By Patrick Omorodion
The curtains for the 19th National Sports Festival will be drawn today after 10 days of tough competitions among over 8,000 athletes and once again Team Delta came tops with over a 100 gold medals.
Before the Festival torch is extinguished today, the Sports Ministry will handvover the flag to the host of the 2020 edition who is expected to be announced today.
Already four prospective hosts have put in their bids, according to the Minister of Youth and Sports, Barrister Solomon Dalung. Surprisingly, Cross River state which delayed the festival by six years is one of those bidding to host it. One is tempted to ask why Cross River thinks Nigerians and especially the owners of the festival, the sports ministry, would trust them to be ready to host after what they put Nigerian athletes through these past six years.
Kaduna, Edo and Delta are said to be the other three states also in the race to host the biennial competition which is supposed to be Nigeria’s Olympic Games.
Even though Edo was the first to put in their bid, the entry of Delta is causing jitters in the Edo camp as some people have the belief that with their money power, the sports ministry may just swing the pendulum in their favour.
Delta state has not hosted before because they lacked standard facilities to do so. Their interest may have been rekindled by the completion of the Stephen Keshi stadium in Asaba which has hosted a couple of events, including the African Athletics Championshio and the recent international friendly between the Super Eagles and Uganda.
Edo which hosted the event last in 2002 is optimistic the hosting right will be handed to them. Chairman of the newly created Sports Commission, Barrister Godwin Dudu-Orumen said the state has some advantages over the other bids which will swing the decision in their favour.
Some Edo indigenes are however, not impressed by the bid put in by the Edo government because they see the state government as not truly interested in developing sports or returning the state to its glory days in sports.
Their lack of intetest in sports and the way athletes and officials of the state have been treated these past years is the reason the athletes and officials are leaving the state in droves to other states, especially their sister state, Delta with which as Midwest and Bendel state, they domintated the Nigerian sports scene for long.
Without adequate preparation for the 19th National Sports Festival, Edo state athletes did impress in Abuja and it is believed that when the newly created Edo state sports commission takes off fully and the chairman, Barrister Godwin Dudu-Orumen is given unfettered authority to operate, the 2020 National Sports Festival which the state is bidding to host will produce the best from the athletes.
The non challant attitude of the government towards sports which they still see as mere recreation must change. Governor Godwin Obaseki and his Deputy, Phillip Shaibu must be up and doing to see this happen. No excuse of lack of funds will be accepted by Edo people who are yearning to see their athletes take their pride of place in the country then. The time to begin is now and the corporate world must be approached with vigour to support in funding the competition as the government alone may not be able to carry the load.
Nigeria Olympic Committee votes
It is another election year and the Olympic family is expected to elect a new Board of the Nigeria Olympic Committee, NOC.
The election is due in far away Yola in Adamawa state. All the contestants are not known yet and so one cannot tell if a new lease of life will be injected into the EXCO to ensure that the NOC is freed from the stranglehold of the sports ministry like it has been in the last four years.
Even if Engineer Habu Gumel is returned as president as is most likely, the NOC needs a stronger secretariat headed by a much more focused and reliable secretary general to head it so that federations will get their desired and deserved autonomy. That way, sports will no longer suffer from bureacratic bottle neck which often leads to fire brigade approach to preparations for competitions which has always been a setback for Nigerian athletes.