ONE of the hallmarks of the first year of Dr Willie Obaino’s second tenure in the office as governor of Anambra State is the evaluation of sports into a full agency of government. This development is intended to push up the state’s sports sector. Experts say it is indeed necessary for the progress of sports within the state.
It is no secret that it is the youths and young ones that constitute the larger percentage of people who participate in sports as a hobby or as a profession. On that note, it is an undisputable fact that Governor Obiano is a youth friendly leader and as such, he has displayed such gesture in his appointments by appointing the youngest commissioner in the history of Nigeria and Anambra and having an office of digital entrepreneurship.
Well, looking at sports development within the past five years of Governor Obiano’s tenure, one can identify positive changes. Formerly, the Ministry of Sports used to be with that of youth and entrepreneurship, but in his second tenure, he carved out a commission for sports. According to the chairman of Anambra State Sport Development Commission, Tony Olih, in an interview, he stated that the governor was so passionate about sports in Anambra State.
States like Lagos, Enugu Delta Edo etc are known for their trademarks in marathon races such as Lagos marathon, Delta half marathon, Erufun marathon , Coal city marathon, etc. under the tenure of the governor , for the first time in Anambra state, Anambra launched her own programme, titled ‘Walk 4 Life’ which started in November, 2018. The first was received with great participation as commissioners, government officials and security agencies participated in the event.
The ‘walk 4 life’ aims to improve life mentally and health wise. it is a monthly exercise and has undergone five editions since its inauguration in November last year with over 1000 participants.
According to Tony Olih,” the governor has started a football season with six trophies on the line. When creating the commission, the governor said that he wanted a situation whereby academicals of football will be groomed in the state just as CKC , Igwebuike Grammar School, Nawfia Boys and so on back in the days. It is the exact vision the governor is looking up to redeem.
Football seasons commence from November to May, every year. Governor Willie Obaino procured over 200 branded footballs and it was shared all over the state. It was distributed to primary, secondary schools, tertiary institutions, traders and security agencies. So currently, there are six on-going football seasons in the state with six trophies at stake.
“One of the gestures Willie Obiano initiated is to appreciate security agencies for their security duties to the state by hosting a football competition with a cup at stake for them. Other cups include the VC cups for tertiary institutions, community shields cup for the 179 communities in Anambra State, traders cup etc. Over 1000 primary and secondary schools are in the Anambra league.
Another evidence of Anambra sports development under the governor is the last edition of the National Sport Festivals. Anambra State recorded five gold medals, 11 silvers and 13 bronze, which is the best record in the last 20 years. In fact, Anambra State was one of the states to welcome the Torch Of Unity when it was on tour last year before the commencement of the National Sports Festival.
On the efforts made to reach out to indigenous Anambra sports veterans, the chairman for the sports commission gave his assurance that the governor has been working with some and making efforts to reach out to the others. As a matter of fact, one of Nigeria’s veteran sprinter and Olympian, Mary Onyali, who hails from Anambra State was one of the people who held the Unity Torch in Anambra State. Mr. Tony also stated that Emmanuel Okala is also working with the sports commission.
Although there have been concerns and cries over the development of standard stadiums in Anambra, according to Mr Olih, the governor has given approval for the development of Ekwulobia Township Stadium, and he did not leave out Awka Township Stadium.
He believes that before the next three years runs out, just like Delta and Lagos, that Anambra will one day host international competitions with the stadiums mentioned above. He also gave assurances that the commission is planning to set up gymnasia centers in all the zones in the state to promote gymnastics within the state.
Rev Father Obiora Obinna Dike, a priest of Catholic Diocese of Awka and director of DOSSAD sports, testified to the fact that Governor Willie Obaino is passionate about sports. The former referee in the NPFL gave kudos to the governor for launching the traders cup in the state and is the first governor to do that in the state, which he supervised as the chairman of the traders cup committee.
He further suggested that the government invest more in track and field events by choosing at least one school, secondary or primary school and make their field standard. “Although Anambra State still has a long way to go, it is still safe to celebrate where we are”, he said.