By Dipo Olowookere
Immediate-past governor of Delta State and the All Progressives Congress (APC) candidate for Delta South Senatorial District, Mr Emmanuel Eweta Uduaghan, has called on government and stakeholders to support the development of grassroots sports in Nigeria and also establish an active National Sports Commission, if the nation must excel in sports.
Mr Uduaghan made the call in Lagos on Tuesday at the formal investiture ceremony of the Nigeria Olympic Committee (NOC) patrons which saw him being also inducted as a patron.
According to the former governor, for any nation to succeed and stay at the top in sports, it must support and develop grassroots sports because there is a wealth of raw talents at the grassroots level.
“No doubt, when it comes to sports and developing talents in Nigeria, Delta State has done well. In my tenure as governor, three sports festivals were held in Nigeria and we won two. We have developed a lot of talents through our grassroots sports’ development initiatives.
“For instance, Blessing Okagbare, one of Nigeria’s sport icons was discovered from our grassroots sports programme and we supported her to the international level.
“My recommendation is that there must be grassroots sports development and also an active National Sports Commission to be manned by professionals for Nigeria to attain greater heights in terms of sports.”
The APC chieftain further thanked the NOC for the honour, stressing that it was a call to service and that he and the entire team would give their best in ensuring that sports is taken to the zenith in Nigeria.
“I want to thank the executive and Board of NOC for finding us worthy to be patrons of the Olympic body. Sure, this is a call to service and by the grace of God, we shall all work together to deliver on our mandate,” Mr Uduaghan declared.
In his remarks, the president of NOC, Engr. Habu Gumel described the new patrons as distinguished Nigerians who are capable of bringing light into the Nigerian sports.
“We are here today to induct into the high office as NOC patrons, some iconic individuals whose meritorious contributions to humanity, sport and societal development speak volumes.
“The new patrons are being honoured for their contributions to the development of sports in the country and the Olympic movement in particular.
“They are heavyweights who have carved a niche for themselves in their different endeavours. No doubt, they are going to bring their wealth of experience to support Nigerian sports.
“We’re concerned about the welfare of the Nigerian athletes who toil day and night to bring glory unto our fatherland. We want the best for them. And for you to achieve that, you must have support, moral and financial to equip them to go higher,’ Mr Gumel who is also an executive member of International Olympic Committee, IOC, said, lauding the newly inducted patrons.
Other prominent Nigerians honoured alongside Uduaghan are the national leader of the ruling All Progressive Congress, (APC) Asiwaju Ahmed Bola Tinubu, His Royal Majesty, Oba Saheed Elegushi, Chief (Mrs) Kofoworola Adejoke Nwokedi and Sir Marc Wabara.
The responsibilities of patrons of the NOC are to advice and support the Olympic Movement as appropriate.
The NOC was incorporated in Nigeria in 1993 to present the best of Nigerian athletes and teams for participation in all international, continental and sub-regional multi-sports games such as the Olympic Games, Commonwealth Games, the All Africa Games and all the youth editions of such international multi-sport games.
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