• Osinbajo among dignitaries for the grand finale
• Adamu hails facilities, berates states for using mercenaries to win medals
Wherever you are, whatever you have lined up for tomorrow, if you are a sports and music lover, you are advised to change your plans and head to Benin, the venue of the ongoing 20th National Sports Festival. This is the message coming from the hosts of Nigeria’s biggest sporting event, which ends tomorrow in Benin City.
According to the organisers of the competition, three of Nigeria’s hottest popular musicians, Teni ‘The Entertainer’, Joeboy and Franchise have been engaged to thrill fans at the closing ceremony of the competition.
According to National Sports Festival’s Project Manager, Media and Communications, Ebomhiana Musa, the closing ceremony have been programmed to give spectators and athletes the best of entertainment as they prepare to depart for their various states.
Ebomhiana disclosed that the programme unveiled by the Consultant, Ceremonial, Henry Nzekwe will last for three hours, 6.00 p.m. to 9.00 p.m., with Vice President, Yemi Osinbajo, in attendance.
He said that the only sporting event slated for the day is the finals of relays: mixed relay, 4 x 100 metres and 4 x 400 metres for men and women.
According to the programme, there will be a parade by athletes, short speeches by Edo State Governor, Godwin Obaseki and Youth and Sports Development Minister, Sunday Dare.
He said the Edo Deputy Governor, Philip Shaibu, who also doubles as the Chairman of the Local Organising Committee (LOC), would also have the honour of presenting a short speech during the closing ceremony.
“The Vice President, Prof. Yemi Osinbajo, is expected to declare the games closed, after which the torch of unity, which was lit at the start of the games, will be extinguished,” he added.
Edo State Deputy Governor, Philip Shaibu, earlier told journalists that the cultural heritage of the state would again be highlighted at the event.
He added: “We had a nice time at the opening ceremony despite some logistics, including the downpour, but for the closing, we will bring in more entertainment to make everyone happy.
“Edo has a rich cultural heritage and we will again display that to the world on Wednesday.”
The closing ceremony will hold at the Samuel Ogbemudia Stadium in Benin City.
Meanwhile, former Director General of the defunct National Sports Commission (NSC), Dr. Amos Adamu, has commended the Edo State government for the state-of-the-art facilities it provided for the 20th National Sports Festival.
Speaking to The Guardian yesterday, Adamu, who came to the University of Benin Sports Complex main bowl to watch the football final between Team Edo and Lagos, said the festival was going on well as expected, adding that he was particularly happy that some primary and higher institutions of learning also benefitted from hosting the festival.
“The Edo State government has tried by putting on these facilities and I am happy that they even went to some secondary schools and the University of Benin to upgrade the facilities there.
“What is very important is the sports facilities and if you don’t have them you cannot perform well. But the government has provided facilities,” he said, adding that the country has the population to produce enough athletes for any competition in the country.
“Manpower is not our problem, we have the population in Nigeria and you can get athletes at any time to compete for your state when the facilities are good. When you have coaches, then you have champions,” he said.
Adamu condemned some states’ penchant to hire mercenaries to win medals, describing as unfortunate the alleged deployment of a Kenyan by one of the states to compete in the 10,000 metres race.
He said, “You cannot stop athletes from moving to other states to compete during the National Sports Festival. There is a law against it.
“You know why you cannot stop it? It is because there are some states that do not show interest in sports, and that is why they don’t even train their athletes. It is only when the Festival comes that they want to send athletes to the sports festival.”
“And they must look for athletes here and there to compete for their states. Those are the states that are causing problems. And you know we don’t have data in this country that says this athlete is from here or there.
“It is just like when you have football players, just because we don’t have the data showing the date of births, somebody will be claiming 17 years of age once he is smallish when he is actually 30 years old. And he will come and present his certificate of birth that says he is 17 years old.
“You’re not his parents to know that and you cannot know it; so they cheat.
“The idea of states bringing athletes from other states or from anywhere to compete for them is not good for the development of sports in Nigeria. But what can we do?” he queried.