By Olusola ‘Jide @jide_olusola
The Federal Ministry of Youths and Sports Development and the Edo State government have signed the Host State Agreement ahead of the National Sports Festival in 2020.
The ceremony which was held at the National Stadium in Abuja was witnessed by the sports minister, Barr Solomon Dalung, the Edo State governor, Mr Godwin Obaseki, his deputy, Philip Shuaibu.
According to Dalung prior to the signing, said he was encouraged with the venues and facilities he saw in the state during his recent visit.
“As I stated during the brief interaction I had with members of the Press immediately after the inspection, Edo State has enough facilities to host the Festival with what is currently on ground.
Dalung further urged Obaseki to put in place a Local Organising Committee, provide befitting board and lodge for the Main Organising Committee members, ensure the security of lives and properties of dignitaries, athletes, officials and spectators.
He also expressed his confidence in the capability of the Edo government to provide and surpass the requirement.
However, he urged the state to embark on massive publicity while reeling out the benefits of hosting the festival.
In his own submission, Obaseki said the sporting facilities across the state were being revamped and plans to involve the private sector in the hosting of the Festival.
“We are trying to relive the spirit behind the agreement that was signed few years to begin to look at sports as a business. We will try and get more private sector participation in sports in Nigeria.
“We have plans and you will see as our plans are unveiled. The key differentiating factor is the private sector participation so that we can remove the burden from the government.
“The hosting of the sports festival is part of the whole renewal of Nigeria. Don’t forget that after the civil war, our leaders came together to create the whole idea behind the sports festival.
“I want to express the profound gratitude of all citizens of Edo for the confidence which the Federal Government has reposed in us to host the 2020 NSF.
“We do not take this very lightly, being a state with history in sports. We clearly understand the implications of the hosting rights.
“Edo was an integral part of the idea of formulating a National Sports Festival after the Nigerian Civil War of 1967 to 1970. So, we are very cognisant of the goals and purposes of this sports festival.
“One of its cardinal points is to build unity and patriotism, particularly amongst young people in Nigeria, to develop sports talent and serve as a hunting ground for recruitment of talents at the grassroots.
“We need to focus on preserving the unity of this country, we need to encourage patriotism, we need to encourage our youths. We need to have a mechanism to spot talents especially at the grassroots,” he said.
Obaseki said the state was already putting finishing touches to reconstruction works at the Samuel Ogbemudia Stadium in Benin, adding that this would soon be completed.
He then proposed that a National Council of Sports meeting be held on Feb. 21 for planning to commence early ahead of the 20th NSF slated for March 2020