He used to be called Omo Oloja for reasons best known to people that called him that. Maybe his mum was a trader.
We remember him as Nojim Maiyegun, Nigeria’s first ever Olympic medalist.
Born in Lagos on 21, February 1944, Maiyegun won the bronze medal at the 1964 summer Olympics in Japan’s capital city, Tokyo as a light middleweight fighter. He was just 20.
That wasn’t his first title on a big stage. Four years earlier at the Independence Day celebration tournament, he won a boxing medal.
He also won another bronze at the 1966 Commonwealth games in Kingston, Jamaica.
Upon his return to Nigeria, Maiyegun didn’t feel like he was getting enough time in the ring so in 1971, he relocated to Austria, hoping to get more fighting time.
The goal was to win a world title.
But a new tragedy was bringing darkness over him; Maiyegun was going blind.
“I’m not sure what could have caused the blindness but doctors thought it could have been from punches on the head. It started partially and at a point I had to fight a world championship title bout with the sight problem. I lost the fight on decision but it is on record that I am the first blind boxer to fight for a title. I could see with one eye then.”
When it was clear he was never going to be getting action in the ring again and he needed to survive, Maiyegun took up the job of a street cleaner.
But blindness did not stop him from doing things that would give him some kind of fulfilment. He is the first blind man to scale a mountain 1,400 metres high and jump from a parachute.
In 2013, he spoke to Punch, saying:
“I am not dead as some people think. I’m still living in Austria but as an old man, I take things easy. I cannot afford to travel regularly between Austria and Nigeria because of my age. Besides, I will need assistance in Nigeria because I’m blind. I’m afraid of coming to Nigeria because I’m not sure I will get the kind of honest assistance I get in Austria. I’ll need a trustworthy person to accompany me all the time, especially withdrawing money from the bank. It will be like starting from the scratch if I return home, but I really want to come back. I hope the government can be of help in this regard”
His wife, whom he married when he was about 18 and the three children they had, live in London.
We have a long list of men and women, like Nojim, who have vanished into the wilderness of Nigerian amnesia.
Today, the story is no different.
We see Nigerians thriving everywhere in sports, from Nigerian-born Ezinne-Okparaebo, who is currently the fastest woman in Norwegian history.
To Edidiong Offinime Odiong who currently owns the Bahraini Track.
First, you wonder why they might love their country, but choose to sprint for foreign countries, then you see this statement by the Current Minister of Sports regarding the stranded U-23 football team headed for Rio, and it makes all the sense;
“Our U-23 team suffering in the United States of Nigeria, What are there for? Because they are U-23 and they went to US and they are having problems, does that become our business? “
Will this ever end?