The recently concluded National Sports Festival – tagged EDO 2021 – has come and gone, leaving behind it a sweet trail and lessons from which Nigeria ought to draw strength, inspiration and impetus, as well as set the tone for victory in the run up to similar great festivals in the future.
One of the most interesting things about the last National Sports Festival was that after the politics and challenges that characterised its planning, leading to series of postponements, the minister of sports galvanised the state sports leadership, the directors of sports and other significant shareholders that eventually pulled the elephants’ and lions’ powers to come together, embrace peace, accept the reality and move forward.
It should be noted that the event, did give our youths satisfaction in their respective areas of competition as well as meet the needs of sporting sponsors and individual ancillary interest that feed through sporting activities. Nigeria has almost 100 private, state and federal universities which constitute an indisputable terrain for youth development, education and also a fertile ground for discovery of sporting talents.
Ironically, most of the professors and academicians some of who studied in Harvard and Oxford Universities as well as in some of Nigeria’s elite Institutions, seem not to have infused enough wisdom and truth in the youth, seeing the way they conduct themselves, seeming to operate without defined goals.
The fact remains that wisdom and truth make the difference in all things pertaining to youths in the vast competitive world that lays ahead of them in their respective fields and which the ideals of healthy competition inspire.
Sport offers youth the opportunity to excel in fairness, clarity and love which are virtues they can eventually carry into political, entrepreneural, and civil service life where honor and prestige do matter. like in the political arena where the national flag is raised for a wining candidate at the end of a political convention, so is the raising of flag symbolic in the life of youths when the nation’s flag is raised as they mount the podium to receive their accolades at the end of a competition.
The Minister of Sport Sunday Dare deserves immense commendation of the general public for successfully addressing internal and external challenges that would have prevented the discovery of the new talents and new record set during the Edo festival.
His management teams were up and doing, especially the Permanent Secretary Mr Nebeolise Anako who though new in the system was highly involved in the thick of the event as well as maintained effective working relationship with Edo state government in a way that ensured the success of the games.
It is worthy of note that the sports festival made it possible for the state government to upgrade the costly facilities in the stadium to the benefit of Nigeria’s sporting family.
A high point of the NSF is the reversal of the pre-festival dampened spirit of the youth, due to disruptions arising from the coronavirus pandemic.
The success of the festival restored hope and brightness to the youths as many talents were discovered and they now looked forward to represent Nigeria Internationally in due course. Also, veterans and stakeholders who converged on the state had opportunity to access and proffer solutions to the myriad of problems confronting sporting activities.
Interestingly, the hosting right for the next sport festival in 2022 has been granted to Delta state, a state with glowing sporting pedigree and incidentally the winner of Edo sporting 2021. State directors of sport featured their athletes from the grass root, showering them with incentives.
Most attractive was employment assured to gold medalists by some state governors such as Edo, Delta and Rivers. Equally very attractive was the offer from the Inspector General of Police Mr Alikali Usman to source for young athletes from the 36 stated of the federation and the FCT who would be employed and trained for the enhancement of the Nigeria Police Force.
The festival was a good forum for state directors of sport to elect their leaders from the six geopolitical zones and to re-elect the representatives of the federations, with Mr Issac Issac emerging as the new chairman from the South-east.
The Edo state government indeed delivered a boisterous performance and has accordingly retained her credit as a prominent sport loving state. there was enough and conducive accommodation for over 9,000 athletes and officials who participated in the championship in a marvelous atmosphere of order and security that made life homely. most importantly, there was strict adherence to the Covid-19 protocols.
The National Sports Festival remains a perfect event that unites states, stakeholders, veterans of sport and youths and thus is ”the symbol for discovery”.
Okafor writes from Abuja.