Evelyn-A. B. Ibanga
In recognition of his immense contributions to the development of sports, Akwa Ibom State Governor, Mr. Udom Emmanuel, has been formally presented with the prestigious Sports Governor of the year 2017 Award, by the Nigeria Sports Award, NSA.
Similarly, the state football team, Akwa United Football Club, was rewarded during the grand reception in honour of the Governor and the team, for emerging second time champion of the coveted AITEO Cup 2017, under the administration of Governor Emmanuel.
The glamorous joint event, witnessed by sports stakeholders in the country, held at the Government House Banquet Hall, Wellington Bassey Way End, Uyo.
Governor Emmanuel, who was visibly excited, expressed appreciation to the NSA, for finding him worthy of the reputable award, noting that the gesture was a boost to the diligent endeavors of Nigerians to encourage the growth of sports in the country.
The Governor was delighted that his modest efforts in sports development was recognized, reteirating his administration’s commitment to the harnessing of talents at early ages and added that it was the passion that informed the provision of state-of-the-art sporting facilities in model schools acoss the state.
“As you all know, we place high premium on sports because we believe people have different talents and one of the pillars of our Dakkada philosophy is that you must realize your potentials.
“That is why we are taking the sports facilities to schools to harmonize education with sports in order to produce a good society for our youths and everyone”, Governor Emmanuel stated.
He noted that the provision of standard sports amenities in schools, has begun to yield expected fruits as pupils are already making their marks in national and international competitions, stressing that the state is aiming at producing the best athletes in the country.
“The sport facilities we are building across the state, we are laying a solid foundation. Even in the sports festivals that we organiz every year, 10 out of those little children you saw in the last sports festival, have represented Nigeria in Algeria and they came back with trophies.
“At the National Sports Festival, we came out overall 2nd position out of 36 states. We are aiming towards being the best overall and as we develop more facilities, we will certainly be there” , he echoed.
The Governor extolled Akwa United FC for making the state proud by clinching the 2017 AITEO Cup, a second time in three years, pointing out that their feat at winning the maiden edition of the tournament in 2015, was a record that can never be erased.
He, however charged them to go for higher trophies in order to impact more on the economy, saying, “After winning AITEO Cup for two consecutive times, Akwa United deserves a Continental trophy, so I pray for you, as you have made us proud in 3 years, that is just the beginning, you will reach your peak and you will reach your goal.
“Football is huge business, I am standing here to challenge you, we have some already, who are Nigerians but I want to see more of Akwa Ibom people in different premiership like La Liga, English Premiership and the rest because that is where you make a lot of impact in the economy”, Governor Emmanuel remarked.
The State Chief Executive assured the Champions that the state government would maintain the culture of regular and timely payment of their salaries and allowances, thanking the technical crew of the team for what he described as strategic coaching which led to the triumphs and rewarded the team with the sum of N70m.
Setting the tone for the event, the State Commissioner of Youth and Sports, Sir Monday Uko, poured encomiums on the Governor for his superlative leadership which has attracted global recognition to the state, with particular reference to football at the state and national levels and for maintaining the best stadium in the country.
Sir Uko applauded Emmanuel’s initiative at instituting the annual sports festival in the state which has produced budding stars, as outstanding talents have already been spotted and invited for national and international competitions.
He remarked, “12 of our children were invited to the national camp, while 10 were picked to Algeria and they came back with one Gold, three Silver and three Bronze Medals. That is something that we need to commend you for.
“I want to thank you for sending Aniekeme Alphonsus to the United States of America, she is doing very well, she is a sensation in that field of sports and we assure Akwa Ibom people that we will continue to do more in the area of sports”.
While urging parents to allow their children and wards to avail themselves of the opportunity to practice in the provided sporting facilities in schools to create more impact in the state, he appreciated the national leadership of the Sports Writers Association of Nigeria, SWAN, for participating in the event and described them as partners in progress.
The Sports Commissioner dismissed the claim in certain quarters that Eket Township Stadium is undergoing renovation, stressing, “We are not renovating Eket Stadium, we are building a brand new Eket Stadium with 13,000 seating capacity. All the materials needed to finish that stadium are at the Nest of Champions and you can just walk in there and see”.
Presenting the Sports Governor of the Year Award to Governor Emmanuel, the Executive Director of the NSA, Mr. Kayode Idowu, said that the Award is the “most recognized, most authenticated, most celebtated, most professional and the only award that matters in sports”.
Idowu added, “So Nigerians decided in this edition of the Nigeria Sports Award that there is a Governor, who, not only makes sports a culture but believes in the power of sports to affect not only the lives of those in Akwa Ibom State but also the country so passionate about sports”.
He explained that the Award was endorsed by the Nigerian Olympic Committee, Federal Ministry of Sports, Sports Writers Association of Nigeria and Nigerians, who made the choice, adding that the panel consisted best minds in the field of sports.
The President of SWAN, Mr. Honour Sirawoo, while presenting three Certificates in Sports awarded to Akwa Ibom State as State with the Most Comprehensive Sports Development Programme in Nigeria; State with the Most Patriotic Sports Supporters in Nigeria and State with the Best Sports Infrastructure in Nigeria, to Emmanuel, congratulated the Governor on the feat.
Sirawoo acknowledged that the certificates, awarded by the Nigeria Sports Summit Awatd, were in recognition of the Governor’s initiative at building sports infrastructure across the state, expressing desire to lead about 120 journalists to Akwa Ibom to witness the infrastructural development in the state and confirm that “truly, Udom is working”.
Cultural displays, comedy and musical performance spiced up the event which had in attendance, the State Deputy Governor, Mr. Moses Ekpo, Director of the Divine Mandate Organization, Otuekong Idongesit Nkanga, former Deputy Governor of the State, Engr. Chris Ekpenyong, National and State Legislators, State Chairman of the PDP and members of the State Executive Council among others.
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