• We’re waiting for Presidency’s approval, says sports minister
• Benin City is ready, Ebewele declares
With the atmosphere in Benin City and other parts of Edo State now back to normal following Governor Godwin Obaseki’s victory in Saturday’s election, attention has shifted to the hosting of the 20th National Sports Festival, tagged Edo 2020. The Sports Festival was postponed in March by the Presidency as a measure against the spread of COVID-19 pandemics in the country.
Even in the midst of anxiety leading to the governorship election, the Minister of Youth and Sports Development, Sunday Dare, was confident that the Sports Festival could hold this year, though he said the ministry would be properly guided before taking a final decision.
The Guardian learnt yesterday that Obaseki’s victory in the governorship election has put ‘pressure at top level’ for the sports festival to hold as quickly as possible.
“Everybody wants to be in Benin City at the moment to be part of the celebration of Godwin Obaseki’s victory in the governorship election, a member of the National Council on Sports told The Guardian in a telephone chat yesterday.
“A few weeks ago, nobody wanted to have anything to do in Benin City due to the tension leading to the governorship election. I am happy that normalcy has returned, and our focus now is on the sports festival. It could hold between late November and early December,” he said.
The Special Adviser on Media to the sports minister, John Joshua-Akanji, explained yesterday that the sports ministry was waiting for approval from the Presidency before announcing a new date for the festival.
“The sports festival may still hold this year,” he said. “But the decision to fix a date for the event can only come after the presidency has given us the approval to do so. For now, the sports minister is working with the relevant authorities to be properly guided before taking a final decision. The sports minster is providing assistance for the athletes to resume their training at three high performance training centres (HPC) in Port Harcourt, Akure and Jos.”
The Guardian recalls that the minister had on May 19 set up an 11-man committee headed by the chairman of Delta Sports Commission, Tonobok Okowa to look into the possibility of hosting the sports festival this year. The committee submitted its report on June 12 after 30 days, during which it visited Benin City to inspect the facilities put in place for the fiesta.
Meanwhile, former Edo State Sports Commissioner, Brown Ebewele, who is the Coordinator of Team Edo for the 2020 National Sports Festival, has declared that the state is fully ready to host the rest of Nigeria now.
“We are fully ready now for the sports festival,” he said. “Sports is business, and the victory of Governor Godwin Obaseki in the election despite all the gimmicks by some people has further demonstrated that a typical Edo person will always lead by example. We have not had this kind of election before in Nigeria. Our governor, Godwin Obaseki and his deputy, Philip Shaibu are sports-loving people, and they have promised Nigerian youths of hosting a befitting sports festival. Tell Nigerians that Edo State is ready,” Ebewele stated.