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Basketball: NBA legend tasks Nigerian youth on leadership, health

AMERICAN basketball legend, Jerome ‘The Junkyard Dog’ Williams, has reiterated his commitment to supporting Nigerian youths towards development of their leadership skills.

The star, who played 587 games during his nine seasons in the NBA, made the pledge during the finals of the 4th edition of the Power Forward initiative, which held at the indoor hall of the Basketball Court Package B of the National Stadium in Abuja recently. The programme is a partnership between ExxonMobil, the NBA and Africare and uses basketball to teach and mentor students from secondary schools in Abuja annually.

Williams said as future leaders, the youth need to be nurtured and equipped with education and life skills as well as awareness on how to deal with health issues, especially malaria. The leadership and lifestyle skills, which the Power Forward impacts on the students, would enable them contribute meaningfully to community development and to become future change agents, he said.

The ‘Power Forward’ programme was launched in November 2013 as a platform to develop skills and raise health awareness among high school youths. Over the past four years, the event had attracted some great visitors and contributors from the NBA and the Women’s National Basketball Association (WNBA). Players and legends who have participated in the programme to date include Hall of Famer, Hakeem Olajuwon, former NBA players Obinna Ekezie (current CEO of Wakanow) and Olumide Oyede- ji. Others were WNBA All-Stars Swin Cash and Chiney Ogwu- mike, former WNBA player Mactabene Amachree and former NBA player Kelenna Azubuike.

Dr. Orode Doherty, Africare Nigeria Country Director, noted that the positive impact of the programme on the students has been phenomenal. “This year, we have reached 600 children in 20 schools directly and we are aiming for 10,000 altogether and indirect beneficiaries as well. They have taught other children on proper health and hygiene and other aspects of human endeavour,” she said.

On his part, Nigel CookeyGam, the Manager, Government and Business Development Relations. ExxonMobil, said the programme has achieved a lot. “At ExxonMobil, we are passionate about youth development and advocacy and `Power Forward’ is one of the vehicles through which we are achieving that objective. This year alone, 30 students each from 10 secondary schools are directly involved and we are go- ing to do more in subsequent editions.

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