Youth And Sports Development Yesterday, Today
Since the creation of Akwa Ibom on September 23, 1987, the youth and sports sector has been witnessing tremendous development and there has never been any dull moment.
Successive administrations have been according the sector a first line treatment in all ramifications considering the validity it attracts to the overall development of our youths and the state in general.
Right from the administration of the first military governor, then Col Tunde Ogbeha, to Col Godwin Abbe, Group Captain Idongesit Nkanga, late Obong Akpan Isemin, Col Yakubu Bako military administrator Joseph Adeusi, a navy captain, John Ebiye, Obong Victor Attah, Chief Godswill Akpabio, now minister of the Federal Republic of Nigeria and the present Gov Udom Emmanuel, sports development has been given topmost priority in the scheme of things.
For example, when Gov Udom Emmanuel came to the saddle, the state witnessed a lot of changes in sports development. His priority was to construct sports development centres in the 10 federal constituencies of the state. This, he began by constructing one at West Itam Secondary School, in Itu and another at Onna Local Government, while renovations were carried out in Ikot Ekpene Township Stadium, Uyo Township Stadium and Eket Township Stadium.
This apart, his administration has been able to sponsor the state teams including Akwa United, Akwa Starlets and Ibom Angels that his administration inherited from the previous administration. He has so lifted Akwa United to the highest height that the team becomes a toast of the time in the Nigeria Professional League and in the continent of Africa. At the moment the team is ranked 42 in Africa.
It is within his tenure that Akwa United lifted the first ever AITEO Cup in 2015 and again played up to the finals of the same competition two years, though it failed to clinch the trophy.
Emmanuel is the first governor of Akwa Ibom, so far, to have kissed this all important cup since the creation of the state 32 years ago.
It is therefore pertinent to note that all these achievements by the club would not have been possible but not for the contributions of Gov Udom Emmanuel and the club chairman, Paul Bassey. In essence, because of the importance attached to this team, the story of the Nigerian Professional League cannot be complete without the mention of Akwa United Football Club courtesy of Governor Emmanuel.
The state government’s efforts in the development of our football clubs are yielding more results. For instance, Akwa Starlets recently qualified to play in the professional league. Recently too, the club won the Nigerian National Super Four League, through the tutelage of retired permanent secretary in the Ministry of Youth and Sports, Coach Aniedi Dickson, who is chairman of the club.
Equally too, Ibom Angels are not lagging behind. The amazons team played up to the finals of the women league of the AITEO Cup, but, however failed to clinch the trophy. Now on the move is the Dakkada Youth Games, among others.
In between, the Udom Emmanuel administration has been organizing school sports festival for talents hunt at the grassroots levels. These festivals have given the state ample opportunities to be well represented in all National Youth Games where our contingents made the state proud.
Like the just concluded National Youth Games that took place at the University of Ilorin, Kwara State, the Akwa Ibom contingent garnered 16 gold, 12 silver and 13 bronze medals to place the state on the fourth position. Last year the state had only nine gold medals, a situation which the leader of the contingent Elder Paul Bassey described the outing as very credible considering the circumstances of the event.
Apart from sponsoring the Youth Games, the administration was not found wanting in the area of the National Sports Festival. To be candid, there has never been one that the state failed to be well represented.
The governor has been so sports loving that most of the International Football events were hosted in the state. For example, it is in his tenure that Nigeria’s Super Eagles qualified to play in the Nations Cup. The national team made Uyo its match venue, a situation that rubbed positively on the state’s economy.
The Navy Sport Competition was also hosted here as well as the Breweries organized event that attracted all sports lovers in Nigeria and beyond to the state. No wonder therefore that after considering all these achievements, various organizations, decided to award him the best sports facilities government as well as the all round sports loving governor in recent time.
The senior special assistant to the governor on sports, Elder Paul Bassey, described Gov Udom Emmanuel as a sports loving governor, stressing that it was because of his love for sports development that the state was able to achieve so much in the area of sports.
“He has the heart and it is because of this that the name of the state is being written in the sports map of this country,” Bassey said.
Also reacting, the former permanent secretary in the Ministry of Youth and Sports, Coach Aniedi Dickson, who is now the chairman of Akwa Starlets Football Club, eulogized the governor for his spirited efforts to develop sports in the state and hoped that he will not relent in this direction. He equally commended the youth and sports commissioner, Sir Monday Uko, for being a good lieutenant to the governor in sports development in the state.
They acknowledged that there has been remarkable improvements in the sports sector since he came on the saddle since May 29, 2015, believing that if he continues in this manner, Akwa Ibom will definitely remain as a hot for other states of the federation to emulate.
However, before all these achievements in this sector other administrations had equally done well. His predecessor Chief Godswill Akpabio cannot be forgotten for his tremendous achievements, which cannot also be swept under the carpet.
Akpabio’s efforts in this sector actually broke the Carmel’s back. Akpabio was able to make the state known at both national and international levels. The impact of what sports was greatly felt during his administration.
Youths of the state, who before now did not embrace sports fully, changed their perceptions and embraced sports in all ramifications considering the key it holds in unlocking their potentials.
The tremendous revolutions in sports, which invariably provided optimal opportunities for youths to engage themselves could not be overstressed. Akpabio personally motivated Samuel Peter to beat Oleg Maskaev on October 11, 2007 to become the first African to win the glorious title of a World boxing tournament. He sponsored almost all competitions ranging from Oba’s Cup in Benin City, Chief of Naval Staff Cup in Abuja, All Nigerian Secondary Schools Girls Football Competition and all the national sports festivals.
One of his greatest achievements as a governor was the construction of the Olympic Size Stadium with a capacity of 30,000 spectators. He also sponsored the Scrabble Classic with Akwa Ibom powering to the top. Such national and international tournaments were held in 2007 2009 and 2010 respectively and he doled out $10,000 to the winner.
Akpabio sponsored the state scrabble team to competitions in India and Malaysia.
Obong Victor Attah’s administration was another era of sports development as he appointed Professor Chris Ekong to turn this sector around. He was the one who created the Ministry of Youth and Sports from the sports council. With the instrumentality of Chris Ekong, the name of the state football club was changed from Ibom Stars to Akwa United. He also formed the Ibom Angels Football Club.
During the National Sports Festival in 2001, the state had nine gold, nine silver and 10 bronze medals to be placed 15th on the medals table. Also in Edo 2002, the state did creditably, hauling 14 gold, 13 silver and 23 bronze medals through the magic wand of Professor Chris Ekong.
There were also some other remarkable achievements recorded by this administration.
The administration of John Ebiye witnessed progress in this sector but Navy Captain Joseph Adeusi, actually brought back respite in this sector as he paid greater attention to it. He first picked late Coach Christo Davies as sole administrator in charge of sports and commissioned him to form the first football club- Ibom Stars- that metamorphosed to Akwa United Football Club. It was then that Akwa Ibom started featuring at the amateur level of national football competitions.
Adeusi’s administration paid much attention to the construction of Uyo Township Stadium and was always present at any sports engagement. Despite the state’s poor performance at the 10th National Sports Festival in Makurdi, he welcomed the contingent with open heart.
The tenure of Col Yakubu Bako, late Obong Akpan Isemin and Group Captain Idongesit Nkanga, also recorded some achievements in this sector, just like the regime of Godwin Abbe and Tunde Ogbeha, who were busy laying the foundation of the state but still spared some efforts towards sports development.
From the above, therefore, it could be categorically stated that since the creation of Akwa Ibom State 32 years ago, there have been steady achievements in sports development by all administrations. But, that of the present government under the headship of Governor Emmanuel is so glaring, with many achievements in this sector attesting to this. There is all hope that before the expiration of his administration, he will be able to place the state more on the sports map of this country as he categorically stated that he wants the state to produce the likes Serena Williams in tennis as well as Messi and Ronaldo in football.