The choice of Edo State as host of the 2020 edition of the National Sports Festival is not going down well with some athletes and officials of Delta and Imo State.
Edo State was announced host of the 20th edition of the fiesta on Sunday by Sports Minister, Solomon Dalung during the closing ceremony of Abuja 2018 National Sports Festival.
For some athletes and officials, the decision to settle for Edo State ahead of Delta, Imo and Cross River State in the bid for the 2020 edition of the festival had a ‘political’ under tune.
“Even before Dalung pronounced Edo as host of the 2020 National Sports Festival, we all knew the result, going by the body language of the sports minister,” one of the athletes alleged in a chat with The Guardian yesterday. “But it is not good to bring in politics into sporting matters. It is an open secret that the federal government gave it to Edo State because of party affiliation. Edo is an APC state and Delta is PDP. Imo was knocked out of the picture because of the current faceoff between Governor Rochas Okorocha and the Presidency, while Cross River was punished for its failure to host the festival for four years (2014-2018).”
One of the coaches pointed out yesterday that the decision to give the hosting right to Edo was wrong. “Benin City has hosted the National Sports Festival twice (Bendel 81 and Edo 2002). Imo hosted it in 1998. We were expecting the sports minister to look the direction of Delta and Cross River. Now that Edo is hosting the 2020 edition, Dalung has systematically knocked out Delta from hosting the National Sports Festival in the nearest future because it has to round the other geo-political zones before returning to the South-south region. By then, the sports-loving Governor Ifeanyi Okowa would have left office in 2023. Also, the facilities at the Stephen Keshi Stadium would have suffered great damages. It was not a fair decision to award the hosting right to Edo, the coach stated.
Meanwhile, Edo State Governor, Godwin Obaseki has assured Nigerians that his administration will host the best National Sports Festival seen the inception of the games in 1973.
The Governor made the promise in Abuja on Sunday night moments after Edo State was handed hosting rights to the 2020 edition of the festival.
Edo State finished in third place behind Rivers State and winners, Delta State at the just concluded 2018 edition of the festival hosted by Abuja.
An elated Governor Obaseki thanked the Federal Government for reposing confidence in Edo State by handing it hosting rights to the 2020 games. The Governor who embarked on an excursion into world history by drawing comparisons between the determination of his state to do everything possible to deliver a qualitative games, and the valiant British pilots whose sustained bombing of German soldiers and facilities during the Second World War, helped tilt the war in the Allies favour, said:
“Ladies and Gentlemen, taking cue from the great British statesman, I and the people of Edo State assure you that the confidence reposed in us would be justified. There will not come a time anyone will have cause to regret this momentous decision you have taken to hand us this hosting right.
“Like the valiant British fighter pilots of World War II, we will take every step necessary, make every sacrifice needed, and climb every height necessary to deliver the best Games in the annals of the Sports Festival”.
Acknowledging that there would be challenges in hosting the games, the Edo State Governor said: “There will be challenges on the way, no doubt, but we are Edo people. We have the men who can do the job and the facilities that will facilitate performance.
“Whatever challenges there are, we will overcome because Edo people tread where even lions do not. Like our warriors of old, we will slay every foe and surmount every obstacle to succeed”.
He said the 2020 Games would surpass previous games in every respect.
“The 2020 Sports Festival will be different from any previously hosted, and any that will come after it. Perhaps it can only be surpassed in splendour and organisation the next time Edo State hosts it afterwards.
“Edo 2020 Sports Festival will be a festival thriving on ‘strategy, organisation, technical apparatus, science, mechanics, and morale,” he stated.
He assured that in the end, Nigerians will be more than happy to have witnessed the games.
“We make a solemn promise today that we will give it our all and at the end of the day everyone would say of the 2020 Games, ‘this is our festival in which we are well pleased.”