The President Muhammadu Buhari administration has assured all Nigerians, especially sports men and women, that the country would no longer abandon past heroes and heroines. The President mentioned this in his speech at the unveiling of Nigeria’s 60 Sports Icons, one of the events scheduled to celebrate the country’s diamond jubilee, at the Moshood Abiola National Stadium, Abuja, on Friday.
The President said the recent re-categorisation of sports from recreation to business was targetted at ensuring professionals benefit fully from their talent and hard work.
“Today’s event is the beginning of deliberate and sustained efforts to correct the errors of past neglect of our sports heroes and heroines,” President Buhari said. “We would continue to lend the necessary support to the Federal Ministry of Youth and Sports Development towards the actualisation of the dreams of our sports men and women.
“The recent re–tagging and approval of sports from mere recreation to business is an attestation of this administration’s commitment to ensure that sports is used to the maximum benefit of the athletes and our economy. Sports without doubt has the potentials to create job opportunities for our teeming youths, take them off the streets and grow our gross domestic earnings.”
In his speech, the President travelled down memory lane, recalling some historic feats by past sporting icons.
“Historically, our great country has a rich sports culture dating back to the empire games when the colonial masters used sports as a vehicle of recreation and fostering of unity. The inherent talents of young Nigerians blossomed in our schools in pre independent era and exploded with the exploits of talented athletes like Sam Igun who put Nigeria in the sports map with his gold medal feat at the 1966 Commonwealth Games, Emmanuel Ifeajuna also made tremendous impact shortly before our Independence.
“How can the history of our sports be written without a mention of the legendary Teslim Thunder Balogun, Ogan Kid Bassey, Dick Tiger and Power Mike, who won world titles in boxing and wrestling? Who can forget the exploits of the goal keeping wizard Inua Rigogo,Sam Okoye, Olawunmi Majekodunmi among others?”
“As a country, we have a responsibility to not only recognize these icons, but to celebrate them to inspire the younger generation to attain greater heights. Since that first Olympic medal win in Boxing by Nojeem Maiyegun in 1964 to the Nations Cup win in 1980, 1984, 2013 to the feat in Atlanta 1996 to the Eaglets feats at the Under- 17 World Cup, Nigeria is a force in the comity of sporting nations. We must harness these talents to the development of our dear nation.”
The President reminded the nation that the talents that abound in those earlier periods were anchored on the die-hard Nigerian spirit, resilient and patriotism of the great sports heroes and heroines.
“Once again, I salute the courage, determination and patriotism of these great icons. While there are others out there who are not listed among the chosen 60 sports icons, be rest assured that your labour and love for Nigeria is not in vain,” he said.