Deputy Governor of Edo State, Philip Shaibu, spoke to journalists about the ongoing National Sports Festival in Benin City and sports development in the state, Sunday Telegraph’s ADEKUNLE SALAMI was there.
Tell us how sport is evolving in Edo State especially at youth level.
For us in Edo, we are lucky to have Governor Godwin Obaseki who believes in sport. Luckily too I am a sports man and not just the interest alone and I play football right from my school days up till now.
I am a member of the National Sports Festival team representing Edo State. I look beyond that passion but to focus on sports and discover young talents for the state. We have lots of plans for the grassroots and we have decided to involve parents so that children can go to school and attain their dreams of being athletes of repute.
What in concrete terms are the plans for the schools and those in hidden parts of the state?
We decided to go with the option of doing what they do in the advanced countries by bringing in the private sector to further drive the economy.
Government’s duty is to provide the enabling environment like facilities, creating actors to buy in, so when the facilities and actors are involved it will attract the private sector to hand drive, so as a government we need to provide the facilities and the facilities is not turning Sam Ogbemudia Stadium to sports complex, the village boy in far-away village would not have access to travel to Benin where Sam Ogbemudia Stadium is located to participate in sports activities, so we may use Sam Ogbemudia Stadium as the headquarters while we replicate smaller versions in our schools in each local government so that we will now be combining education with sports.
How will those in other parts of the state benefit from the good structure erected at the Samuel Ogbamudia Stadium?
As I said earlier, we will replicate 20 mini stadia in local governments and schools which have space. We will identify that school build the facilities there while there are some other schools we put stadium with tracks and by the side a tennis court, marking for the handball, volleyball, basketball.
At the end of the day we want to introduce Principal Cup, Governor’s Cup, Inter school games, Inter house games, all of them are coming back alive.
Tell us your plans for the maintenance of the Samuel Ogbemudia Stadium? We are going to have an independent maintenance agency which is already on and they are working with the stadium contractors because the contractor will stay for a long time and transfer the technology to our own maintenance agency but meanwhile the greatest way to maintain the facilities is to engage the facility with sporting activities when you just engage a facility manager to just come and clean and wash, after a while the walls will crack but when there is life in the structure through different games, every quarter there is final in Sam Ogbemudia Stadium. Every month there is finals in the local government from those finals move to Ogbemudia Stadium.
What is your assessment of the state in national events?
I am happy the honourable minister Sunday Dare has brought back the Principals Cup. That’s a step in the right direction because our sports men and women here would be looking forward to be the school to represent E[do in the Principal Cup, you don’t need to be looking for representative when the federal says let’s go within one week, you get schools together and go and represent, no competition that Edo will be going and we will not have staged competition program, the winner will be camped and prepared for the national level.
There is something they are looking forward to so the Principal Cup is done now. Our footballers have something to look forward to.
What are the gains of Edo State in staging the ongoing festival?
We are using this Nati o n a l Sports Festival to re – launch ourselves back to what Edo used to be. Edo is the native land of sports. We want to take back our heritage and help the country not to be using calculator to qualify, we know matches we are winning and the ones that would be tough, we want to have a team that would assure everybody of victory. Our Target is to contribute more athletes to all the centre in all events that would represent our country.
The exchange of words between the ministry and state government during the games over funds was disturbing. What happened?
All is well now. We thank the Minister of Finance and Vice President, Prof Yemi Osinbajo. They have given concrete assurances and we will run the games to the end. We had issues because the State was in the dark over what we are expecting from government and when to get it.
Our vendors that we engaged for various services at the Games Village will have to be paid and the support was not forthcoming. It has been resolved and the games will end as scheduled.
What are the plans for Insurance Football Club?
We want the club to be handled like a professional outfit. We have a feeder team and we bring the young ones in at the end of every season while we inject few new players. We are currently second on the table and hope to qualify for the playoffs and then get a ticket back into the NPFL.
We have same management team running Insurance and Edo Queens. For example, the money we generated from merchandise last season was good enough to buy a brand new bus for the team. When normalcy returns on COVID-19 threat, we are working towards selling season ticket to fans and each person will know his seat number. Those things we see abroad are happening in Edo already