The Nigerian Army on Saturday inaugurated its polo club at the Jaji Military Cantonment in Kaduna, which it named after Nigeria’s Ambassador to the Republic of Benin and former Chief of Army Staff, retired Lieutenant General Tukur Buratai.
The commissioning was the last activity lined up for the Infantry annual leadership lectures and biennial reunion.
The activities began on November 10 at the cantonment.
The Special Guest of Honour and Secretary to the Government of the Federation, Boss Mustapha, described the naming of the polo club after the former COAS as worthwhile, considering his committed service and utmost patriotism to Nigeria.
Mustapha, represented by the Minister of Sports and Youths Development, Sunday Dare, added that the event, which served as reunion for serving and retired Infantry officers and men, was elaborate because of the polo sporting event that accompanied it.
He said: “No matter which sports is played today at this great event, the idea is solely on the fact that sports unites, heals and reconnects.
“It is commendable that the Nigerian Army has plugged into the sports world of polo because polo has became a global sport.”
Mustapha added that the commissioning of the polo ground would give the soldiers and youths in the Army an opportunity to harness their talents and participate fully in the game, a favourite for the military for over a century.
He said: “Polo stands tall amongst other sports because of its total liberation and power it gives, discipline that goes with it, precision and above all because of the vitality of the riders and the horses.”
Earlier, the COAS, Lieutenant General Farouk Yahaya, said naming the polo club after Buratai was a recognition of his gigantic contributions to the Nigerian Army as the service chief with the longest record, as well as to the development of polo in the Army.
Yahaya said: “Buratai is the one who revived the polo sport in the Army and the team he formed won last year’s Al’amin Cup, where it competed with 20 teams and this year with 16 teams, winning it back-to-back.
“To appreciate this and also to encourage troops and personnel in polo was why we named the polo club after him.
“If you recall, the military used to have cavalry who rode on horses, and even in the NDA we have a quotation where officers are taught how to ride horses for ceremonies.”
In his remarks, Buratai said the game of polo was an age-long Nigerian Army tradition that had for sometime lost its allure and popularity amongst military personnel as the use of horses were limited to only ceremonial parades.
He said: “To reverse this, as the then COAS, I inaugurated the Board of Trustees for the Nigerian Army Polo Association in January 2020 and other teams of reference to revive the dying culture of Polo in the NA.
“The establishment order for the NAPA was released in April 2020 and the headquarters of the Infantry Corps Centre then under Major General Stephen Olabanji, being the custodian of military customs and traditions, was tasked to develop a polo club at the Jaji cantonment and the ground breaking ceremony was conducted by me as then the COAS on 25 June, 2020.”
He added that the facilities were meant to boost the recreational activities in the cantonment and to complement the excellent training.
Buratai thanked the COAS and the Commander, Infantry Corp for inviting him to officiate at the launching ceremony and for designating the Nigerian Army Polo Club in his name.
He urged young officers to recognise the significance of horse riding and other horse riding sports such as polo and horse racing, to the military profession.
NAN reports that facilities at the Tukur Yusuf Buratai Polo Club include an archery field, air rifle range, race course, state-of-the-art club house with a cinema hall, polo field, and horse stables for 20 horses.
Horse racing and exhibition games featured at the event attended by several dignitaries, including the Emir of Katsina, senior serving and retired officers.