Romanus Ugwu, Abuja
Minister of Sports and Youth Development, Mr Solomon Dalung, has warned that although two states have already indicated their interest to bid for the next edition of the National Sports Festival (NSF), it will no longer be politicised as usual.
Speaking after watching a part of the events at ongoing games in Abuja, the minister insisted that the Federal government would not be swayed by the interests from the state governments that want to use the hosting right as political campaign tool for the 2019 elections.
He recounted the ordeal he went through putting the tournament in place, lampooning government for not exploiting on the advantages of the tournament for the past six years it was not organised.
His words: “I was not happy that government failed to organise this in the last six years. My satisfaction is in the happiness among the participating youths.
“We did not also talk about the huge business opportunities it provides for the traders.
“What Nigeria and Nigerians lost for not hosting the tournament in the past six years is unquantifiable. I will say shame unto our leaders for denying young people opportunities like this.
“I challenge the Inspector General of Police (IGP) to release the crime-rate figure since the commencement of the tournament and prove me wrong that crime has not dropped.
“Government should fund sports instead of buying weapons. Sports still remain the sector to move Nigeria forward.”
On plans so far made to ensure the continuation of the festival, he said: “It was not easy putting this together. The challenges I faced such as lack of fund, none cooperation from people are too much. I told them that I will only answer my father’s name.
“I told them that the tournament must go on whether they like it or not. I resolved that even if it is two or three persons (come) around, the tournament must go on. As it is, all the 36 states are participating today.
“My appeal is for the corporate bodies to join us by way of sponsorship because government cannot do it (all alone).
On the bidding right to host the next edition, he said: “As I speak with you, I have received two letters from two states requesting for hosting rights but anyone bitten by a snake runs when he sights a rope on the road.
“A snake has bitten me for three years and I cannot confirm to you whether what I’m seeing now is a rope or snake.
“We will not just take these letters (requesting) for hosting right to the bank.
“We have to scrutinise them to know if the states have the capacity. We are going to avoid political bidding. We want to avoid a situation where it would be used as a political campaign only to pull out after the elections.
“The state government that loves sports would be considered. The good thing is that the youths are ready to disgrace any state governors that did not sponsor the state team to this tournament.
“The youths participating in this tournament constitute (a) greater number of the electorate,” he said.