Abhijit Naskar, an Indian born writer and advocate of mental wellness and global harmony, once said in one of his Books, The Education Decree, “Sow the seeds of weakness and inferiority in the kids and they will grow up to be inferior, crawling, insignificant insects but sow the seeds of courage and they will become brave-hearted leaders, who will one day change the course of human history.”
The same author again averred, “If you do not allow one to become a lion, one will become a sheep, and the world is already filled with sheep, which is the major cause of the society’s intellectual and moral downfall. For a better future to evolve, where humanism will be an all-pervading virtue and separatism will be a matter of ancient history, the world needs lions.”
It stands to reason therefore, that for societal progress and future advancement to be made, the conditio sine qua non, is the development of young minds, the hope of the future. Put it rightly, for “brave-hearted” and courageous future leaders to evolve, today’s leaders must place high premium on youth development.
As important as that may sound, the third world countries have sadly, shown a carefree and complete negligence of youth development and has outrightly marginalised the younger generation to inertia and retrogression. However, there are other developing countries who have strived towards ensuring the securement of her nation’s future, by constantly engaging young minds in meaningful and profitable ventures. Fortunately, Nigeria is blessed with some leaders who, despite the current economic downturn in the country, have effortlessly created a synergy such that there is a near equality with the advanced nations, in terms of human capacity development.
Suffice it to say that one of such leaders who has not relented efforts in youth development is Akwa Ibom State’s Mr Udom Emmanuel, who’s emergence as Governor has brought all-round and unquestionable development to the State, in line with his five-point agenda of job creation, poverty alleviation, wealth creation, economic and political inclusion and infrastructural consolidation and expansion
Truth be told! When Leadership Newspaper, recently, conferred on the Governor the publications “Governor of the Year, 2016,” many had thought it was the usual politically motivated awards or jamboree, allegedly bought by some politicians with public funds, but far be it. Anyone who has followed the Governor’s developmental strides in the State, will have no doubt, whatsoever, that Governor Emmanuel, a transcendental leader, deserves more than a Leadership Award.
From any analytical point of view, Governor Udom Emmanuel has not only achieved laudable feats in infrastructural renaissance, but has laid a strong foundation for the future of our State and Nation, through his youth oriented programmes and policies, thus, making Akwa Ibom State a cynosure of all eyes and a model for other states in the country.
The 1st Akwa Ibom Youth Sports Festival is a testament of the Governor’s breakthrough in youth development, which he has undertaken side by side with other obligations of government at a time when other states lie comatose as a result of huge financial burden.
Worried by the abysmal performance of the Nigerian Contingents at the Rio 2016 Summer Olympics and driven by the passion to discover and groom new talents, Governor Udom Emmanuel tasked the State’s Ministry of Youth and Sports, under the stewardship of Sir. Monday Uko, to chart a new phase for sports development in not only the State, but the country at large.
The benefits of the Sports Festival, the first of its kind in the history of Akwa Ibom State, is not farfetched. The Festival which is in synergy with the educational curriculum of Primary and Secondary Schools in the State will in the nearest future, yield good fruits as Akwa Ibom State will become a hub of Champions.
With over 6,000 athletes drawn from Primary and Secondary Schools across the State, the Opening Ceremony for the State’s Finals held at the Godswill Akpabio International Stadium, with the Governor Emmanuel and Nigerian Sports Minister, Solomon Dalung in attendance. Featuring football, basketball, handball, volleyball, wrestling, taekwondo, chess, judo, tennis, Darts, karat, weightlifting, baseball, kungfu, boxing, and other special sports, the Sports Festival is focused on “catching them young” while promoting sporting activities in schools and providing a platform for budding talents to be exposed to world class sporting facilities which will not only boost their morale, but spur them in working for the actualisation of their potentials.
For Governor Emmanuel, his Administration “sees sports development as a valuable gift to our children and youths. We know that when we expose them to the best sporting facilities at an early age, we have given them wings to soar and the sky can only be the limit. Such thinking gave vent to the establishment of sporting centres in each of the ten Federal constituencies of the State by my administration.”
Again, for His Excellency, “sports is beyond the rubrics of the rhetoric of entertainment. The business side of sports is indeed, a goldmine. So, beyond the story of this festival, our youths should be launched to the glory of the money-spinning venture of sports. We know that the secret of the Lionel Messis, the Christiano Ronaldos, the Serena Willaims, the Usain Bolts and other world stars, is hidden, first and foremost, in early exposure to world-class facilities particularly at an early age. So, this catch-them-young initiative is well situated. The Governor’s dream is to ensure that no team will be constituted in any sports in Nigeria without the first five persons not an Akwa Ibom child.
Apart from the physical and psychological benefits of Sports, the Sports Festival has bridged many gaps in Akwa Ibom State. For instance, contingents for the competition were selected, irrespective of their political, religious or ethnic background. This unarguably, will further strengthen the peaceful co-existence being enjoyed in the State. Extensively, when there is peace in the State, there will be a conducive environment for industrialisation to thrive, thus, encouraging more investors to come into the State. The meaning therefore, is that, Governor Emmanuel has excellently shut more than two birds with just a stone; this is the testament of an unmatched Leader.
Not only that, the Festival will help inculcate great virtues such as perseverance, trustworthiness, timeliness, teamwork, and pressure management in our youths. It will boost their self esteem, sharpen their problem solving skills and give the young athletes, a sense of belonging.
It is widely proven, that idleness contributes largely to youth restiveness, not only in Nigeria, but other developed societies. To put an end or at least reduce the high rate of rape cases, thuggery, cultism, prostitution, and other youth related vices, the idea therefore, is to regularly engage the younger generation, through areas such as Sports and imbue in them, a new mind-set predicated on the ‘Dakkada’ Philosophy, where they will see the need to utilise their God given talents and skills. This is what Governor Emmanuel has successfully accomplished, through the Akwa Ibom Youth Sports Festival.
It is hoped that the Sports Festival will not only eradicate the seeds of weakness and inferiority in our young minds, but will help build a better future, “where humanism will be an all-pervading virtue and separatism will be a matter of ancient history.”
As more accolades continue to trail the Governor’s foresight- the maiden Akwa Ibom Youth Sports Festival, Akwa Ibomites should be happy, that they have been privileged to witness what would in 2023, be tagged an unrivalled, intrepid, shrewd, and purpose-driven leadership, when Governor Emmanuel eventually bows out.
Uwakmfon Dan is a Writer and Public Affairs Commentator