Amaju Melvin Pinnick, chairman of the Delta State Sports Commission, here spoke with ISAAC OLAMIKAN on the secret behind the string of successes the state has achieved in recent National Sports Festivals and other issues. Excerpts:

Why Delta is dominating National Sports Festivals
This can be attributed to two factors namely predisposing and facilitating factors. The predisposing factor is the vision of Governor Emmanuel Uduaghan in establishing the state’s sports commission which is the super structure for sustainable sports development.

In 2007 when he sent names of commissioner nominees to the state House of Assembly for consideration he did not include the name of anybody for the sports ministry. Instead he sent a bill to establish the Delta State Sports Commission in line with national thinking. I call that a predisposing factor because the structure that we have not only been developmental but futuristic. The structure is all embracing.

It makes provision for the creation of a platform in the commission for sportsmen who are aging to be replaced by younger ones who are being groomed. So, there is no vacuum. The other factor is the facilitating factor whereby we do strategic planning and prompt release of funds for all our programmes. We do not let lack of funds or bureaucratic bottlenecks to hinder our resolve to maintain the top position in sports. In all these we praise the vision of Governor Uduaghan for sustainable sports development.

We do not poach, rather sportsmen come to the state on their own volition. I hate the word poaching because in this time and age there is what is called free movement of sportsmen. For example, an athlete wins a gold medal for a state and he gets N50,000 as his reward.

If that athlete knows that if he had won the gold medal for Delta State he would be given N1,000,000 which state do you think he would prefer? We have a department that takes care of our athletes welfare as far as their home town. An athlete who knows that winning a gold medal makes him to get N1,000,000 and automatic employment as his reward will be proud to wear the colours of the state that offers him such an opportunity.

What we have done in Delta State is to create a comfort zone. It doesn’t prevent us from doing the needful. I can tell you that close to 90 percent of our medalists at the recent National Sports Festivals were home grown talents.

Governor Uduaghan of Delta State (middle) Team Delta Team Captain, Miss. Ruth Izenegwu (eight) and Mr. Amaju Pinnic, Chairman, Delta State Sports Commission (left) Photo: Henry Unini
File: Governor Uduaghan of Delta State (middle) Team Delta Team Captain, Miss. Ruth Izenegwu (eight) and Mr. Amaju Pinnic, Chairman, Delta State Sports Commission (left) Photo: Henry Unini

To me, poaching is a made up word just to paint our achievements in a negative manner. We do not poach athletes they come to us. We came back from the last National Sports Festival and before Christmas most of our athletes were smiling home with millions of naira. Kingsley Forcados that got nine gold medals in swimming got N9million as reward.

Team Delta captain, Faith, that won six gold medals got N6million reward from the state government. She built a house in Obiaruku with the money she realized from the last two National Sports Festivals. That is in line with the human capital development of the three point plan of the Uduaghan administration. If you look at the global scene, Philip Idowu, a Nigerian, is competing for Great Britain even Daniel Igali that we’re celebrating today competed for Canada. These countries provided platforms for the athletes.

Apart from these things we have put in place to better the living standards of our athletes, we also ensure provision of quality facilities. Athletes need quality facilities to perform. So, if you look at all these factors where is the poaching of athletes that some people talk about come in? The girl that won silver medal for Lagos State in the last sports festival is from Delta State but we are not complaining.
Her parents live in Lagos. We have an Itsekiri man in charge of youth development in Cross River State. That is his comfort zone and we are happy for him. I share a robust relationship with him.

People look for greener pastures; that is the reason they move around. Otherwise, Warri Wolves FC would have been filled with Warri people; Enyimba FC would have been filled by Aba people etc. In sports, we try as much as possible to eliminate all kinds of boundaries.

The Mba saga
Rangers are playing pranks on Agbim, Mba issue. Rangers have been playing a very funny game. In Agbim’s case, we understood they had a goalkeeper that was injured and thus we decided to let them have Agbim. We did a documentation which was supervised by the General Secretary of the Nigeria Football Federation (NFF), Barrister Musa Amadu. We demanded N15million but after intense negotiating we agreed to take N8million and inserted a clause that we’ll be entitled to 30 percent of any future deals on him. That deal was in the last week of last month (April) and they pledged to pay us before May 15. Today is May 14 and they are yet to pay us. The management of Warri Wolves has been instructed to withdraw Agbim’s license. Some people may want to whip up sentiments for Rangers because it is an old team. Some may even want to whip up sentiments for the players because they are national team players.

But to me, one day heroism is not a reason for impunity or going against what the statute says. We released the players to Rangers because of national interest. In the football statute, there is no word like national interest. Rules and regulations must be followed to the letter. In Mba’s case our consultant is discussing with them. We have two very important letters – one from the football federation saying that he is our player and a letter from the League Management Committee (LMC) saying the same thing. We have respected the NFF who mediated in the matter and gave a ruling in our favour. But Rangers are dilly-dallying.

For instance, before the AFCON 2013, Rangers had written to us demanding for these players but we responded that for Mba we’ll collect N12million while for Agbim we demanded  N15million. That is the letter they have been brandishing that “Warri Wolves have agreed to take N12million for Mba.” They are just being mischievous. That letter that has been overtaken by events; that letter that they did not even tender in the course of the investigation into the case.

When I pointed out the date on the letter to the NFF they were appalled at the kind of game Rangers are playing. Mba’s value before the Nations Cup is different from his value after the Nations Cup.

When Thierry Henry went to Arsenal he cost them just 500,000 euros but he was sold for 22million pounds. So, Mba’s value yesterday is not his value today. We are not go to accept peanuts. We know ultimately that Mba is being prepared for overseas. They have secured a club for him. Warri Wolves as the rightful owner of the player will benefit totally from that deal. The essence of the club is not for social services but to make money.

ULO deal
The ULO deal is not new. It actually started last year. The sponsor was impressed with Warri Wolves achievements last season and thus he decided to sponsor the club. In terms of state sponsorship, it is presently the biggest deal. Delta State has the best sporting facilities In all modesty, I don’t think there is any state that has the kind of sporting facilities that abound in Delta State. We have municipal stadia in all the local government areas. We have three gigantic stadia that can host any kind of sports event. The Asaba Stadium called the Stephen Keshi Stadium will be commissioned before December.

There are two world class swimming pools being constructed. One will be ready in June. We’ll commission it with the Chief of Naval Staff swimming competition. Next year we’ll commission the Asaba Swimming pool.

The state benefitted immensely from hosting of African Youth Athletics Championships, AYAC.  The AYAC was a Confederation of Africa Athletics, CAA project. About 40 percent of those that took part in the championship were from Delta State.


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