By Dare Kuti
Sporting greetings to the sports community, families, athletes and the para- athletes who have been agitating over the removal of their sport at the forthcoming National Sports festival. I had wanted to keep mute over the issue of the removal of the Para Sports ahead of the 21st National Sports Festival in Delta but my phone had not stopped buzzing since Monday (17th October, 2022).
Some agitated para athletes staged a peaceful protest at the National Stadium in Surulere last Monday to express their displeasure over the removal of most of the para events while leaving three events. The National Council on Sports broke the camel back on Wednesday by announcing that no para sports will feature at the 21st National Sports Festival in Delta later this year.
Well, it is a good thing that the Federal Ministry of Youth and Sports Development ably led by chief Sunday Akin Dare have decided to create a National Para Sports Festival but the timing for the non inclusion of the para sports is wrong.
Fortunately, the first edition of the National Para Sports Festival was held in Abuja last April and some states could not participate because they did not have budget. Those that made it to the festival had to stage some demonstration before the state governments decided to squeeze out money from their respective sport council and sport commission to attend the maiden edition.
If you paid attention, you will notice that the power house of Sports in Nigeria like Delta, Lagos, Edo, Osun States and few other could not send their representation. This led to some athletes disguising under the umbrella of clubs.
Fast forward to this time around, news filtering around is that of the National Council of Sports in Nigeria met and decide to remove three sport- the para sport that are making Nigeria proud and will continue to make Nigeria proud at future competitions. This implies that athletes like Bose Omolayo, Oluwafeimayo Alice, Innocent Nnamdi, Precious Orji, Latifat Tijani and many others will not be partaking in any national festival this year
If you notice the para- power lifters always come to our rescue when Nigeria is in need of medals. We have World Record holders, Commonwealth Games record holders Paralympic Games record holders who are making the country proud. It is the same thing with Para Table- Tennis and Para Athletes; they made Nigeria proud in this year commonwealth games.
So, it would be a disservice to treat them less human. We know the Minister of Youth and Sports have good intentions but the intentions are coming at the wrong time.
We should use the first edition of para- festival as a test- run and we should not disengage those that did not participate in April because many people are keen on attending the festival in Asaba.
We know the winners of the festival in some States gets as much as one million naira. And we all know what this one million can do in the lives of some of them. Some of them use it to pay their house rents and feed their families. You would also be surprised that if they don’t go to the national sport Festival in Dellta state the rate of unemployment in the country will increase.
It will be an eyesore to see Commonwealth Games champions and Paralympians going to streets to beg when they have other source of livelihood which includes the National Sports Festival
We are appealing to Directors of Sports in Nigeria and the Federal Ministry of Youth and Sports to reconcile. It isnot yet late to include the para sport, the various sports Council and commission already have this para athlete included in their budget. So it is not going to be extra expenses. Their money is already there. So, I am appealing to the Ministry of Youth and Sports Development as well as the National Council on Sports to include the para sports into the National Sports Festival. If we don’t, they will think you are doing them a great harm.
We are calling on well meaning Nigerians, traditional rulers, religious rulers and Ex International to appeal to the sport authority to consider bringing back the paradigm and include the para sports into the National Sports Festival.