UDUAGHAN AND SPORTS
Dr Emmanuel Uduaghan's administration is synonymous with success, having embarked on a sports revolution aimed at returning the state to the leadership position which the former Mid-West region was known for.
In recent times, hardly any major international or national sports event has occurred without an impressive and dominant showing of Delta State sportsmen and women.
We are all witnesses to the brilliant performance of the Super Eagles at the just concluded Africa Cup of Nations in South Africa. The team led by the Delta State-born Stephen Okechukwu Keshi brought home the gold trophy that has eluded this country since the past 19 years.
The deciding goal in the final march against Burkina Faso players was scored by the home based Sunday Mba of the Warri Wolves in Delta State.
Delta state has a rich history of producing Nigeria's sports ambassadors. This is made evident by their consistently impressive showing at very major sports event. The laurels and acclaim won by Delta athletes proves their worth and prowess as exceptional athletes.
Though the country did not bring home any gold medal, it is of noteworthy that 12 out of the 78 athletes that represented Nigeria at the 2012 London Olympics came from Delta State, making the state the largest single supplier of athletic talents. At the 2011 All African Games in Mozambique, athletes of Delta state extraction who were on scholarship abroad won six out of the 10 gold medals won by Nigerian athletes
At the national level, at the recently concluded National Sports Festival, 'Eko 2012' Delta state mesmerized sports lovers by their impressive performance. Athletes from the state won 116 gold, 97 silver and 75 bronze medals to beat the last champions Rivers state to the second place with 76 gold, 71 silver and 71 bronze medals.
Out of the six National Sports festivals held recently, Delta has won four providing and grooming athletes for the country and making preparations for the next Olympics in Brazil.
During the National Sports festival of 2009 'KADA Games' held in Kaduna state, Delta emerged winner by winning a total of 110 gold medals to beat Edo and Ogun states to the second and third positions respectively.
It should be noted that all these victories would not have been possible if not for the dogged commitment of Governor Uduaghan with his human capital development policy.
The governor disclosed that his administration was exploring sports as a strategic area of creating employment, peace and building a state beyond oil.
He explained that he was committed to developing the state through sports by positively engaging the youths while adding that the power of sports helps to discipline the society, reduce criminality and promote unity.
And to continue achieving this success in sports and in line with the agenda, the government went into heavy investment in the provision of quality sports facilities, equipments and professional coaches so as to have a conducive atmosphere for competitive training purposes.
The quality sports facilities built by Uduaghan in the state especially Warri could not fail to gain FIFA's approval when they visited Warri.
Because of the state of the art equipment's and facilities available at the sports centre, many international sporting events have been hosted by the state including the Confederation of African Football (CAF), women championship. Not just that, the governor went further by planning and making provisions for the retirement period of the athletes. According to him 'the decision to give cash rewards is because of the pitiable conditions some athletes who had represented the country and won laurels at international competitions found themselves after retirement'.
Governor Uduaghan has been pivotal to the success of Delta in sports and he has special relationship with the athletes and does a lot to motivate them.
When the Delta victorious team won in the KADA Games, to encourage and motivate the athletes and display appreciation, the governor gave out a cash reward of N500,000 for each gold medal, while silver and bronze medalists got N3000,000 and N200,000 respectively.
Each of the coaches whose athletes won gold was rewarded with N500,000, silver N300,000 while bronze received N200,000.
The governor also doled out N500,000 for each team event. The sum of N100, 000 was given to each athlete that participated but could not win a medal among others.
Scholarship to study abroad and in Nigeria was awarded to some of the athletes while automatic employment was awarded all medalists who were not on the pay roll of Delta State.
This display of appreciation led the victorious team to surpass their performance in the KADA games at the 18th National Sports festival at the Eko 2012. The Delta contingent emerged overall winners at the games, with a total medal haul of 288.
Uduaghan being the motivator he is, rewarded the team with about N291.98 million. At the ceremony held at the events centre, Asaba, he said that Delta had never had it 'as good in sports as we did in Lagos'. The cash awards, he said, was for the athletes to invest positively to avoid living in poor conditions when they must have passed their active years. Adding that 'we cannot pay the athletes enough for their great performance and the honour they have given to us'.
Awards of scholarship abroad and within Nigeria was also given out to the athletes while majority of them were given automatic employment in the state.
Toeing the line of President Goodluck Jonathan, he hosted the Super Eagles for their recent performance at the Nation's Cup, giving out various rewards in cash and landed properties to the football players and their coaches.
He called on sports heroes in the country to give back to the society through mentoring programs and development of sporting talents of the teaming youths of the country.
The Governor who is leaving no stone upturned to see that Delta state wins the forth coming African Youth Athletics championship holding in Warri has already inaugurated an 11-man local organizing committee to successfully organize a hitch-free competitive championship.
Tagged 'Sapele 2013', the competition is aimed at promoting sports from the grass root, identify young talents, nurture and expose them to the world.
Delta State had already begun preparations for the next National sports festival tagged 'Paradise Games' scheduled to hold in Calabar, Cross River in 2014. 'At the Games, we will change our strategies' boasted their governor.
'We are determined to encourage them and from the plans we have, we will have gold medalists from Delta at the next Olympic games in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil in 2016' said Uduaghan.
At his level of commitment and at the intensity at which he is building new and budding athletes in the Delta State, there is no doubt the state will produce gold medalists at Brazil in 2016.
• Fidelis is an engineer based in Asaba