LAGOS, the former capital city of Nigeria, a city reputed to be of aquatic splendor and also where the name of LAGOS STATE (Nigeria) was derived in 1967 when it was created, is also a city of marvelous cultural extravaganza in various forms. Such cultural extravangazas include:

  1. MUSIC: Cultural music like GBEDU which is the Royal Music for the Oba of Lagos with fantastic lyrics and rhythm is highly stylish in dance steps and movements. Socio-cultural music such as juju, owambe, apala, sakara, sekere, fuji and mixed or hybrids of the cultural musics with western music like ‘high life’, afro, hiphop and congo musics make Lagos the centre of music and musician giants in Africa and the world over now (2022). 
  1. WEARS: Cultural apparels like Agbada, Gbariye, Buba and Soro, Dansiki, Kembe, Gobi, Abeti Aja, Akete etc for male, Buba, Iro, Gele, Iborun, Ipele, Oja-Iponmo, Awotele, Yeeri, Kaba (Gown) etc for females with sophisticated new styles especially in the aso-ebi system (extended family uniforms during any celebration). 
  1. FOOD: Cultural food that are also traditional to Lagos are the popular Lagos jollof rice, eba, white rice, iyan, amala with abula soup which are very popularly served in the parties thrown by the Yorubas in Lagos and the South-West of Nigeria. Other food that are also cultural are akara, moin-moin, ewa, beans & dodo, white rice, ofada rice, dundu, ibeeni-agbado, booli are cultural and traditional to Lagos.
  1. SPORTS: The cultural sports of Lagos include swimming, ijakadi, ise/ege which is also called aarin in the whole of South-West of Nigeria, Ayo the seed game of the Yorubas has also been very popular in this Lagos megacity from time immemorial. This now leads us to ask “What is a Traditional Sport?” 
  1. EUROPE: Europe, the ancestral home to documented sports in the world simply view or refer to “Traditional Sports” as ICH, that is, Intangible Cultural Heritage.

Mallam Elias Yusuf out rightly defined a Traditional Sport as follows:

A sport is indigenous into the niche, town, locality, state, country and the continent in which the sport was invented. As the sport is being practiced over and over, over the years, it becomes a traditional sport of the place and its immediate environment from where it was invented. It should be noted that Ancient Olympic Games were based on Tradition and stageD as Traditional Sports/Games of the Helenic people of Greece made up of several city states, such as Athens, Sparta, Thebes etc. 

It may become a tradition of playing that newly invented sport/game at a particular season of the year or may be it is selected to mark certain annual celebration or festival in the town or state of invention. Therefore it has now grown to be called traditional sport of that area. Eventually it has become a traditional sport of that niche, town, council, state, region and continent it was invented.

When such a sport becomes very popular and is able to cross borders, it has graduated to international and may become global when it goes worldwide. Before gaining a global accreditation, it must have received a lot of polishing. 

However, when we refer to African indigenous sports, we are referring to sports that originated from any part of the continent of Africa, remembering that African continent is one of the five continental sport blocks in the world. That is the reason why we have continental sport bodies like COJA, CAF, ANOCA, CONAIS, ATWA, ATSGC, ICTSG etc and the five rings of Olympic Games’ symbol with Africa being represented by the central black ring of the symbol. Alas! that ring is an empty ring as there is no African indigenous sport inside the ring (philosophically speaking) that has graduated to be in the Commonwealth or Olympic Sports lists..

It should be noted that we have many indigenous Traditional Sports from Africa and some of them have become quite very popular and well known e.g. Ayo and Kokawa (Traditional Wresting). Some are rising very rapidly to popularity too, such as Abula, Langa, Dambe and African Billiards. These six sports gained this ascendancy to popularity in Nigeria because they have well defined and articulate rules and regulations that have been frequently subjected to high class usage during the National Sports Festival in Nigeria, ECOWAS and other African Countries with high class championships in traditional Sports and serious scrutiny in the coaching and technical clinics usually organized by TSFN before the biennial National Sports Festival in Nigeria.


The invention of Abula Game in 1984 and that of African Billiards in 1988 at Idi-Araba High School and Ajumoni Secondary School, Iyana Isolo respectively both at Mushin L.G.A by Mallam Elias Yusuf, brought a lot of publicity that drew great attention for the need to promote our Traditional Sports in Nigeria as the seat of the Federal Government of Nigeria was still in Lagos City then. The capital city of Nigeria was moved to Abuja on 12 December 1991. On 25th April, 1985 there was a public demonstration of the Abula game which was covered by NAT 7 and which was televised on 26TH April and 2nd May 1985. It was covered by Mr. Tunde Olaore. 

This enthusiasm in promotion of Traditional Sports in the world had also started off in Europe too through UNESCO and her allies that are interested in promoting culture in what has been tagged intangible cultural heritage (ICH). This ICH fever swept over Europe like hammartan and such allies interestingly include the International Olympic Committee, The TAFISA, Cultural Sports Festivals around the world, especially the TOCATI FESTIVAL IN VERONA, ITALY, the Ethnosports in Canada, the inclusion of Asian Traditional Sports in ASIAN GAMES, the North American Indigenous Games (NAIG) etc

TAFISAL, an affiliate of IOC started to organize World Festival of Traditional Sports in the year 1992 in Bonn Germany. The second one took place at Bangkok TAILAND in 1996 which Nigerian contingent missed when NATS that was given the franchise by SFAN could not get sponsors to foot the bill of attending the festival. However in the year 2000, the third world festival of Traditional Sports which dovetailed into EXPO 2000 in Hannover Germany took place and a contingent of 11 represented Nigeria from Sports For All Nigeria under the hospices of Nigeria Olympic Committee, National Stadium Surulere took part substantially with presentation of some Nigerian dances. This was a great contribution from Lagos Nigeria. This was followed by other subsequent ones in 2008 in Busan Korea as the one that was supposed to take place in 2004 in Montreal Canada was cancelled. It was this Canada edition that African Billiards was penciled down for participation by the organizers of the 4 yearly festival. It was more or less Traditional Sports Olympics, even though it has not been officially pronounced as Traditional Sports Olympic Games. Mallam Elias Yusuf was the only member of main Traditional Sports Group in Nigeria that was in the eleven man contingents that emanated from Lagos Sport For All Nigeria that attended this 3rd World Festival of Traditional Sports, in Hannover Germany in the year 2000. 


Direct Contributions of Lagos State 

Since the inception of the formation and inauguration of Nigeria Association of Traditional Sport (NATS) in 1993 in Lagos by the then Executive Chairman of the National Sports Commission Chief Alex Akinyele, Lagos State Government has been trying very well to be a highly cooperating member with the national governing body of Traditional Sports in Nigeria referred to as Traditional Sports Federation of Nigeria (TSFN). It was called Nigerian Association of Traditional Sports at the inception in 1993 under Alhaji (Dr.) G.N Hamzat, the first Chief Executive of Traditional Sports Association (as Chairman).

After the inauguration of NATS in 1993, Lagos State went ahead to constitute her own Traditional Sports association under the leadership of Alhaji Santos Anjorin who later became Chief Executive of Island Club, Lagos. This shows you the quality of the man he was made of as a Lagosian. He tried his best for the Association as the association took part in several activities of NATS. He lead the Association to participate in the National Festival of Traditional Sports that took place in 1994 at the Sports Hall and some lawns of the National Stadium, Surulere Lagos. He made sure that Lagos took the front row as the festival was more on participation rather than outright competition. It was Alhaji Santos Anjorin that insisted that Abula Game that was developed by a Sport Master in Lagos State must be among the sports that must participate at the opening ceremony of that festival (1994) when some of the organizing individuals conspired against Abula, believing that it would take shine out of their own sports selected for the festival. The festival which took place in Dec. 1994 was declared opened by the then Military Governor of Lagos State Colonel Buba Marwa who was ably represented by a Senior Official of Lagos State. 

It was under the jurisdiction of Alhaji Anjorin that the first national championship organized by NATS was conducted. It was done in 1997 as Oba of Lagos National Ayo Championship. Alhaji Santos was highly involved in making sure that the championship took place despite shortage of fund in organizing the championship Alhaji Santos Anjorin always made sure that Lagos took part in all coaching clinics and any program organized on Traditional Sports, may be under NATS or NOC.

It was Alhaji Anjorin that made us to discover the talent of Mrs. Funke Yusuf in 1998 when there was I.O.C Patronage of Nigerian Traditional Sports by Sport for All Nigeria under the Nigerian Olympic Committee. Alhaji Anjorin insisted that I should look for a female that would represent Lagos in the patronage championship. So when I got back home I told Mrs. Funke Yusuf to help me look for female Ayo player for the program. She told me she knew how to play Ayo. Then I engaged her in playing Ayo in order to find out whether she knew how to play Ayo, since when we had been together, I had never seen her play Ayo Game. We played and she won the contest three straight sets. So I brought her to the competition and she became the first female athlete to give Lagos State Gold Medal in Traditional Sports Champion involving Lagos State. 

At Imo’98 under Alhaji Anjorin, Lagos State would have come first over all if not for the domination of Kano State that swept all the three gold medals in Langa, Lagos State came first in Abula with 1 gold, 1 silver and 1 bronze medal in the 3gold, 3silver and 3bronze medals available in Abula. Lagos State had more medals in silver and bronze but Kano beat Lagos by one gold medal being higher. Alhaji Santos Anjorin tried very much for Lagos State Traditional Sports Association.

The leadership of Mr. Bashir Agusto as Chairman of Lagos State Traditional Sports also tried his best for Lagos Traditional Sports Association. There were some sponsored championships in Ayo, Abula and Kokawa. Lagos State got a sweet revenge in Langa as Lagos State capture all the 3 gold medals in Langa at Eko 2012 just like Kano captured all the 3 gold medals at Imo’98

Under Mr. Agusto which dovetailed with the leadership of Mr. Deji Tinubu of blessed memory who became the maiden chairman of Lagos State Sports Commission, organized the first Traditional Sports Championship for Secondary School level in Lagos State in 2016 from 12th – 14th October, 2016 with 14 Secondary Schools participating in Abula female categories while 15 secondary schools participate in male categories. In Ayo 27 secondary schools participated in male categories while 24 Secondary Schools participated in female categories and this is the first of it kind in Nigeria and indeed in Africa. Subsequent editions of this Secondary School Championship covering Abula, Ayo, Kokawa and Langa have been held. 

The most recent contribution of Lagos State Sports Commission was inclusion of some Traditional Sports in the programme “SPORTS IS BACK” which was promoting non-contact sports during COVID-19. AYO and ABULA were futured.

The medals won by Lagos at the National Sports Festivals in 2012 and 2018 respectively are as follow:


7          3          3

3          5          2

These were won out of the 21 gold medals available from TSFN.

In 2021, may be COVID affected Lagos, she did not perform to expectation. I hereby commend coach Izeko for innovating the Dambe glove cover used by Dambe fighters after TSFN approved the use of glove cover.


The Nigeria Olympic Committee and the Commonwealth Games Federation recently organized EXHIBITION, showcasing the NIGERIAN INDIGENOUS SPORTS OF: 

1. Abula
2. Ayo   
3. Dambe
4. Kokawa and
5. Arm-Wrestling. This was on September 25, 2021

The Nigeria Olympic Committee had contributed very much to the promotion of
Traditional Sports in Nigeria over the years before this of 2021.
Such noble contributions include, facilitating:

  1. International Olympic Committee (1OC) Patronage of Abula Game in 1994 through the Sport for All Nigeria under the Nigeria Olympic Committee (NOC).
  2. International Olympic Committee (1OC) Patronage of Nigerian Traditional Sports Festival in 1998 with Sport for All Nigeria under the Nigeria Olympic Committee (NOC)
  3. IOC Patronage of TRAD0/CULTURAL SPORTS CARNIVAL in 2003
  4.  In the year 2000, Sports For All Nigeria under the Nigeria Olympic Committee, participated in the 3rd World Traditional Sports Festival Tagged: “HANNOVER 2000” which dovetailed into EXPO-2000 in Hannover Germany (I was one of the eleven delegate members that represented Nigeria there). 
  5. Subsequently, Sports For All Nigeria under the Nigerian Olympic Committee
    attended two other World Festival of Traditional Sports in Busan in South Korea in 2008 and in Siauliai, in Lithuania in 2012
  6. It must be put on records that the Nigeria Olympic Committee supported (TSFN) Traditional Sports Federation of Nigeria in securing the opportunity to make Nigeria to become the first country in Africa to feature African Indigenous Sports as demonstration Sports at the 8th All Africa Games, ABUJA 2003 where we demonstrated 4 African Indigenous Sports of Ayo, Kokawa, Dambe and Parasoccer.

This was the first time that African Indigenous Sports ever participated in All African Games since its inception in 1965. Mallam Elias Yusuf was the Jury to the Traditional Sports Team that represented Nigeria there.


When the secretariat of NATS/TSFN was in Lagos, major contributions were made to Traditional Sports e.g

  1. The 1994 National Festival of Traditional Sports under Alhaji G.N Hamzat, the Pioneer Chairman of NATS
  2. The compilation of Traditional Sports Rules and Regulations and printing of the first copy in 1998 initiated by Mallam Elias Yusuf being Chairman Technical Committee of NATS, under Dr. Haske Dantanee as Chairman NATS
  3. The harmonization (in 2000) of the rules and regulation of Ayo which were first made at Benue ’96 in order to remove the contraditions in the rules. This harmonization in the year 2000 in Lagos under the Technical Chairman of Mallam Elias Yusuf supported by Mr. S.A. Daudu made the rules and regulation of Ayo, to be free of all contradictions and made it to be really truely practicable, playable without flaws and made national and internationally useable. This is very significant in making the Ayo rules and regulations to be very useable worldwide. This style of Ayo playing is called FREE STYLE meant for useage worldwide and made Ayo to become SMART AYO GAME. 
  4. The NATS also initiated the idea of making the National Institute for Sports (N.I.S) under the leadership of Dr. Haskee Dantanee as Chairman of NATS and Mallam Elias Yusuf, Chairman Technical Committee to compose the syllabus and was presented at the 4th Convocation of N.I.S on 12/08/1999 in the presence of the then Minister of Sports and Social Development Mr. Sango Damisi by Mallam Elias Yusuf representing the Chairman of NATS Dr. Hakee Dantanee.

This syllabus was composed by the trio:

  1. Mr. Lucas S.S. Gadani (the then Ag Head of N.I.S)
  2. Alhaji Bako Abdul (Chairman NATS 1995 – 1997) and
  3. Mallam Elias Yusuf (the then Vice Chairman of NATS, Chairman Technical Committee NATS and Chairman of the Syllabus Committee)

This had given opportunities for all our Traditional Sports coaches and certain individuals to obtain the Trainings of N.I.S to have Certificate, Diploma or Higher Diploma qualifications in our Traditional Sports. Even foreigners can get this training. Such individual that have benefited from this move included Mr. Sunday Adeogun, Mr. Samuel Ikono, Mr. Akeem (Abula Coach) etc 

The idea to take our Traditional Sports to All Africa Games in 2003 was initiated by NATS when her office was still in Lagos, and it was at this 8th All Africa Games that the idea of Confederation of Africa Traditional Indigenous Sports started. 


A special contribution that is based in Lagos and that is making a worldwide contributions from Lagos is This has a lot hallow effect on promotion of our Traditional Sports locally, internationally and indeed worldwide. It is good to visit from time to time for education, consultation, updates, perspective essays and knowledge on our rules and regulations on our Traditional Sports.


Traditional Sports in the World today is receiving serious attention worldwide:

  1. Starting from IOC Patronages, IOC affiliating some International Groups on Traditional Sports.
  2. Very important mother organization promoting Traditional Sports is the UNESCO. 
  3. UNESCO Policy on Traditional Sports and Games (TSG) particularly the Verona Declaration on Traditional Sports in 2015 which makes it expedient for Traditional Sports to be promoted in schools worldwide. 
  4. TAFISA, The Trim and Fitness Association which started to promote Traditional Sports with staging of World Festival of Traditional Sports a four yearly affair. This started in Bonn Germany in 1992, followed by Bangcock Tailand in 1996, Hannover 2000, Montreal 2004 was cancelled, Busan 2008 in Korea etc
  5. The Asian Society indicated they were planning to ensure 10 of their Traditional Sports become Olympic Sports. Some of such sports include:
  1. Bo Taoshi
  2. Kabaddi
  3. Sepak Takraw
  4. Bokh
  5. Buzkashi etc
  1. There is European traditional Sports Association (ETSA) 
  2. International Council of Traditional Sports and Games (ICTSG) constituted on 11th August 2020 and which in the 2021 celebrated 1st Traditional Sports World Day.
  3. She named 14th August as the International Day of Traditional Sports and Games with a ministerial webnar with the theme: 


The President of ICTGS is Khalil Ahmed Khan 

  1. We have Ethnosports Group based in Canada
  2. We now have Confederation of African Traditional Sports and Games with the headquarters in Sierra Leone with the President: Mr. Yahya Al Matarr Jobe and the Secretary General: Chief Michael Shamsu Mustapha 
  3. We also have African Billiards and Snooker Confederation with the headquarters in Egypt. 
  4. The North American Indigeneous Games: NAIG 2023 is bringing more than 5,000 athletes, 3000 volunteers with 16 Sports in 21 venues (HALIFAX NOVASCOTIA)
  5. 7 Popular Indigenous Games of South America
  1. Sapo (from Peru)
  2. Tejo (Colombia)
  3. Bolas Critiollas (Venezuela)
  4. Purrinha (Brazil)
  5. Trompo (Ecuador)
  6. Chaza (Ecuador & Colombia)
  7. Paleta Fronton (Peru)
  1. Japanese Traditional Sports that is famous is the sumo wrestling apart from Japan being amongst the Asian countries. 
  2. All these are suppose to be under the promotion of International Council of Traditional Sports and Games (ICTSG)


  1. Lack of facilities, especially in schools
  2. Lack of coaches that are very competent on the sports  
  3. Lack of sponsors apart from government (and governments too are not very enthusiastic)
  4. Lack of adequate championships
  5. Lack of hosting National and International competitions 
  6. Disappearance of Traditional Sports in the scheme of work in our schools. In recent past, Lagos was one of the states that was operating the National Curriculum of Traditional Sports but due to lumping of PHE with some other subjects in the curriculum, Traditional Sports lost their space/placement on the syllabus.  
  7. Exclusion of our Traditional Sports from the “DAWN Games” 2014 organised by South West Region in Nigeria. Our indigeneous sports suppose to be among.
  8. Returning Traditional Sports to optional sports at the National Sports Festival is a very backward trend that will demote our Traditional Sports instead of promoting them.  


With all that we have put forward, there are suggestions for we in Lagos City and Lagos State to further move our Traditional Sport to the next higher and greater level.

  1. First and foremost, we should have new and professional trained coaches to be fully employed by Lagos State Sports Commission so that they can perform well.
  2. We should have standard facilities for our sports. Let Lagos have a good Traditional Sports ARENA as attached to this write up on one acre of land as the TSFN template (attached to this write up)
  3. Let there be facilities for Abula Game in all our schools, especially secondary schools as it was invented in the school system of Lagos State.
  4. It is a credit to Lagos State for this ASA WEEK championship that we are organizing, such should continue. The secondary school  championship on Traditional Sports should also continue and if possible named after Mr. Deji Tinubu who started the championship
  5. Let there be equipment for the sports in our schools.
  6. National and International Championships on Traditional Sports should be hosted by Lagos if Lagos is to attain the status of being “HUB OF SPORTS” in Africa
  7. The Oba of Lagos Ayo Championship should be resultitated with addition of African Billiards to it. Without any delay. The Lagos Island Local Government could adopt it for sponsorship. 
  8. We can have Governor’s Cup on Abula or all our Traditional Sports. Just like the Governor’s Cup on Tennis. We can also have Abula Leagues – Lagos Abula League and National Abula League. There are lot to suggest as the way forward. Let us have it like this parlance “NO RETREAT, NO SURRENDER AND NO SIT DOWN LOOK”. 
  9. Bring back the DAWN Games and include our Traditional Sports.
  10. Now, I like to bring this paper to a close on a special and spectacular note. I like to let you know that this dress I am wearing to deliver this paper was worn by me 21years ago at HANNOVER 2000, in Germany. This was the dress we wore to perform on stage when we presented some Nigerian Dances. I was a drummer there. I am wearing it today to draw your attention to the fact that we need to adjust immediately by having special and specific outfits for our officiating officials and that the dress should reflect our own culture e.g we can have:
  1. Smart agbada
  2. Specially designed buba 
  3. Smart dansiki
  4. Smart South-South dress
  5. Smart Hausa /Fulani outfit etc
  6. Smart middle belt dress 
  7. Smart South East dress
  8. Smart Aqua-Ibom-Calabar dress etc

This is very important in order to have our identity in the world through our own Indigenous/Traditional Sports.

  1. I hereby use this opportunity to CONGRATULATE the organizers of this week on our Traditional Sports. It is possible to work on it and make it as popular and reputable like the TOCALTI FESTIVAL in Verona City in Italy. It is possible.

This is a special accolade to Hon. Biola Lawal, the new and current chairperson of Lagos State Traditional Sports Association. Bravo. More grease to your elbow and wishing you a wonderfully successful tenure. God bless ma.

Attached is the special template for the construction of TRADITIONAL SPORT ARENA. 

Thank you very much for your attention. 

Mallam Elias Yusuf

NB: This paper is hereby published today to mark the 2nd Anniversary of August 14 as the World Traditional Sports Day as started in 2021 by International Council of Traditional Sports and Games (ICTSG).

Thank you for reading this episode.

Happy Celebration of Interration Traditional Sports Day, 14 August, 2022

A solidarity contribution from

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