By John Egbokhan
With about a month to the start of the 2020 National Sports Festival in Benin City, Edo State has fired a strong warning to rival states that it was primed to host and emerge top of the medals table, when the curtains are drawn on the sporting festival on April 1.
Delta has dominated the last editions of the sports festival, with the likes of Edo, Rivers finishing within the top four brackets but ahead of the national fiesta, which state governors use as bragging rights to flaunt heir sporting prowess and contributions to youth development, the drumbeats of war are already being beaten by those tasked with the job of preparing the athletes for the Games.
One of such eggheads charged with the preparation of athletes is Godwin Dudu-Orumen, Chairman of the Edo State Sports Commission, a renowned sports pundit, who made waves on national television screen, where he analysed soccer matches and burning issues.
Though a lawyer by profession, Dudu-Orumen has always pitched his tent with sports, distinguishing himself with his analytical critique of trending issues, offering possible solutions to areas where he felt administrators were lagging behind. This made him a voice to be reckoned and in hindsight caught the attention of the Edo State Governor, Godwin Obaseki, who appointed him the Chairman of the State Sports Commission.
Set to face his biggest baptism of fire soon at the National Sports Festival, Dudu-Orumen has been working round the clock to ensure that he delivers the goodies in terms of gold medals and speaking in an interview with Sports Vanguard, he pointed out that all hands were on deck to make the festival a remarkable and memorable one for all indigenes of Edo State.
He said, ‘’we are good to go for everything and I am positive we will do our best and our best will be good enough to win the National Sports Festival and give joy to all sons and daughters of this great and wonderful state with a rich tradition in sports.
‘’Our aim is to get everything good out of the festival. It is like building a brand, all the ingredients have to be in place to get the best results. You have to prepare and develop talents because all the sports are mainly Olympic events, so at the end of the day, the aim is to groom athletes who will go on to become exceptional professionals in their areas of specialization’’, added Dudu-Orumen, founder of the popular Lagos sports hangout, Sportsshaq.
As a precursor to the 2020 National Sports Festival, Edo State recently hosted its own mini sports festival, which featured athletes from all 18 local government areas at the University of Benin sports complex in Ugbowo.
During his speech, read extempore at the closing ceremony of the festival, Edo State Deputy Governor, Philip Shaibu said the athletes who would represent the State were going to be the ones who excelled at the 3rd Edo State Sports Festival
According to Shaibu, who won four gold medals in golf for his local government and skippered the football team to win silver at the festival, ‘’this competition gave us the opportunity to select athletes who will represent us at the national games, which we are also hosting in Edo State.
During these games, a lot of surprises were recorded in swimming and athletics and we will be seeing new athletes at the National Sports Festival.
‘’Through this festival, we were able to discover athletes we had not seen before and have been able to discover raw talents from the hinterlands. For us, this is the beginning of the return of sports to the native land which is Edo State’’, added Shaibu.
In his assessment of the Edo State Sports Festival, which he is Chairman of the Local Organising Committee, Dudu-Orumen said ‘’we cannot claim perfection but overall it went well and gave us the opportunity to discover new athletes and also test the level of our preparedness for the bigger one which we are hosting next month.
‘’It was a good outing and we are very grateful to Mr. Governor for providing the resources and the investment in sports and preparations for the National Sports Festival. It was a worthwhile experience and as an individual, I am very impressed with the outing’’, added Orumen.
He said the idea to feature athletes discovered from the mini-festival at the upcoming National Sports Festival was a deliberate attempt to encourage excellence over mediocrity.
‘’The idea has always been to promote excellence and since they excelled, it is only logical that we take them to the next level of intensive activity and we can assure you that we have a team capable of excelling at the national level’’, Dudu-Orumen said,
A recurring issue at the National Sports Festival is that of states poaching athletes from other states for the sole purpose of winning medals and justify the huge budget provided by respective state governors.
It remains to be seen if this practice would resurrect at the 2020 festival but Dudu-Orumen told Sports Vanguard that Edo State would not be involved in such cheap route to amassing gold medals all for the sake of finishing top of the medals table because ‘’Edo State is not part of that business and would not be involved in such a practice’’.
With a rich record in sports punditry, criticizing other people’s actions, Dudu-Orumen is now charting a new course of action which he hopes would help Edo State reclaim its pride of place as the hub of sports in the country and hopefully the destination point for others in Africa.
According to him, ‘’the ultimate target is to make Edo State the destination point for sports in Nigeria, the hub of sports business and sports activities. It is a long-term plan, in fact, we have a four-year plan which the Governor has approved and we are working on a superstructure that will deliver Edo State sports over 15 years and can be re-engineered from time to time’’.
On the change of name from sports ministry to sports commission, he said, ‘’the change from sports council and sports ministry to sports commission is a systemic change as we are bringing all the competencies on board to ensure that Edo State sports are repositioned for greater efficiency and performance and make it rewarding to all stakeholders.
‘’Government has invested enormously in training of human capital and building and upgrading facilities to meet international standards so that we can groom young men and women who are going to participate and make us proud at the national, continental and global levels.