It feels so good and it’s the best way to do it. I don’t think there will be any bigger tournament this year again for me to do that. Featuring cricket for the first time at the African Games is a plus and not just that, we were ranked well enough to participate. I’m so happy, having that honour with the players and some of the board members as well as other important people who were around. And I see people are really happy for me.

We were there as the lowest ranked and we needed to prove a point. So, for us, we put our body and soul to it and on our own, we did a lot, beyond what the technical crew demanded from us. That was the energy we had in Ghana and it shows how far we have come, regardless of how we rank compared to the other teams. It’s a golden bronze indeed because playing third-place isn’t easy and we are so proud of it. When you play a final, you are guaranteed a medal, either gold or silver. But in our case, it was either bronze or nothing. So, it’s a golden bronze for us.

Honestly, this is the biggest medal I won in my career and a sign of greater things to come for the girls. I am sure at the next Games, we will go for something bigger.

Those tears weren’t about the caps, it was because we could have won that game but eventually, we did not because of some few errors. I’ve lost a lot of matches and I don’t feel that way, but that one was very important because it could have pushed us further in our bid to reach the World Cup but it is what it is.

I wanted to retire last year, when we won the NCF T20i invitational in Lagos but I wasn’t really convinced that I had done enough at that time. I didn’t tell anyone either, so I just kept it all to myself and gave it more time. At the last World Cup qualifiers in Uganda too, the thoughts flashed again and I wasn’t considering it because of performance. I was still performing but I felt I needed time to concentrate on my development work back home with younger players that I train and other plans I have for myself. For instance, I have been gone for two months this year and there has really been nothing much for them to do without me. So, after this year’s NCF tournament in Lagos, I made up my mind that it was time but I must do something big and win something for the nation.

I told them through our team manager. Coach Oyede was not really in support but he respected my decision and everyone did as well. Before our last match, I also told the players to get ready to cross the bats for me and thankfully, there was no pressure of wanting to win the game because I was retiring afterwards. I felt their tears, they are happy for me and everything is for the best.

First of all, I was an athlete representing my school in races. I started cricket while I was in primary four at Akanji Nursery and Primary school in Lawanson, Surulere, Lagos. During break time, I usually didn’t play too much because I was very shy. So, I’d just eat and stay in one corner and watch some pupils playing cricket. I didn’t even know the name of the game then but I found it amusing, seeing them hitting the ball and chasing it. There was a particular senior of mine, Perpetua, who noticed me and came to ask me which state I was from and I told her Akwa Ibom. The next day, I was watching again and she was like, ‘Calabar girl, do you want to play?’ And I said yes. She just handed the bat to me without any explanation and told me to go and play and I didn’t ask her for how to play either. We were using tennis balls, and I realised they couldn’t explain to me because they didn’t know much, so we all just enjoyed ourselves together. Later, some coaches from Howzat Foundation for Cricket came to our school to introduce it officially, so from there, I started picking interest. In 2006, they organised a coaching clinic for students at the stadium in Surulere and I learnt more. I went to Onitolo Community Junior and Senior Secondary School as well, and my cricket career kind of went to another level from there. I represented my school at junior and senior levels and also became captain. Our principal then was a woman, Mrs. Oni, and she supported us. Anytime we had tournaments at the Tafawa Balewa Square, she would even come with her husband.

In 2011, there was an all-rounder course in South Africa and two of us were selected to attend. It was like a pathway for us to be invited for other programmes and they were impressed. So, the same year, we were invited for the ICC Women’s World Cup qualifiers in Uganda – the first time the female team would play an international tournament. The captain then was Azeezat Adegboyega. It was new to us because it was our first time playing internationally and I got my first international award there. I won the Player of The Match and I scored only 19 runs. Two years later, I went back to South Africa for that same course, but there was a kind of break for cricket in Nigeria until 2015 when we were invited to Tanzania with the Mumbai Indians and the Tanzanians. That was when I became the captain.

When I became captain, I was much younger and the players around were more or less my contemporaries. So, it required a lot of humility, wisdom and I knew how to cover lapses and talk to my teammates when it came to sharing responsibilities, especially. Compared to these days, it hasn’t been easy but for the fact that I am also a Development Officer in Akwa Ibom State, I am surrounded with a lot of young players who even started the game under me. Dealing with the younger players is about assessment, especially as it has to do with their level of exposure and mentality.  Somehow, studying Sociology and Anthropology also worked for me. It helps me to know how to handle younger ones individually and even as a group. All the same you have to bring yourself down.

I got support from my grandma. She was always on my side, at the time it was difficult to get support from others. At that point I was also into athletics, representing my school in relay races and all of that. I once dislocated my hips and during treatment, my grandma asked me to choose between athletics and cricket, and if I don’t, I would have to stop both. That was when I decided it was cricket, although I still did athletics on the side without her knowledge.

Apart from personal plans, I have not been doing so much as a Development Officer, so, I need to dedicate more time and channel my energy to the development of more players in our state. There is an U-19 tournament coming up and I want them to be part of it, as well as some other endeavours aside cricket, including business.

To be sincere, they are not in our league, but we all play for Nigeria. They are more influential because of how much they make and football is the biggest sport anywhere in the world. Sometimes we walk like nobody on the streets but that doesn’t take away the dignity of representing our country. A lot of people, even in Akwa Ibom State, where we have four national team players, when I tell them I am a coach, they ask if it’s football and I tell them cricket. Usually what I do is bring out my phone and show them videos of what we are doing.

We have been striving. We have a lot of challenges but we put that aside. The dedication is there and the federation is eager to do more. I believe we can get to that level. The dedication to develop female cricket has been very high in recent years. That medal we won was for our (Nigeria Cricket Federation) president Uyi Akpata. Before, players didn’t get paid, but now there is a contract. Some of us are in school on scholarships because we are playing cricket and there is less challenge for them at home because parents know there is nothing to worry about. I want it to continue, even when this administration changes.

Striving and wanting more in the game can cause one to have regrets but for me, no. I feel really fulfilled that I don’t even look at the other side. And as a Development Officer, it gives me more joy and will continue to give me more satisfaction to see the younger ones become more successful. The future holds a lot, in fact the immediate future, so I will be glad to see all of them benefit from efforts of the NCF like the exchange programme in South Africa, when the time comes. People will say when a player is progressing, they don’t remember their coaches, it’s a lie, the players won’t tell you they gave their coach this or that. But they do a lot, even if it’s not money. Sometimes, when they acknowledge your efforts, it goes a long way as