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Ibadan Tennis Club: Strengthening South West’s earliest indigenous club

For over 90 years, Ibadan Tennis Club (ITC) has remained one of the pioneer indigenous social clubs in Nigeria. The association recently brought on board new executive members to run the affairs of the organisation as well as inducted new members. TUNDE OGUNESAN chronicles the journey of the club and its focus by the new executive members.

THE idea of social clubs became quite obvious in the Nigerian consciousness following the amalgamation of the country. This is evidenced on the recorded founding date of Ibadan Tennis Club.

The club, records have shown, was established in 1925, but oral records have it that the club had been in existence before 1925. History has it that Ibadan Tennis Club existed as one of the first indigenous clubs in the South Western Nigeria, even before its 1925 founding date.

Ibadan Tennis Club has a rich history in the sport development of Nigeria. The club is reputed to have produced international tennis players like the late Thompson Onibokun, Segun Balogun, Rasheed Oloyede and the Kasali brothers, who started their careers as ball boys at the club. Others are table tennis wizards like Toyin King and Peju Faboyinde.

Today, the club boasts of sports facilities like standard tennis courts, table tennis hall with adequate equipment, billiards, badminton, draught, dart, scrabble and chess.

And against the widespread speculation that the club belongs to the aged, the general secretary of the club, Abiodun Ogun said the insinuation is wrong.

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According to him, “Initially, when I wanted to join the club, I also had that perception that it was only grandpas that were in the club. But when a friend introduced me to the club and I saw different classes of people, I discovered that it was not for the oldies.

“In fact, we want to erase that wrong perception that Ibadan Tennis Club belongs to the aged. And that is what we are preaching.”

In their membership drive, Ogun further revealed that any aspiring individual would only need to meet certain criteria. He would present two existing members from the club as guarantors and two other respectable people in society. Such aspiring individuals, Ogun added, would obtain a form to be duly filled and guaranteed by the people mentioned above that the person is of good behavior. The person then submits the form with a token of N35,000, and be ready for oral interview session.

The current President, Ajibade Adelana, who joined club 34 years ago informed that the club still maintains its high regard for moral and traditional values.

Before his election as the 32nd president, Adelana had served in several capacities in the club.

According to him, “Ibadan Tennis Club is not in competition with any clubs whatsoever, anywhere in the country. If you care to know, ITC is over 91 years old, it is one of the first indigenous clubs in the south western Nigeria. We had existed before Nigeria’s independence and we thank God that we are still in reckoning today.

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“We appreciate values here; we are our brother’s keeper, and that moral value makes the difference. We relate as a family. In the past, we had permanent secretaries, judges, and several top professional members from across south western Nigeria. But today, there is limitation to that wide scope considering the collapse of regional government.

“The problem we have had over the years is that we don’t have moneybags in Ibadan Tennis Club. During my regime, we are going to achieve a lot. We can make the club grow again.

“This season has been one of consolidation, and in typical Ibadan Tennis Club fashion, we have experienced many ups and downs. The bottom line is that whatever we have had to overcome, we have done so together.

“My objectives are to stabilise the club’s financial situation and put it back on the right path by careful and conscious involvement of individuals through donations. We want to improve on the membership drive with a target of 50 persons by the end of our tenure in May, 2017. And whilst the first two goals have been achieved, I will let nothing stand on my way to ensure that Ibadan Tennis Club is mentioned in the same breath as other top clubs in and outside Ibadan.”

Corroborating the president’s position on the uniqueness of Ibadan Tennis Club, especially in those golden years, two members of the Board of Trustees (BoT), a retired Professor of crop physiology from Obafemi Awolowo University, Ile-Ife, Osun State, Professor Bamidele Adelana and Chief Clement Olatunji Ololade, who have been members for over four decades, confirmed that even up till date, the club has become their better half.

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The duo, who attended the last end of year programme organized by the club in December 2016, attested to this.

Professor Bamidele Adelana told Nigerian Tribune that “I have been a member for 45 years. Throughout my academic years, this club provided a relaxation spot for me. The membership is very cohesive like a family. They are always with you, no class distinction. That helped me to grow a number of friends over the years.

Chief Clement Olatunji Ololade, member of the association’s board of trustees, stated that it has been productive. “It’s been very interesting. 44 years ago. Honestly speaking, in those days, Ibadan Tennis Club was a pride of the old western state.

“When I was the social secretary, we wanted to move the whole of Ibadan to this place. We brought in artistes like Sunny Ade or Ebenezer Obey. We are still trying to put things in place.

“The club is my second home. Last year at age 79, I won the sportsman of the club in the billiards tournament. This place keeps me going.”

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