By Olamide Yinusa
Ogun State Government has indicated interest to host the National Sports Festival just as it has commenced renovation of sport facilities across the state.
The state governor, Dapo Abiodun gave this indication when he received the Minister of Sports and Youth Development, Sunday Dare, who paid him a courtesy call in his office at Oke-Mosan, Abeokuta.
“We will like to host the National Sports Festival in Ogun State and I believe that you can not find a better state than us, particularly as the Gateway State.
“I was just sharing with you that we are quite disappointed that having hosted the sports festival in Edo, when the next state was announced, it now became Delta. we know that when the idea of the festival was first conceived, the whole idea of it was to foster unity amongst all the state in the country, particularly encourage our youths to travel and explore other states, enjoy their hospitality, understand their culture, heritage and compete with each other.
“So, when the festival goes to Edo State today and then tomorrow goes to Delta, it clearly contradicts the vision for its formation. I want to implore that going forward, we will like to host the sports festival in Ogun State, I believe that you can’t find a better State than us,”Abiodun posited.
He pointed out that as a result of huge fund required by the sports sector and competitions from other sectors for funding, his administration would set up a Sports Trust Fund where certain percentage of money is deposited on monthly basis to fund sporting activities in the state.
“Beside the fact that we will be looking at others to support us, we are being creative about how that fund will be consistently funded regardless of who is in the office as the governor. That will ensure that a certain percentage monthly goes towards sports development so that we can produce more sports stars”, the governor added.
He disclosed that the state was looking for an opportunity to bid for the hosting right of the festival to showcase its potentials to the world, saying that it was however imperative for the state to figure out the template that allows states to participate in the bidding process.
While expressing the desire of his administration to collaborate with the Federal Ministry of Youths and Sports Development, Abiodun said his administration looked forward to the support from the Federal Government in the area of youths development, maintaining that the issue of sports, education and youths are taken seriously in the state.
Speaking earlier, the Sports Minister assured that the National Sports Festival, would not depart from its original objective of promoting and fostering unity among the various ethnic groups as well as encouraging sports and youth development, which are the core mandates of his ministry.
Dare, who added that his ministry was looking for ways of strengthening the festival, revealed that an initiative had been put in place where an athlete is sponsored for training both locally and internationally, as well sporting facility is adopted for renovation.
According to him, the initiatives had already yielded fruits as two national stadia at Abuja and Lagos were under renovation.
On the adopt-an-athlete initiative, the Minister explained that any Nigerian based athlete that is adopted, a sum of $10,000 will be provided for him or her directly, while $20,000 is provided in a similar manner, to any adopted foreign based athlete.
He said the Federal government in the last five and a half years, had rolled out 34 different youth focussed programmes, noting it was important to accelerate the unbundling of youths in developing digital skills training, empowerment and entrepreneurship.
He expressed happiness with the return of contact and non-contact sports which was adversely affected by the COVID-19 pandemic, pledging that the Federal Government would assist the state in developing sports and youths activities, as the Ogun has produced and continued to produce some of the best sports stars in the country.
Meanwhile, responding to the adopt-an-athlete initiative of the Sports Ministry, Governor Abiodun announced the adoption of Oluwatobiloba Ayomide Amusan, a Nigerian track and field athlete of Ogun State extraction.
The 24 year old Oluwatobiloba who specializes in the 100 metres hurdles and sprint, won the 2018 Commonwealth and 2019 African Championship. She is also a two-time African Games champion, whose highest ranking is third in the world.
The governor, however, called on the Minister not to hesitate to find other indigenes of Ogun doing well in sports, declaring his government was ready to support and throw its weight behind them.
“I like this adoption initiative, as you were speaking, I was already putting down names of who I am going to tell my sports team to go and speak with alongside some of our business people because this is a business state. I am very proud to hear that one of our daughters is doing well and doing us proud, each and every time that we find any indigene of Ogun dtate doing well, we support them, we throw out weight behind them.
“So Tobi Amusan is adopted this afternoon, please, help us to identify other young up and coming indigenes of the state that are doing well that we can support and nurture to actualise their dreams, we will be more than happy to do that. We will like to collaborate with you, the joy will be ours in Ogun state, but the glory is to the entire country”, he submitted.