ASABA – (Federal Ministry of Youth & Sports Development Report) – President Muhammadu Buhari has declared the 21st National Sports Festival tagged: “Delta 2022” open with a charge to all participating athletes to compete fairly, shun all forms of anti-social behaviour and the use of performance-enhancing substances, so as to come out magnanimous in victory and gracious in defeat.
The release issued by the Director of Press in the Ministry, Mohammed Manga on Wednesday 30th November 2022 noted that the President who gave the charge at the Stephen Keshi Stadium in Asaba, Delta State disclosed that the ceremony was another landmark achievement by his Administration in the area of sports development in the country.
The President who was represented by the Minister of Youth and Sports Development, Mr Sunday Dare commended all the Stakeholders, Delta State Government in particular for working assiduously to deliver a successful festival that the nation can be proud of. He called on other States to emulate them.
While explaining that the National Sports Festival since inception in 1973 has been one of the measures that the Federal Government introduced in the aftermath of the civil war to renew the fabric of social cohesion and to promote the common destiny of the Nigerian people, he stressed that the architects of the festival recognized the unifying power of sports and sought to create a platform that would bring young Nigerians together in an edifying contest of wits, will and skill.
The President who thanked the Government and people of Delta State for keeping their promise of hosting the festival in line with the dreams of the founding fathers, such as General Yakubu Gowon, late Major General Henry Adefope, Brigadier General Samuel Ogbemudia among other illustrious patriots who brought this great event into being, noted that his administration believes in providing an enabling environment and equal opportunity for every Nigerian, irrespective of where he or she is from.
“This is one of the reasons why in the last two editions of the festival, every restriction hitherto placed on the participation of Nigerians in the diaspora was expunged from the rule book, thus creating an opportunity for all Nigerians, wherever they are based in the world to come home and participate in this biennial event, ” the President hinted.
He affirmed that the cardinal objective of his administration is the pursuit of youth development through initiatives that empower and create jobs as a lynchpin of national development goals which is why the National Sports Industry Policy was approved by the Federal Executive Council. The sports sector, he added, must become a business from which we will reap untold dividends in employment, manufacturing, investments and increased national productivity.
He further called on the private sector to join hands with Government in opening a new chapter in sporting history by investing massively in this sector. He stressed that sports can absorb the dynamic energies of youths, give them a sense of purpose and pride and provide platforms for them to demonstrate their gifts on a global stage.
The President observed that throughout its history, the National Sports Festival has been the nursery and breeding ground of some of the most legendary names in the annals of Nigeria’s sports history. He identified super stars like Innocent Egbunike, Chidi Imoh, Henry Amike, Yusuf Ali, Davidson and Osmond Ezinwa, Mary Onyali, Falilat Ogunkoya, Faith Idehen and Beatrice Utondu, among others as having emerged through this festival, using it as a springboard to international stardom.
Many of these remarkable men and women, he said went on to enjoy highly decorated careers as record breakers and record makers and thus called on the athletes at the festival to follow the examples of these stars, so as to achieve greater heights in history.
Earlier in his welcome address, the Executive Governor of Delta State, Senator Ifeanyi Okowa (Dr) commended the President Muhammadu Buhari-led Administration for granting the State the hosting rights for the 2022 edition of the festival. While assuring a hitch-free festival, Ifeanyi Okowa appreciated the Main and Local Organizing Committees for the months of sacrifice, dedication and planning with a view to meeting the aspirations of the Councils and Nigerians, as well as the preparations that have gone into making the occasion a success.
Also speaking, the Minister of Youth and Sports Development, Mr Sunday Dare stated that the National Sports Festival is the biggest sports fiesta in Nigeria, where both professional and home-based athletes converge to display their prowess as well as serve as one of the avenues where young talents are discovered and nurtured for the podium.
The Minister represented by the Permanent Secretary in the Ministry, Alhaji Ismaila Abubakar thanked the Delta State Government for accepting to host the Games as well as the 36 States of the Federation and FCT for their participation. He reverred that globally sports has gone beyond recreational activities to becoming businesses. He assured that his Ministry will work assiduously to ensure that sports in Nigeria is reclassified to a business status.
Other dignitaries who graced the occasion include: the Executive Governors of Bayelsa State – Douye Diri; Edo State – Godwin Obaseki; Sokoto State – Aminu Tambuwal as well as the Chairman of the House Committee on Sports – Olumide Osoba (Hon).