State, Nigeria, gifted to the school by the old boys association.
The centre was opened by the state’s deputy governor, Ifeanyi Ossai, as part of festivities to mark the 80th anniversary of the school that was established by the Catholic Church. In a mass service before the ceremony, Bishop Callistus Onaga of the Enugu Diocese said: “In a very special way we thank God for the old boys of CIC”. He spoke of the “gigantic progress made” with the MSC and how the old boys “saw the need to improve on what they met”. Bishop Onaga explained how the church saw the need to build the school 80 years ago “to give the best of training” so that its students can give back to society.
He prayed that “the present generation of Nigerians will embrace this progressive attitude” by CIC old boys and “begin to think of how to improve on what they met rather than destroy what they met. We grow by improving things and not by destroying things. This is an example” CIC old boys “have shown”. The bishop added that the old boys “went out to the world and picked the best things and brought them back to CIC”. He urged “those who are now growing” to “pick from” CIC old boys and not from those “who burn things” and “learn how to improve society”.
The lesson is being learned as Obi Asika, entrepreneur and CEO of the music label Storm 360 wrote on social media: “These guys continue to amaze me, not sure any alumni is doing more, I mean look at this sports centre and that hall, all built by old boys. This is CIC Enugu, I’m actually jealous, imagine all alumni nationally being able to do something like this”. Other alumni associations have started borrowing from the CIC model to give back to the secondary schools where they spent their formative years.
The CIC motto is “Semper Fidelis” (Always Faithful in Latin). It appears that passing through the school imbibes a sense of faithfulness in its students. The school always had a strong old boys association that was mainly based in Nigeria, and as a bastion of academic excellence in its early years, several prominent people especially from south-eastern Nigeria passed through the school. But what is now known as the “Semper Movement” has a very strong international flavour.
Following the death of Christian Uzor, a US-based physician in 2001, his former classmates (Class of 1979) came together via email (in the days before Whatsapp groups) to organise support for the family and to put up an obituary ad in a Nigerian newspaper. That tragic event linked up former classmates, many of whom were living abroad. This became the spark that ignited the first CIC international convention at Columbus, Ohio in 2005. Several yearly conventions in the US followed and ideas on how to give back to the school started to grow.
More fuel was added to the flame when some Class of 1981 old boys brought to the attention of others the dilapidated state of the school. This led to crowd-funding by old boys to first build a multipurpose building (MPB) and alumni centre at the cost of $500,000 in 2015.
The MPB was followed up in 2018 with a $650,000 540 bed ultramodern dormitory, which led one Nigerian to ask three years ago on social media: “Is this the most formidable old boys association in Nigeria?”
But the best was yet to come and it was a long time coming. It was an audacious project to build the MSC at a cost of $2m and an opportunity to not only train well-rounded students at the school, but for it to become a breeding ground for champions. As the president of the association and New York based psychiatrist Dr Nnamdi Maduekwe put it: “We desire for our children who share or who will share our common heritage to have the requisite skills to be champions”. The MSC houses an indoor basketball court, volleyball court, badminton court and three pingpong tables. The outdoor arena includes a football pitch, world class running track, with terraced and seating stands.
Plans are ongoing to partner with Zeke Nnaji of the Denver Nuggets and his Nnaji Family Foundation to run basketball clinics and talent hunt competitions at the MSC in alliance with the NBA.
Many have wondered what the formula is for the success of the “Semper Movement”. I think for starters, it is the spirit of trust and cheerful giving. And then there’s despite the fact that a few governors, ministers and prominent politicians were old boys of the school, they have been completely bypassed by the “Semper” brand and what the brand built. The trust had to be earned by the fact that, unlike with many government projects in Nigeria, there has been a proven track record of delivery as outlined above, starting with the multi purpose building.
The movement is made up of several chapters on the basis of graduation years, with healthy competition, awards and banter over which class donates the most. There are also chapters in the US, UK and Ireland, Lagos, Enugu, Port Harcourt, and so on. These chapters serve as hubs for networking, fundraising, and even social welfare for members.
Two US-based doctors and brothers, IK and Val Ozoigbo, set up a clinic at the school, providing free check-ups for old boys on blood pressure, blood glucose, body temperature, pulse oximeter, etc.
Charlotte, North Carolina based philanthropist Benson Ejindu aka MVP has been at the front and centre of the “Semper Movement” since 2012, putting his experience, time and money in support of delivering the association’s projects. As grand patron of the Ex-Enugu Rangers Players Association, he was instrumental in initiating and finishing the MSC and boosting morale when it was flagging. Several old boys of CIC played for Enugu Rangers, including Ifeanyi Onyedika, Kenneth Boardman, Ike Ofoje, and Ejindu has continued to be the glue that binds the club and CIC together.
Rangers legends Christian Chukwu, Emmanuel Okala and Stanley Okoronkwo were among the guests at today’s opening ceremony for the MSC. The hope is that their presence and the infrastructure at the MSC inspire the young boys at the school to follow in their footsteps to the pinnacle of football.
The “Semper Movement” has led the way in transformational change in the education sector in Nigeria, and other secondary school alumni are borrowing from that template. This is a sector that has long been abandoned by Nigerian politicians, who tend to send their children abroad to study. CIC old boys flipped that script. As Bishop Onaga said, some of the old boys that live abroad, including those based in Nigeria, didn’t choose to abandon the school like Nigerian politicians, but instead chose to lead by example, and bring back what they learned in other climes and some of the money to change the narrative.
Malcolm X summed up this spirit when he said “the future belongs to those who prepare for it today”. There’s no better preparation for the future than the magnificent sporting edifice that was opened at CIC today, with a massive thanks to the old boys.