National Sports Festival: “We Will Return the Festival to It Original Objective”, Says Fashola
Addressing an audience of National and State Sports administrators and enthusiasts as well as members of the State Executive Council shortly before signing the agreement at the Banquet Hall of the Lagos House, Ikeja, Governor Fashola regretted that the Festival has over the years fallen short of its real objectives adding that the 18th Edition would provide an opportunity for the State to make a change.
“What is important to us is to use this 18th Festival, the home-coming festival, as an opportunity to discover and unleash for this country a new generation of athletes. The festival is all about amateur sports from which we move to professional sports. When, therefore, we have athletes participating in five to six festivals consecutively, something is wrong. It means that we have developed a cadre of amateur professionals”, the Governor said.
Pointing out that this is not what the Festival is meant for, Governor Fashola declared, “We will champion the cause to ensure that the festival is returned to its original objective starting from this 18th edition. That is why we spent the last three years developing our grassroots sports to ensure that young boys and girls who are in our schools, whose records we have, whose parents we know, whose origin we know, are the candidates that we put forward at the last two festivals that Lagos State participated in”.
“We believe that if we did not win in the last two festivals, we are breeding a new corps of athletes that will represent this State for a long time. Our legacy that we expect to see at the end of this festival is that Lagos will be remembered by all as a turning point for Nigerian sports”, Governor Fashola said.
Lamenting Nigeria’s abysmal performance in Sports, Governor Fashola said “All of the misfortunes we see across the spectre of our sporting life is not accidental. It is because we have refused to plan and when we forward an ill-prepared team, we expect to win. We have not been honest with ourselves; we have not been honest with our leaders”.
“I once listened to a Nigerian contingent promising the President that they were going to bring back seven gold medals when I knew they did not prepare. I knew it was impossible because they did not plan”, he said.
The Governor said the time has come for Nigerians to tell themselves the truth adding, “There is no shortcut in Sports. It is preparation, coaching, training and constant competition”.
Recalling that there was a time Ghana did not win a medal in any competition for some years because it was rebuilding its sports, Governor Fashola urged, “Let us all agree that we cannot win all the time. The time for us to rebuild has come. Let us all work together to make Lagos 2012 a festival for young athletes and not octogenarians”.
Governor Fashola, who said the decision to host the festival was not accidental, pointed out that although the State has just one year to prepare unlike previous hosts which had two or more years of preparation, the State would put in the best it can to ensure a memorable festival for Nigeria.
“Having accepted to host the festival, we promise to support with everything that it takes to host the Festival”, the Governor said adding; however, “In terms of its outcome, we know it is fashionable to want to host and win, but this is where I object seriously. Our primary objective is to do very well and in consequence of doing very well, we are hopeful that we can win”.
On the optional sports for the physically challenged, Governor Fashola promised that the State would include some of them in the festival programme pointing out that in agreeing to include them the State is only fulfilling an obligation it imposed on itself to give the physically challenged the chance to live a fulfilled life.
“”They have continually told us they are not handicapped but only physically challenged and that if we give them the opportunity to participate, they can live very fruitful and fulfilled life. We will use this Festival to make the statement that it is possible”, the Governor said.
Commending the Director General of the National Sports Commission, Dr. Patrick Ekeji, for his contributions to the development of Sports in the country, Governor Fashola declared, “He is a product of the Festival who participated in the local sports, went to professional sports and went on to serve his country in sports. They should be remembered continuously in our consciousness as we organize, bid and manage Sports in our country”.
In his remarks earlier, the Director General, Dr Patrick Ekeji, commended the Governor for the priority he has accorded the development of Sports, especially grassroots sports, in the State saying it was not surprising since he too (the Governor) is an active sportsman.
The Director General promised that the Commission would assist the Government of Lagos State in any way possible to ensure that the hosting of the festival was not too burdensome for the State adding that the National Stadium Surulere would be available for use at no cost to the State Government.
Earlier in his opening remarks, the State Commissioner for Sports and Youth Development, Mr Waheed Enitan Oshodi, said the decision to host the National Sports Festival in Lagos was to afford the State another opportunity to once more showcase the best of Lagos.
Thanking the Governor for his unwavering support for sports in Lagos and Nigeria, the Commissioner declared “Our Governor is a sports enthusiast with passion for youth empowerment. He has once again demonstrated this passion by agreeing to host the 18th National Sports Festival”.
“I wish to reiterate our ability and readiness to host and stage an excellent national sports festival. Rivers State raised the bar in hosting the 17th National Sports Festival. We are pleased to collect the baton from them and we will ensure that our trademark of Standard of Excellence is stamped sharply on the 18th National Sports Festival”, he said.
Also present at the ceremony were the Deputy Governor, Hon. (Mrs) Adejoke Orelope-Adefulire, the Chief of Staff, Mr Lanre Babalola, the State Commissioner for Transportation, Mr. Kayode Opeifa and his Home Affairs and Culture counterpart, Mr Oyinlomo Danmole among other members of the State Executive Council, Commissioner for Sports of Benue State, Mr Aondowase Chia, as well as other top National and State Sports administrators