There aren’t too many stories that succinctly depict: “taking control of your destiny” than that of Favour Ekpekpe who, after travelling from Ughelli in Delta State to compete at the 2017 National Youth Games in Ilorin, picked up his bags and moved straight to Lagos to join MoC Track Club.
It was a case of knowing exactly what you want and figuratively putting all your eggs into that basket in ensuring that you don’t give up on your dreams. For Ekpekpe, an opportunity to jump start his Athletics career in a new environment had arrived and he was going to grab it with both hands.
Having impressed a Making of Champions’ scout while competing then for his Secondary school, Government College Ughelli at the Youth Scholar Athlete Development Programme (YSADP), by Oil and Gas company, Shell Petroleum Development Company (SPDC), he was an athlete pencilled down to be drafted in by the Track Club.
Although he had a good outing at the programme, Ekpekpe finished 2nd in the 100m in the final YSADP evaluation. However, it was obvious that he was an unrefined talent with immense potentials to blossom if properly handled.
Ekpekpe has always displayed a dogged spirit, which saw him represent Kebbi state at the 2017 Youth Games, despite not having any ties with the North West state. He couldn’t make the cut to represent Delta state who have an unending pool of talents, rather settling for Kebbi who sought for athletes to run for them, and he got to the semifinals in the Boys 200m.
It was after competing that Ekpekpe made a life-changing decision, calling his family to inform them that he would be moving straight to Lagos to train with MoC Track Club, even as the club were already in communication with his parents about the possibility of him joining.
In a little over a year, Ekpekpe has made sure that everyday counted. It’s one thing to have a dream, but then it takes a lot of hard work to ensure the dream comes to fruition. Ekpekpe has made a huge step up from where he was in 2017, and is now gradually gaining National recognition in the Youth and Junior categories.
Making his bow at the 2018 National U20 & U18 Championships in Ozoro in the Youth (U18) Category, Favour invited his father who made the 1-hour trip from Ughelli to come and watch him run. Not a surprise that he was eager to impress his father who was watching from the stands, clocking the fastest time in the 200m heats with a Personal Best of 21.97s.
Although he finished 3rd in the final, he had already made a good impression, earning a National team call-up to the camp of athletes preparing for the 2018 African Youth Games in Algiers. From not making the Delta State Youth team 9 months earlier, to now going to the National Youth camp, everything was happening so fast, probably faster than he would have anticipated.
He didn’t eventually make the final team to Algiers, but he had already made a mark and bagged some valuable experiences. Joining MoC Track Club in Lagos has really paid off for him and within a year he has moved from 11.67s in the 100m to a PB of 10.75s, and 23.22s to 21.97s in the 200m.
“All I have ever wanted to do, is to run,” Ekpekpe said on his bold decision to move to Lagos as a 16-year old.
2019 has started brightly for him, as he recently got awarded a one-year Student-Athlete Scholarship from Shell Nigeria Exploration & Production Company (SNEPCo). You can call it destiny, seeing that it was at a Shell programme that he was discovered at in Delta State. Some things just naturally align.
The Scholarship from Shell will afford him the opportunity to prepare for his University Entrance Examinations in 2019, while training for the 2020 World U20 Championships and possibly even the Tokyo 2020 Olympics, if he can make Nigeria’s senior team by then! It will also cover his accommodation, feeding, healthcare, training and competition costs, to allow him to seamlessly mix his education and Athletics career.
Imagine if he had not taken that bold step to make a move, picking up his bags and following MoC’s Head Coach, Olympic Medallist Deji Aliu, to Lagos rather than heading back home. Quite a bold move that has eventually paid off with a Shell Scholarship as the icing on the cake!
With the National U20 & U18 Championships coming up in Ilaro, Ogun state this year, from 14th-17th March 2019, Ekpekpe will be eager to prove he merits a place in the Nigerian team that will be selected to compete at the African U20 & U18 Championships in Cote d’Ivoire in April.
“This competition has been on my mind since last year. I don’t want to say so much now, I will let my legs do the talking,” a confident Ekpekpe said on how he is preparing for the National U20 & U18 Championships.
Some times one does not need to wait for things to come their way, you just have to chart your own course yourself and watch things turn around for you. Ekpekpe who’s now 18 years old, discovered his own path early enough and has followed his dreams.