Ighomuaye Lucky, Benin
The lonely and quiet Okpekpe community came alive on Saturday, May 25, as athletes from across the globe converged on it to participate in the seventh edition of the 10-kilometre road race. Natives put everything on hold to witness the event which is described as another Christmas season celebration.
The people were in joyful mood while the old who could not walk to the venue sat in their verandas to catch a glimpse of the athletes running for their money or for the fun of it.
However, for the celebration to be more impressive, Apa Peter Osigbemeh, Onwueweko of Okpekpe Kingdom, advocated a mini stadium to be built in the community to enable the youths in the area to practice ahead of the yearly event.
“This event is great, the weather is fair to us and we are all happy. It is a great occasion. I think there is an improvement year-by-year but we have not got there yet. We still need more improvement, especially if we can get a permanent site for the event.
“We’re hoping that there will be a permanent site for the event so that when visitors come to Okpekpe, they can also visit the place and see.
Everything here is of temporary arrangement but if we can have a mini stadium, it will encourage the Okpekpe youths to practice ahead of the event”, he said.
Chief Jekpe Joseph, Eshiozokhe of Okpekpe Kingdom, said the yearly event has tremendously improved the socio-economic life of the people of the community.
“The event has affected the Okpekpe community both economically and otherwise. Business people sell their foods and it has really improved the social economic status of the town of Okpekpe and we are very happy,” he said.
For Mr. Emeka Okereke, a motorcyclist, it was a money spinning day.
“I pray that the good Lord bless the initiator and organisers of the Okpekpe road and to also bless them so that they can develop here for us,” he said.
Captain Hosa Okunbo described the Okpekpe road race as a beautiful bride.
“We, as Edo State indigenes, will must do all we can to raise the standard and help promote the organizers, raise it to the state which it actually belongs.
“I am more encouraged to support it. Okpekpe race has become a bride and when you have a bride, what do you do with a bride? You package your bride.
“I want us to be able to attract all the athletes in the world to come to this community and God willing, we improve security and of course, the benefit is to this community and to the state and Nigeria at large,” he said.
Immediate past governor of Edo State, Adams Oshiomhole enjoined the people to take advantage of the Okpekpe race to engage in exercise as it is cheaper than drugs.
Minister of Youths and Sports Development, Solomon Dalung,
said the Presidency is happy that the Okpekpe road race has not only come to stay, but has met international standard.