Early this week, President Muhammadu Buhari swung into action in reaction to the increasing cases of the deadly COVID-19 in the country.
The President called off the 20th National Sports Festival, Edo 2020 and put in place other measures aimed at curbing the spread of the deadly virus.
Before President Buhari’s suspension of the National Sports Festival, the host state, Edo had since declared its readiness with state-of-the-art facilities, the hospitality industry had been motivated and the indigenes sensitised.
Every athlete, every official, and the locals were all ready for the commencement of the fiesta. “Edo is ready for Edo 2020,” Crusoe Osagie, SA Media and Communication Strategy to Governor Godwin Obaseki told this reporter a fortnight ago. The entire state was in a festive mood.
A lot had been put into the preparations that the announcement of the postponement struck them like a thunderbolt.
Brown Ebewele, Co-ordinator, Team Edo was not amused by the postponement but inadvertently surrendered to the time tested aphorism, prevention is better than cure.
“Everybody, including myself is demoralised. It was bad news for all Edo people – the athletes, officials, sports enthusiasts, and the general public. It was indeed, shocking news to all of us,” Ebewele said. He informed that, as a result of the postponement, the authorities were now trying to settle the athletes as per allowances, transportation back to their various bases after decamping them.
Asked if he felt it was safe to continue with the festival despite the rampaging COVID-19 pandemic and the ensuing panic across the globe? Ebewele simply said, “sentimentally, I would have loved to see the festival go on as planned, but we cannot claim to be different from the rest of the world.
All sporting activities have been halted across the world. Our case cannot be different. Prevention, they say, is better than cure. We are part of a larger world, so the postponement is in order.”
Benin-based Barnabas Uzosike of Vanguard Newspapers reports that the traders were hard hit by the postponement. “You know all along, the people had been assured that the National Sports Festival would go ahead as planned. Some of the traders had stocked their shops and warehouses in anticipation of high sales during the festival.
Now everything, every plan has been blown apart by the late pronouncement by government. They are all devastated and nobody knows what to do next,” Uzosike said.
He reports that apart from the traders, those in the hospitality industry, hoteliers, operators of entertainment spots, cultural centres among other sectors have all been affected by the postponement. “For Edo people, the festival meant so much. They can’t wait to get it started,” Uzosike said.
Chris Eseosa, a taxi driver in Benin who had all along been looking for better business during the festival said he was worst hit.
“I have worked hard to put my cab in better shape so as to attract expected visitors and be part of the festival. I had expected an upward swing in my fortunes because the festival would have brought more visitors to Benin and there would have been an upsurge in everything,” he reasoned.
He pointed out that even the sachet water seller was expecting better time if the festival was allowed to hold.
However, none of our respondents was blind to the fact that the postponement was inevitable as the world has become a global village and Nigeria cannot be an exception.