By BENJAMIN OMOIKE
President Muhammadu Buhari on Thursday in Abuja approved National Honours and cash awards of N200 million for Team Nigeria contingents to the 2022 Commonwealth Games and World Athletics championships.
Speaking at a presidential reception in honour of the athletes, the President said his Government is committed to rewarding excellence, no less for members of Team Nigeria who ignited the spirit of victory in the nation through stellar performances at international competitions.
Congratulating all the awardees and recipients, he expressed confidence that this will spur them to greater heights.
The President, who described the athletes as champions, worthy ambassadors, national heroes and heroines, heaped praises on them for proudly flying the Nigerian flag in nine sporting events.
”I watched with millions of Nigerians those exciting moments when you all brought smiles to us and our homes by breaking world, national and games records, as well as achieving personal best in your careers.
”Your outstanding performances in recent times are consistent with the determination of a nation always yearning for excellent performance.
”You all, members of Team Nigeria have ignited the spirit for victory in our nation but even more you have been victorious in major sporting championships and games.
”I have followed keenly your achievements at the World Championships in Oregon USA and indeed your remarkable performance at the recently concluded Commonwealth Games in Birmingham, United Kingdom.
”And I am very pleased that you displayed at both the personal and group levels great sporting talents and delivered for your country great podium performances,” he said.
The President told the athletes that their hour of sporting glory beamed the ‘‘radar of the world on Nigeria’’, adding that their exploits have gone a long way in projecting the positive image of the country.
”Twelve times the world stood still as our green, white green national flag was hoisted and the National Anthem recited. Thirty-five times we made it to the podium. You all Team Nigeria made that possible.
”You brought glory and honour to our country. And today, on behalf of the nation- I say, THANK YOU!”
President Buhari called out the names of the gold winners and other medal winners including the world champion in the 100m hurdles, Tobiloba Amusan, Ese Brume, Blessing Oborodudu , Oluwafemiayo Folashade, Taiwo Liadi, Ikechukwu Obichukwu, Bose Omolayo, Favour Ofili, Nasiru Sule, Ifechukwude Ikpeoyi, Ebikewenimo Welson, Hannah Rueben and Elizabeth Oshoba.
Reiterating the commitment of this administration in providing the enabling environment for youths to ascend to the pinnacle of their chosen careers, the President expressed satisfaction with the impact the Adopt-An-Athlete Initiative of the Federal Ministry of Youth and Sports had on the performance of athletes.
He urged more private individuals and corporate organisations to support government’s investment in sports, which has been reclassified from being a recreational activity to being a business in line with modern practices worldwide.
President Buhari also acknowledged the many giant strides witnessed in the sports sector under the Minister of Youth and Sports Development, Sunday Dare and his team, commending the numerous and sustained successes recorded in the last few years.
The Minister of Youth and Sports Development described 2022 as an outstanding year in the history of Nigerian sports, which shall not be forgotten in a hurry.
According to him, it is a year where many Sporting Federations have surpassed and are surpassing their previous performances, while many athletic records were broken.
Highlighting the most remarkable feats, Dare said in track and field, Amusan in a span of 4 months won Nigeria’s first ever gold medal in World Athletics Championships in Eugene, Oregon, USA with a world record performance in an event highly dominated by the Americans and Europeans.
She also successfully defended her Commonwealth Games title, which she won in 2018 in Gold Coast, with a games record in 2022 in Birmingham; and Diamond League title in Zurich, Switzerland on September 8, 2022, the Minister said, adding that this remarkable performance has never been achieved by any Nigerian in the history of our sports.
Further, the Minister said Brume, another trailblazer in Nigerian sports, won silver medal in the Women’s Long Jump event at the 2022 World Athletics Championships and a gold medal at the 2022 Commonwealth Games in Birmingham with a games record performance.
Dare recalled that the first time Nigeria won a medal in wrestling at the Olympic Games since 1952, was at the Tokyo 2020 Olympics by Oborodudu, who clinched a silver medal to the admiration of the entire globe.
”In confirming that the performance was not a fluke, she won a gold medal in the Women’s 68 kg category at the just concluded 2022 Commonwealth Games, ” he said. Describing Nigeria as the best Para Powerlifting nation in the world, the Minister hailed Oluwafemiayo for keeping with this tradition by winning gold medal in the Women’s heavyweight category, setting a new world record in that class at the Tokyo 2020 Paralympics and the 2022 Commonwealth Games.
”Mr. President, through the sporting exploits and excellence of the young athletes before you in this hall and several others not able to make it for this reception, Nigeria has served notice that it will not relent.
”That it will show up and compete for every laurel available not only in sports but in youth development, economic progress, social emancipation, political development and many more,” he said.
The Minister thanked the President for being a great source of encouragement and support to the teeming youth in sports and other areas, saying ”this administration’s investment in youth and sports development, will continue to yield dividends years after you might have completed your term as President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.” He also commended some well-meaning Nigerians and sports philanthropists for keying into several initiatives of the Ministry on sports development.