Wike: Breathing Fresh Air Across Sports Sector In Rivers

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It is not often that a dancer knows whether he is dancing well or gyrating out of tune . In fact, a popular cliché states that a dancer neither sees his own back or scores himself, rather, he is assessed and rated by his audience.
That is why the performance of His Excellency, Nyesom Ezenwo Wike, CON, GSSRS, POS, Governor of Rivers State’s performance in the Sports Sector would have to be seen from the prison of stakeholders and the general public.
Since the 29th of May, 2015, when Wike took over as the governor of the state, the sports sector has enjoyed a new lease of life to the extent that the state has become a destination of choice for sports administrators other stakeholders and events. The sector has also become a major tool in the engagement and empowerment of the youth within the state and beyond.
No surprise then, that the governor has been inundated with a plethora of awards, apparently in appreciation for his vision, commitment and palpable achievements in Sports promotion and development.
The awards, recognitions and commendations have been swift and large. The umbrella body for sports journalism in the country, Sports Writers Association of Nigeria, SWAN, was the first to identify the commitment and love for sports in the governor by making him its national patron, barely six months in office in 2015, an award which was revalidated last month.
A lot of sports and outfits followed suit before the apex body in world sports journalism, the International Sports Press Association, AIPS-Africa crown him with the exclusive award of Power of Sports, POS, which Governor Wike received in Brussels, Belgium a few weeks ago. The award, which made him only the second recipient in Africa marks profound achievement in sports and the ability of the receiver to use sports as a tool to re-engineer the society for peace and empowerment.
Indeed, the awards and recognition did not come without justification. The Governor Wike’s administration actually worked very hard for the encomiums and recognition being harvested at present. From inheriting a sports sector that was in near comatose state, heavily disillusioned and indebted work force (athletes) dilapidated infrastructure, the administration succeeded in clearing the Augean stable and returning life, hope and vibrancy to the sector.
Ab initio, Governor Wike in his early days in office had declared his readiness to make sports one of his administration’s key point in creating opportunities to maximize the potentials of the people, particularly, the youth and the state.
With the NEW vision mantra of the administration in tow, the government move to bring fresh air to bear and spread across, athletes, administrators and infrastructure.
Sports associations now have not only opportunities to train and prepare for major competitions but attend national and international meets which were, a rare occurrence in the recent past.
Rivers United Football Club, a merger of defunct Sharks and Dolphins FCs, Rivers Angels FC, the women football club side, Rivers Hoopers, the basketball team and other sports at theSstate’s sport council were rejuvenated and given the platform to be competitive.
Despite competing demands and lean purse, Governor Wike, also called Mr. Projects has revived most of the ailing sports facilities in the state. In 2016, the over 30 year-old Alfred Diette Spiff Sports Complex, which can host upto 30 sports events was refurbished and standard raised for optimum performance for athletes. The Port Harcourt Pleasure Park, improved Adokiye Amiesimaka Sports Stadium and rebuilt linkage roads are all legacies of this sport loving administration.
Since then, Port Harcourt and indeed, Rivers State in general have been turned into a mecca of sorts for sports and stakeholders. From hosting and sponsoring the Under-23 Eagles, preparatory to their eventful outing at the last Olympic Games in Rio, Brazil, the state under Wike has continued to play important roles in motivating not only the state teams, but national teams as well, to do well in international competitions.
Moreso, the state is breaking barriers and expanding frontiers by synergising with reputable international organizations to bring events to the state and establish institutions that would groom young talents for tomorrow.
Only yesterday, the government, through the instrumentality of the Governor, hosted the Super Eagles’ pre-2018 World Cup match against the Democratic Republic of Congo at the Adokiye Amiesimaka Stadium. The game which ended one goal apiece was organised by the Nigeria football federation and sponsored by the State to showcase the team to Nigerians before they proceed to Russia for the 2018 FIFA World Cup. Earlier same day, Governor Wike, in company of Real Madrid Football Club officials laid the foundation stone of the Rivers Football Academy in Port Harcourt, an academy to be supervised by Spanish side, Real Madrid FC and is expected to groom aspiring Rivers young people in the best traditions of the world renowned football club.
Before yesterday’s landmark development, the Governor had made it possible for the state to host in Port Harcourt, National Wrestling Championship tagged Governor Nyesom Wike Wrestling Championship and the African Wrestling Championship for Junior Cadet and Senior categories, for the first time in Nigeria. The African Championship had over 40 countries from all over Africa in attendance.
Perhaps, understanding the major thrust of Governor Wike’s sports Policy which include; instant attention to sports issues because they affect the youth, job creation and skill development through boosting sports, mobilisation of the youth segment of the state away from crime through sports and adequate budgetary provision to sports -N2.5 billion in 2018, would enable one to come to terms with the huge commitment, importance and passion Wike attached to sports as a tool for state and national development.
Speaking on the governor’s giant strides, particularly, the level of commitment shown so far in placing sports in the front burner in the state, President of SWAN, Honour Sirawoo said that the his strides were commendable and a welcome development.
“Governor Wike has shown commendable vision and commitment in sports development. He has shown good understanding of the implications of a sound sports policy, which is a plus for a state like Rivers in the face of a fast growing economy stimulus that sports has turned into.
“I must say that the governor has done so much to deserve to be called Pillar of Sports in Africa and Nigeria”, said the SWAN President.
For the Head-volleyball coach in the state, Mr Opakriba Harry, “Governor Nyesom Wike is God-sent to redirect the course of sports development in the state. I believe that he has a lot of package for the sector. We have seen some, especially, the refurbishment of sports facilities, the reintroduction of grassroots sports competitions. Today, we are having inter-local government competitions in near regular basis, I think that is the only way to unearth talents, grow sports in the state and be competitive in Nigeria and beyond”.
A sports journalist and former media officer of Rangers International, Mr Foster Chime said that he has been amazed at the zeal and energy Governor Wike always commits to sports. He believes that the governor has made himself a catalyst as far as sports development is concerned and that other political leaders and well-to-do Nigerians should borrow a leaf from him and invest in sports, which he sees as a sure means of engaging the youth positively.
Indeed, it has been all accolades for the governor as far as the impact he has made in sports is concerned. From politicians, sports administrators, athletes to the man on the street, the verdict is that Governor Wike has done well and should be encouraged to do more.
An athlete with the state’s Sports Council, who did not want his name in print said he has been happy with the governor since the past three years. According to him, the Sports Council seemed to have come alive in the past three years. This, he believes follows the governor’s his public challenge to the Commissioner for Sports, Hon. Boma Iyaye over his apparent too much attention on football to the detriment of other sports. But things have started happening in other sports”, he noted.
Another Sports Council personnel on condition of anonymity said that the present administration has done well in re-engineering sports in the state but still needs to do more in order to carry everybody along.
According to him, though a lot has been happening in the state, especially in football, the grassroots in yet to experience the new wave of change in the industry. He suggests that the Rivers State FA should be empowered to play its role by making the state FA cup competition and super league more attractive, and reviving some of the moribund grassroots football competitions that made Port Harcourt a pool of football talents in the 1970s as ’80s.
Overall however, it is an overwhelming verdict that Governor Wike has transformed the sports sector, raised the stakes and opened Rivers State to various opportunities derivable from the sports industry, which hinge on the tripod of recreation, tourism and youth empowerment, which will certainly rub off positively on the revenue of the state and people.
These are indeed part of the immense democracy dividends accruable from the efforts of Governor Nyesom Wike in three years and counting.