By Amaju Melvin Pinnick
THE business of news gathering and dissemination, if left in the hands of the Patrick Omorodions of this world, will earn the practitioners an odious reputation, which is reminiscent of the infamous era of tokenism and unethical tirade. It should not be so, not in the 21st Century, as facts remain sacred.
Writing this rejoinder, in reaction to an article with the above-mentioned caption is not to dignify the writer. Rather, it is intended to put the records straight, jettison the impunity of half truths and entrench a culture of developmental journalism that does not thrive on ambush and cheap blackmail.
The author of the article in question, in his sports guard column of Vanguard of December 16, 2012 we can vividly recall, did accuse the Delta State Government of buying up already-made athletes to win national sports festival, lacking in grassroot sports development and canvassing for open sports festivals to pave way for their elite athletes in Europe and America to compete and win, among others. We proudly canvassed for open sports festivals because that is supposed to be the Nigeria’s version of the Olympics where elite sports form the basis of our participation and appearance in international sporting competitions like the Olympics and the Commonwealth Games.
The National Sports Festival as it is now only encourage junior and intermediate sports while there is no relationship and defined transition between the juniors and intermediates on one hand, and between the intermediate and senior categories (elite) on the other hand. So, whether close or open sports festival, Delta State, with its sequence of programmes will always finish in a comfortable position as the structure of the Sports Commission had made it so. While we took exception to the said article of last year, we maintained a dignified silence because it was golden to do so. We also believed that at the appropriate time, we would respond with facts and figures while consigning the vituperations of the columnist to the dustbin of yellow journalism.
The Delta State Sports Commission is patterned after the Chinese Model, where athletes are discovered, nurtured, conditioned and mentored; such that at any given competitive sports, a medal is sure to be won. While not sounding immodest, the hope of Nigeria picking a medal in the Olympics in the next 12 years lie on Delta State. This is so because the technical directorate of the Sports Commission concentrate on catchment areas as it relate to the geographical/topographical terrain of athletes. For instance, swimmers have been discovered in the riverine areas of Torugbene and Obiaruku, wrestlers in remote Ijaw villages; cyclists in Agbor, athletics and other sports have their catchment areas in the State. It is, therefore, no fluke when such athletes, after the necessary exposure, go on and on to win medals for the State and Nigeria. For instance, in the last sports festival held in Lagos which Delta State won in an unprecedented manner, 24 gold medals were garnered in swimming out of the 40 gold medals available in that sports.
In the just-concluded Africa Youth Athletics Championship (AYAC) held in Warri where 36 countries participated, about 40 per cent of the athletes that represented Nigeria were from Delta State. Of the 13 gold medals won by Nigeria in the championship, Delta State accounted for seven which represented 95 per cent. The athletes are all products of grassroot development programmes. This clearly shows that Delta State is churning out quality athletes with future. In the last secondary school games held in Port Harcourt, Delta State emerged second overall best, even though the Ministry of Education has more statutory responsibilities in this regards, the Sports Commission only providing technical and supportive roles.
The Delta State Government initiated a sports summit in the month of October last year where members of the sporting press, stakeholders, ex-internationals and experts brainstormed and aggregated ideas to move sports forward in Nigeria. It is this summit that formed a template which other developmental programmes revolve. A two-month athletics programme christened the “Awoture Eleyae Athletic Championship” is around the corner in Delta State. The programme, segmented into the Junior, Intermediate and Senior categories will start at the ward level to the local government levels and then to the senatorial levels. The Delta State Government cannot, must not and should not be faulted for funding sports. The Government, ipso facto, has no regret doing this. Sports has taken the youths off the streets, minimize crime and given direction and hope to the teeming population.
On Sunday Mba, it is amazing and preposterous that people can throw decorum to the winds to achieve their selfish interests. To further debase this noble pen profession, the author chastised Pa John Ojidoh, an 86-year old wheel chair sports administrator for his comments on the Sunday Mba saga. Today, Pa Ojidoh and indeed all right thinking stakeholders are vindicated, whether or not it took the authorities of the Nigeria Football Federation (NF) time to give their verdict on the ownership of Sunday Mba.
Agreed that Bruce Ijirigho is a proponent of grassroot sports revolution, it is not the character of the Delta State government through the Sports Commission to deprive one of her own from seeking greener pastures, within or outside the country. Truth to tell, we share useful ideas together till this moment, which shows that we are still bonded. It is instructive to at this point advise Patrick Omorodion to toe the line of caution, civility and professionalism so that the organization he represents (which in our estimation is a tabloid of substance) is not caught in the web of libel. Some persons and their employers might not be patient enough. It would be unfortunate through the carelessness of an individual writer cause Vanguard newspaper to pay legal fees when the former seek legal redress.
When governments deliver on their promises, they should not be crucified or vilified. The Delta State Government welcome ideas from all and sundry, to make the society a better place for citizens, investors and the general public.