By Onochie Anibeze
Old School” is a relaxation joint at the National Stadium,Lagos.
Aside food, drinks and music that form part of the entertainment here all football matches are shown on large screen television.
People, especially those with sports background, relax here every evening. They enjoy old school music. Three days ago, I was at this joint after watching interesting scenes at the swimming event of the ongoing National Sports Festival.
There, I met some officials ofDeltaStateand discussion on the festival followed.
“Let’s dedicate our victory to Governor Fashola,” said Etu Moses, one of Delta’s media officers. On this day, Delta’s leadership on the medal’s table was not as convincing as it is today but Moses felt that they were unstoppable. Moses explained that their story might have been different if Governor Babatunde Raji Fashola did not insist on a level-playing field for all and informed thatLagoswas not desperate to win at all cost.
Host states can employ resources, intimidation and all forms of cheating to win a festival inNigeria. Results can be influenced. I once saw a boxing match that the boxer from the host state was so mercilessly beaten that he kissed the canvass so many times and could barely stand in the last round. Shockingly, he was awarded the match but he was so wounded that he could not fight in the final. It happened inNigeria. There was also a kick boxer who was favoured to win a gold in his final match but after officials of the host state met with him he did not show up for the final and claimed that he overslept and did not know when it was time for the final match. Interestingly, the National Sports Commission officials are always sympathetic to host states. And if Fashola wanted to win the ongoing festival, the Nigerian factor would have easily facilitated that. But Fashola has always been Fashola. Upright. Fair. Sincere. Honest and progressive. And that was why he made it clear in the opening ceremony that the ultimate thing in Eko 2012 is sports development and not winning medals at all costs.
When Moses made his points on whyDeltaStateshould dedicate their victory to Fashola, the other Delta officials nodded. I agree with them.Lagoshas hosted well. There were challenges here and there but on a general noteLagoshas scored well in hosting these games. The turn out at events was impressive. Swimming attracted a lot fans. So was Volleyball, Table Tennis, Basketball, Tennis etc. The crowd at the football venues made nonsense of what we see in our football league venues. The only minus was the opening ceremony. There was a good show but the terraces were empty. There was the issue of security which was carried out in a manner that sent fans away. This is one area we always get wrong. Security men sent to sports arena are hardly trained on sports crowd control and the result has always affected stadium attendance. Sometimes we have more fans outside the stadium than inside.Lagoshas promised that the closing ceremony will be superb. I hope that the crowd will be there to make for great ambiance at the stadium on Sunday. Teslim Balogun Stadium inLagosis the place to be on Sunday evening. I encourage all sports lovers to be there to experience what Fashola’s people will offer to us. Fashola himself will be there. It is possible that President Jonathan or his vice will be there. Governor Emmanuel Uduaghan whose state has won four out of the last six festivals and who will add Eko 2012 to his kitty may be there to lift the trophy.
“The good thing about our victory is that we won in virtually all sports. It’s a complete victory and I want to commendLagosStateunder Fashola for insisting on fair play,” Executive Chairman of Delta Sports Commission, Amaju Pinnick said.
Delta held a sports summit tagged DEVELOPING THE NIGERIAN POTENTIAL on October 30. Uduaghan has promised to implement the report in Delta and this will be some revolution in the industry. Cross River has already started theirs and Fashola is equally on the march with the likes of Lee Evans moving to Lagosto develop athletes. Real sports development should start from the local government areas and the states. If we can’t get it right from these local areas and encourage mass participation and proper programmes we will continue to miss the road in sports development. That’s why I hale Fashola, Imoke and I thumb up for Uduaghan whose passion for sports is touching lives in Delta.