BY: Uduak Nseabasi

Sports is a very prominent social institution in almost every society because it combines the characteristics found in any institution with a unique appeal only duplicated by, perhaps, religion. It relates perfectly with socialization and social change, while its evolution from a playful, participation oriented activity to one that resembles a corporate form guided by the principles of commercialism and entertainment is almost a new world order. 
The role of sports in international relations and national development dramatizes its political meaning to many societies, yet, its followership, passion, philosophy of healthy rivalry, fair contest, economic viability and peace building, all contributes to justify its global reckoning as the Game of the Peoples.

At the centre of a well crafted strategic roadmap to galvanize the institution of State to harness the window of business opportunities in sports, and its attendant social and political credentials is the Executive Governor of Akwa Ibom State, His Excellency, Mr. Udom Gabriel Emmanuel, whose commitment to the development of the Game is legendary, justifying his growing public perception as the Pillar of Sports in the contemporary Nigerian society, and a vivid national acknowledgement as ‘Nigeria’s Most Sports Loving Governor’ by no less a personality than the Honourable Minister of Sports, Solomon Dalung, himself a Lawyer.

On the heels of these and other commendable accolades from well meaning private and public sector institutions at home and in the diaspora is the instructive need to further assert the fact that Akwa Ibom State Government has passionately articulated sustainable policy programs with the object of integrating sports into the core of its aggressive industrialization drive based on the Governor’s 5 point agenda, and has deliberately worked above board to develop sporting infrastructures in almost all regions of the State’s geographical ecosystem, build the capacities of sports administrators, promoters and managers, adopt a commensurate and enviable reward system for athletes and, set machineries in motion for the discovery and nurturing of a pool of talents for national/international marketing and appreciation.

Governor Udom Emmanuel’s commitment to invest massively in aggressive sports development overflows from his overall vision to construct seamless platforms for the society to create sustainable wealth and generate decent employments for the teeming and vibrant young people as a means of exploiting their creative energies for industry and enterprise, rather than leave them idle and hopeless to engage in evil machination and escalation of violent crimes. To herald this new beginning, he was thus greeted into office with the National Federation Cup, the longest serving football competition and continental ticket won by Akwa United in 2015. 
He would later engage Elder Paul Bassey, a renowned global sports technocrat as Senior Special Assistant on Sports Development and Chairman of Akwa United Football Club, and followed up with promotion of a celebrated sports man and former Super Eagles playmaker, Coach Aniedi Dickson to the rank of Permanent Secretary and assigned to the Youth/Sports Ministry and the appointment of an Olympic Games Medallist in Weightlifting, Mr. Lawrence Iquaibom as the State Director of Sports. This feat of fitting square pegs in square holes has been complimented with proper funding of the State Teams leading to a renewed vigour that has boosted the morale of players and Management Teams to be challenged for excellence, little wonder Akwa United is already being touted as the Premier League ‘winners elect’, with about 8 matches to close this Nigerian Professional Football League season which has seen the Uyo-based side dazzle good football and on a weekly basis, and the glamorous relocation of the Super Eagles home ground to the Nest of Champions in Uyo are all hallmarks of vision.

Another remarkable policy thrust of Government in the area of sports development is the twin vision of developing ultra modern Sports infrastructure in the entire State, while also simultaneously working out strategic initiatives to reinvigorate school sports to discover new talents at their formative years. This approach which has placed the Governor strictly in a class of his own, seeks to remodel existing facilities in Stadia across the State, while also building new Ultra Modern Sport Arcades in the 10 federal Constituencies of the State. As we speak, structural works at the second of such Sport Centres at Onna for Eket Federal Constituency is progressing at a faster rate, besides the one for Itu Federal Constituency at West Itam Secondary School having already been designed, built, commissioned and handed over by the Ministry of Youth/Sports within the first year of the Udom Emmanuel administration. Bearing in mind the awaiting concern of the Sport Centres as a breeding grown for talents, the Government ensured that artificial turf and tartan tracks were deployed to compliment other ancillary facilities for Football, Basketball, Volleyball, Handball, Lawn Tennis, Athletics and a host of other games.

Also, the Youth Sports Festival, a biannual State mini Olympic Games which effectively activated the sports philosophy of “catch them young’, and which hopefully would soon be enacted into a Law by the State House of Assembly to strengthen its corporate focus, regulate its organisation, administration, management, funding and sustainability, had its first edition between March 22 and 26, 2017 at Venues across the State, attracting over 7000 athletes who competed for honours in over 25 sports, at the end of which Oruk Anam emerged as the overall Winners. The ideation and clinical delivery of the Festival by the Udom Emmanuel administration once again brought to bear, the ingenuity of Akwa Ibom people to break new grounds, push new frontiers, consolidate on their pioneering efforts for national excellence, and highlighted the very virtues of sports itself: tolerance, humility, fairplay, teamwork, cooperation, dedication, endurance and unity of purpose.

There is no doubting the fact that Governor Udom Emmanuel had achieved the strategic objective of the Festival which is to raise talents that will be exported for national and international sports representation, a necessary reflection and call for action proclaimed by the Governor himself after team Nigeria could only manage one Bronze medal at the Rio Summer Games. By the time the maiden edition of the Festival had ended, over 2000 budding talents were identified and are currently being groomed to rise to stardom and dominate the world of sports. Among the discovered talents was a 5 year old Table Tennis youngster who dazzled the crowd with mercurial skills, awesome prowess and promising future who was instantly taken over for sponsorship by the President of Nigeria Tennis Federation.

Just last week, reports filtered in from the mass media to the effect that Eket Township Stadium is soon to wear a new look. According to statements credited to the Ministry of Youth/Sports, there emerged indications that the State Executive Council has given approval for the complete overhaul and remodelling of the existing Eket Stadium facility to a 15,000 seating capacity with other allied facilities such as Basket Ball Court, Lawn Tennis Pitch, Artificial turf, Tartan Tracks, Flood Light, Medical Bay, Conference Room, Referee’s Changing Rooms and Media Studio. With this, and the planned reconstruction of Oron and Ikot Abasi Stadia, the Governor who is poised to commission the new Eket Stadium later in the year has consolidated on his passion to dot all nook and crannies of the State with modern sport facilities and enhanced infrastructure, thus deserves commendation and loud ovation.

Nevertheless, despite these plausible ideals of the Governor in the world of Sports, it is still very doubtful if the initiatives would have seen the light of the day but not for the studious and participatory management principles of Sir Monday Ebong Uko, the Honourable Commissioner and his team in the Ministry of Youth/Sports. There is no doubt that Sir Monday Uko, a certified grassroots technician and consummate entrepreneur has made a mark of excellence in the Sports Ministry. As a team player, the Commissioner has inspired his team of officers to work out their best and achieve set goals, perhaps; this explains why the Governor singled out the Ministry of Youth/Sports for special commendations for their “effective interpretation and execution of his vision for sports development in the State”. As an astute administrator, Sir Monday Uko, a former Chairman of Obot Akara Local Government Area who emerged as the overall best Local Government Chairman in the State in 2007 came to office on the combined pedigree of innovative human resource management skills for optimum service delivery in the public/ private sectors and approaches his Ministerial responsibilities with poise, focus, zeal, dexterity, selflessness and sparkling humility, which informs why the Ministry of Youth and Sports under his watch has achieved so much within the period, and has set a template for quality service delivery and innovative sports administration in the country.

On the last note, it is important and highly beneficial for the people of Akwa Ibom State to continue to build a rampart of support for the Governor as he pushes ahead with his renewed drive and spirited efforts to create wealth, employments and the inspiration to open a new vista for sports excellence in the State. A projection into the future of the State with 10 ultramodern Sport Academies, the biannual Youth Sports Festival, the prompt and proper funding of State Teams in the different Leagues, enhanced reward system for athletes, reconstruction of Stadia across the State, and many others: all points to the future of our dear State as the centre of Sports Excellence, and is indeed a major point for the Udom Emmanuel administration.

SPORTS EXCELLENCE: UDOM’S MAJOR POINT! SPORTS EXCELLENCE: UDOM’S MAJOR POINT! Reviewed by getitrightnigerians on 19:05:00 Rating: 5

1 comment:

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