Today is indeed a great day in the annals of sports development in our country. I feel highly proud to be part of history as we draw the curtains on yet another successful organisation of the Nigeria Olympics, the National Sports Festival. The Twentieth Edition in the series. After two weeks of excitement, record breaking performances, bond of friendship and spirit of sportsmanship, the curtain is finally falling on the 20th edition of the National Sports festival tagged Edo 2020 for the past 12 days, youth representing all the 36 States of the Federation and the FCT have been united by sports, friendship and comradeship. The power of sports as a unifying factor in the country was fully activated as these youth set aside ethnic and religious differences to compete fairly in celebration of the diversity and unity of our nation. This event would not have been possible without the Resilience and support of the Federal Government, Edo State Government and all critical stakeholders. I wish to register my profound appreciation to the Federal Gov’t under the able leadership of President Muhammadu Buhari and Vice President Prof Yemi Osinbajo for their support. I also want to thank the Governor of the Host state, Edo state Gov Godwin Obaseki for being a wonderful host and for making Edo ready for athletes in-spite of all odds. Of course, special thanks must also go to the Chairman of the LOC. All members of the MOC / LOC, officials, journalists and all the states and athletes who made #Edo2020 an event to remember deserve praise /appreciation. With the Edo Sports Festival experience and the attendant success Nigeria has proven yet again the resilience of its people and their ability to overcome odds. Covid-19 tried to stop us, but we have demonstrated that we are unstoppable. “The NSF has, over the years, served as a platform for our youth to showcase their God-given talents in the area of sports. I am sure that several athletes that have been discovered at the various events would one day win laurels for this country at the international arena. The performance of swimmer Ifiaezibe Gagba who won 8 Gold, 2 Silver and 5 Bronze medals, to 10year old gymnast Stephanie Onusiriuka 3 medals, Chidi Okezie’s impressive show in the 400m, Adegoke Enoch’s and Grace Nwokocha’s remarkable victory in the 100m the wrestlers awesome showings /other attainments not only re-echoes nostalgic feelings of the past, but keeps hope alive of a better future for our sports.
I congratulate DELTA State for emerging the overall winner of the Games of the 20th National Sports Festival. I must be quick to add that as sportsmen /women, we have been trained to accept defeat at sports events as a challenge to do better next time, therefore we are all winners. With that, I congratulate all the Athletes, Coaches, Technical and Officials for making the Games memorable. Leading up to this Festival, there were concerns about the health challenge posed by the ravaging Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic around the world and the need to avoid large public gatherings. Though these concerns were germane, the efforts put in place by the organizers of the Games to mitigate this obvious challenge are commendable.
On this note, I salute the Government and people of Edo State for the successful organisation of a colourful and vibrant NSF. I commend His Excellency, Gov. Obaseki and his team for the high standard of facilities provided for the Festival. I urge the State to be creative in putting the facilities to good use for youth development programs and a source to generate revenue into the coffers of the State Government Sports has over the years proven to be an enabler for economic activities in the Host State and community. It has also fast-tracked the provision of infrastructure and lead to the development of new cities. The Federal Government is committed to fully leveraging the economic benefits derivable from sports hence the re-classification of sports as an industry as opposed to its previous reckoning as entertainment. This development ensures that the contribution of Sports to the GDP is appropriately captured and reflected in our economic statistics.
The reclassification of sports from mere recreation to business will go a long way in changing the erroneous impression about sports as an endeavor for dropouts or the dregs of the society. If the potentials of our sports are better harnessed, it would lead to podium success, re-engineering of our youth, improved revenue and creation of job opportunities. We must explore the power of sports to change our country to attain her true creed. We have taken further steps to develop sports in a manner that puts food on the table for all those connected with it in one form or the other. This by way of the National Sports Industry Policy on which work has reached an advanced stage. The implementation of this Policy will unlock the potentials in all the value chains in sports – sporting activities, merchandising, manufacturing of sporting equipment, insurance, content provisioning and ancillaries.
I therefore urge all States and the FCT to key into developing Nigeria’s sports into a business, an industry that can significantly expand their revenue bases. Running our sports as business requires commitment and that certain practical steps are taken. Such steps include encouraging our indigenous companies through patronage of locally manufactured sporting kits and equipment. It is on this note that I further urge that states to continue to partner the Federal Government in its sports development efforts so that together as a nation, we can attain our sports development vision.
I am glad to note that the Federal Government received Bids to Host the 21st Edition of the National Sports Festival in 2022 from 6 States, namely, Delta, Ebonyi, Imo, Kaduna, Kano and Ogun. Following the evaluation of the bids and the physical visitation to the prospective States, I hereby announce Delta State as the next host for the National Sports Festival in 2022. I congratulate the Government and people of Delta State for emerging the preferred State nd wish them best of luck in the organisation of the 21st National Sports Festival.
As the curtain draws to a close here, another opens to a 100 days countdown to Tokyo 2020 Olympics where Athletes are expected signify to the world we are ready and we mean business. The successes recorded here will propel us to achieving greater success at Tokyo.
On this note, Excellences, Distinguished ladies and gentlemen, it is therefore my honour to declare closed the 20th National Sports festival, tagged #EDO2020 to the glory of God.I wish everyone a safe trip back home.
Honourable Minister of Youth and Sports Development, Federal Republic of Nigeria