Rain Oil Tennis Tournament: Discovering Nigeria’s Acres of Diamonds

By Editor on 16/12/2019

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Oyefeso Ogbonna, left and right watch, as Ogbechie, Rain Oil CEO and wife hand over the star prize cheque to Emmanuel

Sometime in 2016, oil and gas magnate, Gabriel Ogbechie, gave a speech at an event in Lagos, entitled: Running a Successful Business in Nigeria, My Experience. It was at the 5th anniversary of the Yes International Magazine.  

What came out of that effort, where he chronicled his rise from a simple upstart in the highly volatile, rocky and unpredictable Nigerian business climate, to conquering the space and becoming one of the most recognised players in its oil and gas industry, as the Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of Rain Oil Limited, was a domino effect, comparable to such famous and eternal deliveries like Russel H. Conwell’s Acres of Diamonds (1882).  

Like Conwell’s inspirational speech, reputed to have been delivered in 5,000 different places at different times, with which he raised the money to build the Temple University in Philadelphia, reactions to Ogbechie’s treatise, was instant. It became such a hit as it not only went viral in virtually all the media platforms in Nigeria and beyond but now a handbook on the table of many.

Beyond the elements – free-flowing, easy-to-read, elegant prose delicately strung together, as would a weaverbird, witty and humorous – the treatise, also delivered an abiding message that successful is the child of wisdom, diligence, passion and tenacity rather than docility, defeatism and laziness, apart from reflecting the popular Nigerian parlance – wetin you dey look for Sokoto dey for sokoto.

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The versatile business mogul, has since gone further to adumbrate the fact that his philosophy is neither a fluke nor idle talk. The energy, gusto and tenacity embedded in the Rain Oil Tennis Open Tournament, a yearly event sponsored by his company, and the enviable profile resulting from the effort so far, appear to have conduced a demonstrable evidence that the ideals he espoused in that famous speech, were not just empty words pieced together and bandied to entertain and probably bamboozle his audience, but a workable principle he has adopted as the template to drive his goals.

On Sunday, December 8, Ogbechie, handed over a cheque of N500,000 to Sylvester Emmanuel, the winner of the star prize, of the 2019 edition of what has become a major tennis fiesta in Nigeria, before a capacity crowd at the Lagos Country Club centre court, in furtherance of this single-minded approach and determination to succeed by either breaking new grounds or reviving old pathways.

The cheque was part of the N5million prize money distributed to the various players at the various categories of the event, where a 16-year-old girl who emerged the winner of the ladies singles went home with N400,000.

Four years ago, the event moved from the Masters series, where only top players were invited to compete for the prize, to an open tournament, where the doors are thrown open for players to compete at the qualifiers stage to enter the main draw in order to also make a go for the star prize. This year’s edition witnessed an increase in the prize money amongst other perks.

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Ogbechie with his guests

What has resulted so far, is for the period it has lasted, each edition has presented tennis lovers across the country, with live displays of the best efforts by local talents to replicate the events in the world tournaments, which a great many could only be availed through the media.

But the objective, as indicated by the company, goes further than just being thrilled with good tennis displays. The goal, according to them is deliberately to put Nigeria back on the world tennis map, where it once occupied an enviable space, with some of its nationals playing at some of the greatest tennis events. Aside giving the players the opportunity of making meaningful living the added impetus is to see Nigerian professional tennis stars breaking into the global circuit once again.

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Board of Trustees members, Oyefeso and Ogbonna, former President, LCC, Chief Babatunde Okunuga, Vice President, Igho Okor, and Membership Secretary, Steve Oboh

This year’s event had kicked off with a press conference on November 26, where the Group Executive Director, Mrs. Godrey Ogbechie spoke eloquently about this raison d’etre, saying: “Rainoil has been sponsoring tennis for over 10 years now with the Rainoil Tennis Open and this competition is our contribution to both youth and sports development using tennis as the platform. The competition brings members together in a friendly atmosphere and gives them the opportunity to gain bragging rights and improve on their rankings. The open nature of the competition ensures that we partner with the Nigerian Tennis Federation (NTF) who supplied us with the player rankings. The Rainoil Tennis Open is an NTF sanctioned competition ad participating players will also earn ranking point.”

Thereafter, players in the men and women categories filed out on November 29, first from the qualifying draws and then the main draw to sweat it out inside the clay courts of the Lagos Country Club Tennis Section (LCC-TS), for the trophies and prize money, totaling N5.1million.

For the 10 days it lasted members and visitors to the club were treated to world class high-class displays of superlative tennis skills that not a few doubted actually existed in the Nigeria and even beyond.

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Quadre, receiving her cheque from Mrs. Ogbechie and LCC-TC Vice Chairman, Wahab Akinyooye

The climax came when the men and women singles players, kept the spectators on the edge of their seats during the finals. First it was between 16-year-old Oyinlomo Quadre, now Nigerian number one, who bested Christie Agugbom, former Nigerian number one 6-1, in the first set and 3-0 in the second, before she called it quits on the ground of injury.

When Sylvester and the defending champion, Joseph Imeh eventually took to the centre court to do business, what came out appeared a picturesque replication of the scenario at the Roland Garros finals with the level of energy and immense display of tennis skills, ending with Sylvester, eventually emerging winner with a two-straight sets of 6/2, 6/3, to cart away both the trophy and the prize money.

Indeed, the company’s effort in promoting tennis, does not stop at just hosting tournaments alone in which it hands out cash and trophies to the winners or to hosts to offset ancillary costs, but developing individual players, which has seen its account set back in high figures.

For instance, Ogbechie, spoke of how Sylvester enjoyed a $90,000 full sponsorship to a tennis academy in Spain in an effort to get him perfect his tennis skills and how even there, he continued to receive regular visits from the sponsors to encourage him.

From the look of things, Quadre, may also be on her way to enjoying a similar largesse, going by the hint the Rain Oil CEO gave at the 2019 grand finale event, where he said the company would go into discussions with the young talented player, to see how it could help her grow her game further.      

On hand to witness the event was a diverse audience that paraded top club officials like Chief Kola Oyefeso and Chief Oliver Ogbonna, LCC trustees, as well as captains of industry and business moguls and big players in the professions. They included General Lawrence Fejoku, Mr. Abdulwasiu Sowami, the Chairman of Forte Oil Plc and Managing Director of Prudent Energy, Alhaji Aminu Umar, Managing Director of Sea Transport, Managing Director of Eternal Oil Plc, Mr. Mahmood Tukur, Emeka Ugwu-Oju, the CEO of M&M investments Limited, among others.

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Some members of the LCC-TS

While emphasising the need for all hands to be on deck and for corporate world to champion the development of the game as is the case in other climes, Ogbechie promised that the company would not relent in its sworn objective to discover more players, encourage them to burnish their skills and finally not only expose their potentials to the world as professionals earning their living through the game, but benefitting from the mega bucks it offers.

Hear him: “It is indeed a great pleasure for Rain Oil Limited to sponsor this tournament and most importantly to put our money where our passion belongs. For the players, who have slugged it out among themselves this past one week, doing fireworks on these courts, we thank you for your participation and we assure you that Rain Oil Limited will continue to put money behind this tournament into the future.

“On a day like this, I want to specially congratulate miss Oyinlomo Quadre, who won the women’s single. This is a young 16-year-old girl and she has shown us that with determination, with hard work, with passion, a lot is possible. Yes, you have won yourself N300,000 in prize money today, but we also want to assure you that Rain Oil will go into some discussions with you to see how we can support you, going forward.

“We’re passionate about tennis for a lot of reasons. I played tennis since I was a kid and I daresay that I have been a member of this section for the past 24 years. This, for me, is home. But most importantly, tennis is a game through which our young ones can come, not just out of poverty, but make a lot of wealth for themselves. If you look at the tennis world, look at the Roger Federer, Novak Djokovic, Raphael Nadal, each of them has earned more than $100milion, just playing tennis.

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Some of the spectators

“So, there is a lot of money. With commitment and most importantly with support, we believe that our young ones can make an impact in this game. But that can’t happen if corporate like us don’t come out to support the game.

“Finally, I want to congratulate Sylvester Emmanuel, the winner of the 2019 Tennis Championship. About four years ago, when this was still a Masters tournament, Sylvester then was an 18-year-old boy and he managed to win the tournament and we saw the passion, the commitment and most importantly, the potential and we decided to take him a step further and back him. Rain Oil Limited, about four years ago, we gave Sylvester Emmanuel a $90,000 sponsorship to go abroad and play tennis. We sent him to a tennis academy in Spain. He was in Barcelona. Part of the result of that effort, is what you saw today.”

Of course, given the history of Nigeria and its knack to produce some of the bests in many sporting events and particularly in tennis, the country might just be on its way to hitting the bull’s eyes once again.

Indeed, a comprehensive flip through the pages of the world’s tennis history books, would surely expose such faces as Nduka Odizor, who once played at the prestigious All England Club in Wimbledon and David Imonite, indicating that Nigeria has done it before and therefore the present quest, may not be totally a tall order or a pipe dream.

Interestingly, the Rain Oil boss did not leave out the LCC, which he praised profusely for the level of progress it has made in recent times, especially the Tennis Section (TS), a development, which is strategic to the overall plans.

His words: “This section has undergone very tremendous transformation in the past couple of years. For those of us who have been here for a long time, we struggle to come to terms with the transformation that has taken place. The management of this section, we say, thank you very much.  

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Some of the spectators

With the superlative facilities in place at the LCC-TS, which has catapulted it to a centre of excellence and the best place to play tennis in Nigeria, by all standards, the enthusiasm of the sponsors to succeed and the quantum of talents already being discovered, Nigeria may actually be on its way to discovering its acres of diamonds in the game of tennis.

If and when that is done, the Rain Oil Limited family, headed by Ogbechie might take a central place on the dais for proving a truism that whilst nature might provide humanity with oranges, it would never produce orange juice, because it would require a further human effort to do so.    

With the success so far, all the stakeholders may clink glasses and permit themselves some drinks, while awaiting the party. Perhaps.            


Source Whirlwindnews.com

Posted on December, 16 2019

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