By Onochie Anibeze
The ovation was still loud when Patrick Ekeji stood from his chair, turned to me and said “this is good for sports.”I waited to hear more from him but he looked sideways and repeated, “This is good for sports, this is good for sports.”
That captured the evening and he needn’t say more. He was awed and felt good. He had just finished presenting Governor Emmanuel Uduaghan an award for sports development and the governor went ahead to announce awards for the Delta athletes for their performance at the Garden City Games where they placed second. Rivers hosted and won.
Ekeji was not only awed by the governor’s motivation of his athletes but the entire package. The night at the Grand Hotel was, perhaps, one of the most exciting many had experienced.
It was an award night for the athletes but, like Delta has always done in sports, it went beyond that. It was an entertainment night and a day that Delta announced what could be another milestone in their campaign to improve the lots of the people through sports. It was a night of inspiration, fun, glamour, laughter and a day I would like to relive again and again and again.
In these days of hardship when hard news only adds to our despair such nights help in relieving tension in our hearts. I so thoroughly enjoyed it that I felt younger and longed for more. We had a field day. It was also part of the activities to mark the 20th anniversary of the creation of Delta State. So, apart from athletes, politicians and Deltans from all shades of life graced the day. Uduaghan attended with the wife, Rolly who presented an award to Steve Onyeacholum.
The swimming coach had retired as a Director of Sports, at the Garden City Games and one of the high points of the night was the award to honour him. Steve has lived for sports. His knowledge of sports stands him out. His records and achievements make him iconic.
Emotions went high when Willy Soho, Director of Orientation at the state Ministry of Information read the citation on Steve. He also wrote it. It was so moving that Uduaghan described Steve as still young and promptly appointed him a sports consultant to the state sports commission. Steve lives on sports and for sports.
It was a night of emotions and thrills from the comedians and artists who dazzled all. Those who follow the entertainment industry in the country can imagine an atmosphere where the likes Ay, Gordons, Sheyi Law, Wwizkero entertained in a two hour programme that also had popular musician Timaya thrilling the audience. Eboh Boh also performed. The star of the night was elegant Tiwa Savage who was performing in Asaba for the first time. I’m sure her stage performance on the night would attract more businesses to her in Delta. Permit me to say that she jammed everybody up.
Her show was a symbol of irony. Her attributes can easily win her a place for modeling, elegant, cute and with a musical catwalk. Her stage dancer was a world of difference, a massive girl whose “orobo” size on its own was eye-catching. What more her dancing. When she danced, the stage vibrated and the audience was submissively engaged.
A comedian even joked that men who attend such shows with their wives had a way of steadying their eyes on the stage while condemning the performance and even wondering why it should be allowed. What thrilled most was when Tiwa pulled her shoes to challenge her dancer in the act and art, telling all to judge between “lepa and orobo.” While the Orobo display wowed all the Lepa moves sent many into dreams. They created a scene that really entertained.
The place was full of athletes whose Delta outfits added colour to the atmosphere. It was their night and Udughan made them savour it. He announced, as usual, automatic employment for gold and silver medalists aside the monetary rewards. Gold medalists became N500,000 richer while silver medalists got N300,000 each.
Bronze medal winners won N200,000 each and even those who didn’t win anything got N50,000 as some kind of participation bonus. The athletes cheered, gave high fives to each other and vowed to do more. Uduaghan was not done. He said that one great way to develop sports was to take it back to the schools and recalled the impact Griam Cup had in Nigeria over 40 years ago.
He said that Delta would revive such events. In the place of Griam Cup, he announced Awoturu Eleya Cup, to honour the sports icon and also develop sports from the grassroots. Ovation continued. Chief host of the night, Amaju Melvin Pinnick, Chairman of Delta Sports Commission was proud of the day.
He had commended the athletes and paid glowing tribute to the sports loving governor. He said their second place in Rivers was temporal and that they will regain their first position in Lagos, a vow that the governor charged the athletes to ensure it happens.
“There must be a way to strategise to combine education and sports and re-enact the Griam days. This is what we will start in Delta immediately. Let there be sports in schools and this should start from next season.”
Ekeji is the man who runs sports at the national level and he repeatedly said in his speech that Nigerian sports would be nothing if there were no sports at the state levels and commended the great steps Delta has been taking in sports. And as he walked out of the hall after the governor left, he maintained his few words: “This is good for sports. This is good for sports.” The words said it all