Storm kept VP Osinbajo away from NSF official opening, says Obaseki

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Vice-President Yemi Osinbajo missed the official opening of the 20th National Sports Festival in Benin due to the storm at the city’s airport, Edo State Governor Godwin Obaseki said on Tuesday.
Obaseki, in his address at Tuesday’s opening ceremony of the festival tagged “Edo 2020”, said the vice-president tried to be at the venue of the event.
“But his plane had to be diverted due to the bad weather,” he said.
An afternoon downpour delayed the commencement of the ceremony, which was later held amidst colourful cultural presentations by several artistes and troupes.
Obaseki, however, commended Osinbajo for finding time out of his busy schedule, even though, he could not finally make it.
Osinbajo was due to stand in for President Muhammadu Buhari at the event which marked the opening of the April 2 to April 14 competition.
“We are grateful, for he has taken time out his busy schedule to be here with us this evening even though he could not finally make it.
“He is a friend of Edo and we appreciate this gesture,” Obaseki said.
However, in the absence of Vice-President Osinbajo, Sunday Dare, the Minister of Youth and Sports Development, stood in to deliver Buhari’s message to the festival.
He described the festival as an avenue to showcases Nigeria’s best talents in over 32 different sports events.
“The NSF is the biggest sports fiesta in the country, where both professionals and home-based athletes converge to display their prowess.
“Although the 20th National Sports Festival is supposed to have taken place one year ago, but due to the COVID-19 pandemic, it suffered several postponements.
“However, the determination of President Muhammadu Buhari to ensure that youths were engaged productively through sports, is notable.
“So also are the doggedness of the Edo Government to host the festival and the unwavering commitment of the Ministry of Youth and Sports Development.
“Now, we are glad today that we finally are having the festival. It is indeed a befitting festival,” the president said.
He commended the young athletes who have converged in Benin for the competition, saying the festival remained one of the veritable tools for uniting the country.
“The NSF is also a tool to bring our young men and women to interact, to make friends, to compete and it also provides an avenue to discover talents in various sports who will represent the country in the global sports arena.
“I, therefore, thank the government and people of Edo for keeping their promise of hosting the festival in spite of the numerous challenges brought about by the postponement which occurred almost a year ago.
“The investment made in sports infrastructure and allied structures by the Edo government signposts the direction our sports development must take in Nigeria.
“No doubt, an investment in both our both men and women and sports infrastructure is most desired.”
Obaseki urged all athletes not to forget to exhibit the spirit of good sportsmanship.
“I urge you to put in your best, be good sportsmen and acknowledge when you have been beaten by your peers.
“Please compete fairly in the games and show us all the products of the many hours you spent practising to be the best in what you do.
“On this ground, you will reap the reward of hardwork and perseverance and determination through your performance and conduct so that you can be the real models for other youths in Nigeria.
“For what else is the purpose of this games if it’s not to test and produce the best among us.
“The National Sports Festival has a very unique history which is deeply rooted in the sad experiences of the Nigerian Civil War of the late 60s.
“The first edition was held to bring our different peoples together to compete and find purpose in a bond that hold us together as brothers and sisters.
“Today, our country is in dire need of peace, tolerance and brotherhood. That is why we felt the necessity to hold this games in spite of the challenges.
“So that we can rekindle the vision of our past leaders in the quest for excellence, friendship and respect, particularly among the youths of our nation.
“We have completely rebuilt this edifice (Ogbemudia Stadium) in line with our vision of reenacting Edo as the epicentre of sports activities in Nigeria.
“It has a main bowl, a state-of-the-art pitch and tartan tracks and one of the best gymnasiums in Africa and the only one with a suspended gym and warm-up floor.
“It has five lawn tennis courts, an Olympic-size swimming pool and the Video Assistant Referee (VAR) equipment, among others.”
The governor commended Buhari for his faith in Edo and keeping to his promise to ensure that the games was held in spite of the initial hiccups it suffered.
Earlier, the Edo Deputy Governor, Philip Shaibu, had welcomed all athletes to the state, and charged them to enjoy the hospitality of the state.
“The people of Edo are good people and law-abiding citizens,” Shaibu, who is Chairman of the festival’s Local Organising Committee (LOC), said.

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