Adams Oshiomhole, Governor of Edo State
By Iredia Osakue
Once upon a time, Edo state was the center of attraction for sports with first class equipment and training kits. Those days, the state and country were proud of "made in Edo State" athletes in consideration of their hard work and winning ability. In national festivals and international engagements, Edo State athletes were distinguished by their excellence, determination, ability and unflinching loyalty.
With their commitment and desire to excel, they brought medals, economic prosperity, and honor to the state. And upon arrival, they are given grand reception by the government - with a cash gift, scholarship, employment, and promotion. This, in fact, brought pride and sense of belonging to the athletes and stakeholders.
In consideration of the government's gesture of goodwill, youths were motivated to engage in sporting activities with the foreknowledge that if they excel, "their lives will change for the better." This was the principal determinant that gave rise to the popular mantra, "catch them young" that was at that time synonymous to the state.
In preparation for sports festivals, other states in Nigeria rush to Edo state with suitcases filled with a stash of banknotes in search of athletes that will represent their states. In spite of this, the state thrived and remained unbeatable. In view of the exodus of athletes to other states, it often appears that Edo athletes were competing against themselves as their opponents were their training partners that left because of incentives. "Third eleven" of Edo state athletes were given national honors for their performance in other states. This was a sign that the state had enough athletes that can at any point win medals.
At one time, Edo state sports council was a viable source of youth employment, development and empowerment. Many whose parents could not afford school fees were quickly advised to engage in sports with the aim of becoming a champion and thus become useful to society, themselves and family.
Alas, in this present system the reverse has become the case. Youths are no more interested in fitness or engaging in sporting activities. Like what a friend said; Edo state that at a time pride herself in producing seasoned athletes now produce "hard men" who wield guns and other war paraphernalia for survival. Twice pity!
This can be attributed to simple incompetence and lackluster approach towards sports by the government. The yesteryears of Edo state as a sport loving state has been dwarfed by the present administration's lack of interest in sports development. When youths engage in sports, it brings about a healthy society, discipline, values of sportsmanship, the well-being of men and women with sound minds in sound bodies.
In terms of infrastructure, the famous Ogbe Stadium built by Brigadier Samuel Ogbemudia is in fact in a sorry state and it will require the grace of God for it to stand the test of time if not attended to. The extent of infrastructural decay is so appalling that many of the training facilities are dangerous and unhealthy for athletes to use. The ruins is akin to a state devastated by a tsunami. A horrendous smell emanating from dumped debris pervades the entire complex and helpless neighboring streets. The inherent danger is the free movement of rats: the carrier of the killer Lassa fever. As if not enough, when it is windy, athletes running on the track are apprehensive as they fear that zincs could fly off from the reserve seat zone and wreck havoc.
The writer fervently appeals to the government to rise to the occasion by putting a new lease of life to the structural decay at Ogbe Stadium and regenerate the state to its enviable position in sports. The state will be doing a great deal of favour to sports enthusiasts and, above all, to athletes who do not have other means of survival than training, competing and bringing medals and glory to the state.
Below are pictures of some of the training facilities and offices in ruins:
Iredia Osakue, a scholar, political analyst and public commentator on national and global issues writes from Turin, Italy.
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