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Asaba Stadium And Projects’ Delivery In General: Separating Facts From Fiction
Published Nov 15, 2022 IN Features, STRONGER DELTA,
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THE Vice Presidential candidate of the Peoples Demo­cratic Party (PDP) and Delta State Governor, Sena­tor (Dr.) Ifeanyi Arthur Okowa, had made history in exemplary governance long before the armchair critics of the docile opposition in the state embarked on the political folly of acute disinformation. For one, Senator (Dr.) Ifeanyi Arthur Okowa, to put it poetically, gave life to the Asaba Stadium, now renamed the Stephen Keshi Stadium, making it a citadel of sporting activities, beyond the state and the South-South geo-political zone and Nigeria, but also the rest of Africa; for indeed, the Stephen Keshi Stadium had hosted the best of Africa in 2018; Now, whatever the critics are up to, with their instinctive outbursts over the Asaba Stadium, all concerned, particularly Deltans, who can attest to visible development strides across the state, should listen to those who should know the truth, not a desperate opposition who always want to reap from falsehood.

To be candid, in his characteristic dispassionate manner, it was all explained by Delta State Commissioner for Infor­mation, Mr. Charles Ehiedu Aniagwu, to the effect that: “the incident at the Stephen Keshi Stadium, Asaba on Thursday, November 10, 2022 was an accident caused by the misalign­ment of the crane by its operator and not the case of use of substandard building materials.” The State Commissioner for Information, Charles Aniagwu, made this known at the scene of the incident that same day. He clarified that the collapse was not due to the use of substandard materials as being er­roneously reported by a section of the media. Aniagwu, who confirmed that there was no loss of life in the Asaba Sports Complex incident, added that it was the misalignment of the crane that led to the heavy duty equipment crashing on the wall in one of the floors of a two storey building being constructed in the stadium complex. According to Aniagwu, contrary to reports of loss of lives, only one person sustained minor injury and has since been treated, while other workers have returned to site. “The accident was caused by the crane operator who couldn’t properly align the lift while trying to take up some very heavy duty equipment up the particular floor and it fell on the wall, which led to a crash of a part of the wall. One person sustained minor injury and has since been treated and workers have returned to work. The work­ers are very much on site and we are moving with speed. The unconfirmed reports of loss of life is not true and anybody saying the Stephen Keshi Stadium has come crashing down is also peddling the wrong information. As a matter of fact, the stadium is un­dergoing some renovation work ahead of the National Sports Festival. The con­tractor has assured us that in less than 48 hours, the damaged wall from the misalignment of the crane would be fixed.” Aniagwu, therefore, urged the general public to dis­countenance any report on loss of life on account of the minor accident at the construction site. In­deed, the contractor had assured that the crashed wall would be fixed within 48 hours. He said in a video: “Right behind me is the premises of the in­door sports hall under construction at the Stephen Keshi Stadium. The accident was caused by the crane operator who couldn’t properly align the lift while trying to take up some very heavy duty equipment up the particular floor and it fell on the wall, which led to a crash of a part of the wall. One person sustained minor injury and has since been treated and workers have returned to work. The workers are very much on site and we are moving with speed. The unconfirmed reports of loss of life is not true and anybody saying the Stephen Keshi Stadium has come crashing down is also peddling the wrong information.

The Stephen Keshi Stadium is a multi-purpose complex in Asaba, Nigeria. The main venue at the complex is the Governor Okowa Main Bowl; it is truly a football and ath­letics stadium. It was formerly known as Asaba township stadium and was named after football great, Stephen Keshi.

 The stadium hosted the 2018 African Champion­ships in Athletics and has a capacity of 22,000 people all covered. It was com­missioned in 2018. Delta State had long functioned as an indispensable export for sporting talents to the national pool and to ensure that the state does not just rest on its laurels, Gover­nor Okowa has turned the present Delta State into a melting pot of sporting glory, through sheer in­vestment in the sporting sector, thus making the state supremely strategic to personal and collective prosperity through sport­ing glory. In a great sense, he has re-evolved sports to lubricate the veins and arteries of his human capi­tal development efforts, as well as building a sporting hub, which has constituted a veritable epi centre and locus for sporting-cum-cul­tural activities in Nigeria.

Governor Okowa is keep­ing history alive, by assur­ing that many of Nigeria’s most sporting talents and cultural luminaries, who have their roots in Delta, can adequately have pro­tégés, through talents dis­covery, who would carry on with the reign of sporting laurels in Delta State. It was said that, in all aspects and categories of sports devel­opment, Delta State has remained predominantly tall among other states in Nigeria, apparently as a result of her sterling per­formances in virtually any competition it has partici­pated in with other states, with the state’s athletes and contingent, achieving unprecedented superior­ity over their opponents and carting away count­less laurels in the process. To achieve the aforesaid feats in sports, the state deliberately articulated some strategic planning and approaches, which it has pursued aggressively, since the inception of the Okowa Administration. One of such result-oriented approaches, which Delta State has consistently brought to the front burner, is the incumbent grassroots sports com­petitions. Through this laudable initiative, talents are being discovered and thus, the state government, has assisted them to harness and develop skills more efficiently and ef­fectively, such that great potentials in young talents in the state, are brought to the fore. There is no gainsaying the fact that, notwithstanding the recorded academic excellence of pupils and students, which the various education ministries in the state, have vigorously pursued, sports play a vital role in shaping the future of the youths. Today, sporting activities provide a source of income for a number of youths in the so­ciety, especially in realisation of government’s bid to engage Deltans in gainful employment and also, cre¬ating a platform to encourage the youths towards attaining self-reliance. As the saying goes: “An idle mind is the devil’s workshop”, but where the youths are engaged meaningfully, one useful way or the other, be it through skill acquisition/financial em­powerment, inclusive of exposure in sports competitions, the tendency that they could distance themselves from crime indulgence is high.

As part of quality projects’ delivery, we can also look across Delta State at all what His Excellency, Senator (Dr.) Ifeanyi Ar­thur Okowa, a performer extraordinaire, has done for seven years running, by way of roads, infrastructural and general development, Delta State does not need anyone touting a New Delta, a political gaffe upon which some gibberish politi­cians have hinged their political aspirations, but we should be talking about “Advancing Delta”, since Delta State can only get better. Indeed, Ekwueme, Governor Ifeanyi Okowa has turned Delta State into a massive infrastructure haven, encompassing the length and breadth of the state. It under­scored his creation of a novel infrastructure base for building a Stronger Delta now and in the future. Governor Okowa’s non-stop infrastructural and general development strides across Delta State since May 29, 2015 has been a strong reply to the rigid and close-minded few, whose stock in trade is engaging in idle talk, while Governor Ifeanyi Arthur Okowa came, saw and conquered on the road and infrastructural turf and across varied sectors of the Delta State economy. It is noteworthy that Governor Okowa’s resilience and drive for the needed infrastructure turnaround of Delta State was axiomatic with the creation of Prosperity for All Deltans. Given his rich governance experience and most active in­volvement for a better Delta State and Nigeria, he said: “it’s crucial that we align our programmes with world traits and upscale our vision deliverables by means of considered al­location of resources, prudent administration, in addition to strict and efficient monitoring. Additionally essential in this regard is the creation of Public-Private-Partnership financ­ing fashions, which would speed up infrastructure growth, actualise essential investments and foster inclusivity.” All of the above Governor Okowa exemplifies through fiscal disci­pline and holding public expenditure within income limits. “This approach has been very helpful in serving Deltans and realising rural-urban integration and concrete urban renewal by means of huge growth of infrastructure, which is among the pillars of our Stronger Delta Agenda.

Okowa launched the development of 799 roads, with a mixed size of 1,577.8 kilometres of roads and 908.34 kilome­tres of drainage channels, as at June 30, 2021. The 20.28km Obotobo I – Obotobo II – Sokebolou–Yokri – Highway beside the Atlantic Ocean is a basic instance of our dedication to of­fering infrastructure of the most positive impact on the popu­lace. Certainly, the riverine communities of Burutu, Oporoza, Okerenkoko, Benekuku, amongst several others, now savour the experience of well paved roads, which are no longer the exclusive preserve of the uplands.” He continued: “Asaba, the capital metropolis of our state, has been remodeled into one of the fastest rising cities in Nigeria. The Asaba Storm Water Drainage and the ultra-modern Central Secretariat, are two of the flagship initiatives within the Delta State Capital Territory.”

At this juncture, it is pertinent to say that Governor Ifeanyi Okowa has ensured high quality of infrastructural projects, which has not gone unnoticed, hence the rain of numerous awards on the performing Governor. He domesticated the COREN model of project coverage, with the inauguration of the Delta State Expatriates Monitoring Committee and the State Technical Committee, saying that, “it would see to the enforcement of requirements and professional ethics within engineering practice in our state. My administration has since inception, been organising and coaching our engineers via refresher programmes within the Delta State Civil Service, as a way of upgrading and updating their professional knowl­edge and abilities on a continuing basis. Our self-assessment and monitoring has certainly strengthened the present high quality management mechanisms and enhanced the impact of engineering activities by the state.If you pay a visit now to the riverine areas, it will not be the places that you actually knew of six years ago because almost every single road, as of the last time I went, was paved. Whether it is Okerenkoko, Burutu or Brass, among numerous places, you witness the same thing and then you begin to wonder where you are. People would ask ‘why do we do this? Do they have vehicles? Yes. Do they have roads linked directly to the place?’ No. But the people are able to use the barges to convey their vehicles to the place. They have beautiful homes with their vehicles parked there. Those that do not have money to buy motor cars, buy motorcycles. Even those who are trekking with their legs, don’t have to go through the very bad water-logged roads anymore. They are happy. When I went to those places, they were happy. You see the beautiful excitement on their faces. You go from Okerenkoko to Brass, the same thing is happening. In fact, one Chevron staff member had to call me one night that he overflew to Okerenkoko and they could not recognise it anymore because of the road network that we have been doing. Those are part of the things that we are doing due to relative security. We did something in Ugborodo. I went to the Benin River myself. That’s in Warri North. Through DESOPADEC (Delta State Oil Producing Ar­eas Development Commission), we actually rebuilt two new towns, Oboghoro and Utonlila. We went recently, the second time; I was told that I am the first Governor to ever come into the Benin River; to see the floating market, which has gone very far seated on a concrete base of about 6,000 square meters. It’s a huge project, costing us a lot of money. But is it desirable? Yes. Going into the place, I saw about 18 different communities, only those I could count along the way. But there are many of them off the port. They will all come to the place and be able to enjoy common trade. So, we are impacting on the family economy of each of these families that make up these communities and that’s very key to us.

The PDP VP candidate, Okowa, rightly posited: “If you are impacting on people and taking them out of poverty, then you are actually trying to solve the problem of insecurity; you are putting food on the table, you are improving the family life and such people are likely to think of what to do with their children and say, ‘let’s send them to school’. So, you see, it’s a holistic process that has a lot of gains to it. The peace process is there and development is coming to all Deltans. It’s a whole gamut of programmes that are actually for communities to have access to one another, to take them fully out of poverty and to make the Delta more livable for the people. Nick named “The Road Master” in recognition of his outstanding accom­plishments in road construction across Delta State, Governor Okowa further embarked on the construction of several inner city roads, including Kefas Road in Oleh, Old Ozoro/ Oleh Road in Isoko North and South local government areas. From Asaba to Ughelli, Akugbene to Agbor, Okpanam to Orerokpe, Warri to Irri, Issele Uku to Iselegu, Idumuje-Unor to Idjerhe, Ogume to Ogulagha, Oleh to Odimodi, Koko to Kokodiagbene, the Okowa administration has made a great impact in urbani­sation, rural integration and the provision of quality roads, drainages and bridges for the people. Governor Okowa has built circles of roads and mega drainage systems to address the critical infrastructural challenges. With Cable Point Dual Carriageway, Okpanam Road, Mariam Babangida Way and the hitherto intractable DLA Road fully delivered, residents of Asaba now have alternative routes to savour and to herald as testimonies of Governor Okowa’s delivery of unparalleled dividends of democracy. In addition, a multi billion naira storm drainage project has saved most residents of the capi­tal city from dangerous flooding, which had been an annual woe before the Okowa administration tackled it headlong and gave the people a sigh of relief. To mark the third anni­versary of his administration, Governor Okowa inaugurated the rehabilitated Issele-Uku/Issele-Mkpitime/Onicha-Olona road, phase I of Issele-Uku/Onicha-Uku/Ugbodu/Ukwu-Nzu/ Obomkpa/Idumu-Ogo road, rehabilitated Issele-Uku/Onicha- Ugbo road and phase I of Onicha-Ugbo/Ubulu-Uku road, Idumueje-Unor Road in Aniocha North Local Government Area. He has brought the Ughelli–Asaba dualisation project up to speed, especially from the Sector C1 and Sector C2 axis, from Asaba to Ollo/Ossisa. The Kwale-Ogume-Obiaruku roads developed by the Okowa administration also brought respite to the people of the areas, just like the construction of Ekete main Road, off DSC Expressway, rehabilitation of Ekreravwe/Orhoakpor/Isiokolo Road, Abraka Township roads Phase 1, including the 8.5km Ughelli-Afiesere-Ofuoma Road in the heart of Delta Central; have all brought joy and development to the vari­ous impacted communities. The people of Irri, Oleh, Ozoro, Iyede, Emede, Owhelogbo, Ellu, Ofagbe, Ikpide-Irri, all in Isoko North and Isoko South and Ughelli, Amekpa, Afiesere, Ofuoma, Oteri, Abraka, Orerokpe and several other communities in Delta Central and Delta South all have great testimonies to tell of Okowa’s footprints in road construction. The Okowa administration exhibited greater courage in the construction of roads in the riverine areas. According to the Governor, the riverside Delta contributes largely to the production of oil, which is the economic mainstay of the nation and therefore, deserves the entire infrastructure hitherto being enjoyed in the up­lands. With this development philosophy in mind, Governor Okowa ensured that all roads in Burutu Town were entirely paved to give the people a new lease of life and there is the Main Axial Road and Okerenkoko Township roads, Asphalt Overlay of the 19.7km Obotobo 1 –Obotobo11 – Sokebolou – Yokori road; 10.8km Okpare-Umolo- Ovwodokpor-Kiagbodo road, among numerous others; A 25.8 kilo­meters Trans Warri-Ode-Itsekiri, with 19 bridges and access road project, is another testimony of Governor Okowa’s infrastructural feats. Aside road construction, Governor Okowa also completed several bridges, including Ovwor-Olomu-Effurun-Otor Bridge, link­ing the age long communities in Ughelli South and also the Agbarho Orhere Bridge and access road to Otokutu in Ughelli North and Ughelli South and also the Oha Bridge along the old Oha-Orerokpe Road in Okpe Local Government Area. To give a new lease of life to the people of the oil-rich Benekuku, Okpai and other communities along the creeks of Ndokwa East a fresh lease of life, the Okowa administration embarked on the construction of a massive bridge across the Ase creek to connect the riverine communities with the upland of Kwale in Ndokwa West Local Government Area. Governor Okowa noted that the oil companies operating in the area should have constructed the bridge long ago, but he took up the gauntlet to ameliorate the sufferings of the people. As Delta rolled forth the drums to celebrate three decades of its existence, it was worthy of note that indeed, it has been 30 years of great impact in road infra­structure, but that Governor Ifeanyi Okowa took the infrastructure sector to greater heights, making his appellation as Road Master a very deserving one. The huge construction sites are palpable and visible signs that Deltans are no longer where they used to be.

Hence, Senator (Dr.) Ifeanyi Arthur Okowa has welcomed innumerable awards. He was conferred with “Ambassador of the Senate Award” by The Senate Press Corps of the National Assembly. Receiving the award, Okowa, who was represented at the ceremony by Deputy Speaker of Delta State House of Assembly, Rt. Hon. Ochor Ochor, said he was delighted to be honoured with the award, while stating that it would encourage him to do more for the people of Delta in the remaining period of his administration. He thanked the Senate Press Corps for the honour and called on journalists in the country to intensify efforts at preserving the nation’s hard earned democracy. Chairman of the Senate Press Corps, James Itodo, while welcom­ing dignitaries to the event, said Governor Okowa was recognised for the award because he stood very tall among his peers, in terms of development across Delta and enhancement of welfare of Deltans through series of pov­erty eradication and empowerment programmes in Delta State. Governor Okowa was also honoured with the 2019 “Zik Prize in Leadership and Good Governance”, also in recognition of his outstanding accomplishments in road infrastructure and the socio economic development strides under his leadership. The award was presented to the Governor by the Public Policy Research and Analysis Centre (PPRAC), organisers of the Zik Prize in Leadership Awards, to mark its 25th anniversary. Receiving the award at the Civic Centre, Lagos, Governor Okowa said that the honour done him by the PPRAC would spur him to do more in the areas of skills acquisition, the Contributory Health Insurance Scheme, micro credit, widows and house­hold support and general infrastructural upgrade in different sectors of the state’s economy. The Governor said: “I am impressed with the recognition of our modest contributions to the development of our state and I want to assure you that we will expand the frontiers of all the programmes that earned us this award. In spite of the present global economic hardship, our administration will continue to adopt best practices in project concep­tion, execution and implementation of policies and programmes, even as I thank all Deltans for their support in moving the state forward. The late Dr. Nnamdi Azikiwe was a great patriot, bridge builder and a role model of note and I therefore, call on Nigerians to sustain his legacies by promoting positive traits that he radiated while on earth.”

As more of the awards came his way, Governor Okowa attributed the success stories to partnership with Deltans through years of experience in governance. Thus, on Thursday, January 17, 2019, Governor Okowa emerged as “Governor of The Year, 2018”. The award organisers declared that the award was for his diligent delivery of democratic dividends and working to make Nigeria’s democracy better, through result-oriented governance. Governor Okowa, while receiving the award, christened “Independent Newspaper Award” at an impressive event held at Eko Hotels and Suites, Lagos, went down memory lane to his sojourn in politics, through climbing the rungs, which many love to recite, given the various political positions he held in the course of perfecting the act of governance and strong partner­ship with the people of Delta State. He was once Sec­retary to Local Government (SLG), Local Government Chairman, Commissioner for Agriculture, Health and Water Resources, Secretary to State Government (SSG) and Senator of the Federal Republic, before emerging as the Elected Governor of Delta State on May 29, 2015 and Re-Elected on May 29, 2019. As Governor Okowa recalled, “I was here in 2017 to receive the ‘Man of The Year Award 2017’ and I am being honoured again. Both awards were possible because we are in perfect relationship with our people back home. I thank God for His blessings, though, the terrain was tough but, I was able to succeed with our people because of the experiences we have garnered in the act of governance over the years; in partnership with all Deltans, who are now, more united than ever. As a government, we will continue to ensure good governance and better days ahead for us all. I can comfortably say that we are achieving results, of which people are watching as demonstrated through several awards, including your own awards- Governor of The Year Award 2017 and 2018, making me a two-time winner, in a row. If you ask me, it was due to a positive partnership, which brought confidence and faith by our people that no matter what, we will continue to respect our Social Contract with them, which guaranteed their genuine partnership with my administration.” Then also, the Delta State Oil Producing Areas Development Com­mission (DESOPADEC), won the “Outstanding State Agency Of The Year, 2018.

As if to underline the areas that truly made Gover­nor Okowa the Governor of the Year, he subsequently bagged another award for his great strides in en­throning a better environment in Delta State, just as an Agency he created on Warri, Uvwie and Environ development had swung into action, to fulfill its man­date on the environment. Governor Ifeanyi Okowa sought the cooperation of the people for the effective tackling of environmental challenges in Delta State. A particular charge to Deltans was during an inspection tour of ongoing drainage and road projects in and around Asaba. It came amid his recognition by the African Newspapers of Nigeria Plc, Publishers of the Tribune titles, which conferred on him the “Nigeria’s Torchbearer in Infrastructure and Environmental Development”, for his developmental strides, during an event to mark the newspaper’s 70th anniversary in Lagos. Represented at the occasion by his Deputy, Barr. Kingsley Otuaro, Okowa dedicated the award to Deltans, especially traditional and religious leaders, for their peaceful disposition to his administration. Later, while briefing newsmen after inspecting facilities at the Asaba General Hospital, the Governor said all the projects would be completed and commissioned in the life of his administration. He noted that on account of the daily work, there was need to safeguard the environment.

Indeed, a Stronger Delta State meant rethinking the di­rection towards rapid industrialisation, in the manner of Senator (Dr.) Ifeanyi Arthur Okowa, Governor of Delta State. He has given vent to the God-given resources of the state and built a knowledge based economy, to fully utilise hu­man and material resources for the creation of Prosperity. Governor Okowa, by his every move on a fully industrialised state, has proven that a dual cultural economy in Delta State, which relies on multiple and sustainable sources of revenue is not an El Dorado of sorts, but now largely present in a Stronger Delta State, where Prosperity is being created and entrenched, for all Deltans. Despite the economic challenges that greeted his assumption of office, Governor Okowa displayed remarkable resourcefulness, resilience and strong managerial acumen, as reflected in the spread and balance of infrastructural projects across the three Senatorial districts of the state, employment generation and notable transformation in the education sector”. They continued, “In less than four years, his administration em­barked upon 357 road projects, comprising 1, 056. 15 kms of roads and 352.78 kms of drains; also, his administration has trained huge numbers of young graduates in choice enterprises, while training and empowering Deltans to own their own businesses. In circumspect, keen observers of the unprecedented development in Delta State, have be­stowed added energies to the developmental strides of the performing Okowa Administration, thus bidding it greater speed in the full realisation of the promised Prosperity for All Deltans; their commendations were not meant to serve as idle praise singing or to ruffle the feathers of arm chair critics, who even in the comfort of their arm chairs, cannot deny the glaring fact that Delta State, under the able leader­ship of Senator (Dr.) Ifeanyi Arthur Okowa, have never had it so good, just as he continues to soar upon the building blocks of the past years of the state’s existence and to chart unprecedented inroads of democratic dividends- a narra­tive underscored by the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) governance in Delta State. As a performing government, it does not curry the favour of award givers; but accepts varied acknowledgements because they are the result of the independent verification of a burgeoning era of Prosperity through a people-centred governance, with manifest testi­monies of a new dawn across multiple sectors of the state’s economy. As noted, there are several awards coinciding with his “Finishing Strong Agenda”, thus it is the reflec­tion of a leader, who has never wavered in the Godspeed to realise the Delta State of the collective aspiration of all Deltans, while recognising that an enduring recognition would really be by way of a deserving higher national as­signment and a good place in history, but he marches on, focused and undistracted, in enthroning a Stronger Delta, now and for posterity.

The Minister of Youth and Sports Development, Mr. Sunday Dare, in recognition of the tremendous efforts of Governor Ifeanyi Okowa of Delta State, towards sports development in Nigeria and his support towards the prepa­rations for the Olympics, decorated him with an Award of Honour in Asaba, the Delta State Capital. The Minister, who was in the state on an official visit, while speaking to journalists, said the award was in affirmation of the role the Delta State Government has always played to further sports development in Nigeria. Although a symbolic award, it is a validation and recognition of Okowa’s support to sports development, his support for talent hunt and for our ath­letes. Governor Ifeanyi Okowa had before now, repeatedly displayed his passion for sports and has continued to do so on several occasions, having hosted the Super Eagles prior to AFCON 2019, amongst other sports competitions hosted by the state.” It would be recalled that the Minister had always maintained that grassroots sports development holds the key to Nigeria’s future successes in sporting ac­tivities. Hence, he was in Delta for a first hand experience of young talents in the state and he was not disappointed. His verdict: Governor had done the country proud!

Delta State Governor, Ifeanyi Okowa, took to his Social Media account to celebrate his victory at the Nigeria Pitch Awards, where he beat two other governors to emerge the Football Friendly Governor of the year (2018). Moments after receiving the award from Amaju Pinnick, the immedi­ate past Nigeria Football Federation (NFF) President, in his office at Asaba, the Governor took to his official Instagram handle to celebrate the award. Governor Okowa wrote, “Thank you to the and the Nigerian Pitch Awards for the honour of being named the Football Friendly Governor of the year (2018)”. Then again: “I am happy to present this award to Your Excellency, knowing that you are fully deserv­ing of the gong, going by what you have done for Nigerian Football in the past one year”, Pinnick said as he presented the award trophy and certificate to Governor Okowa. “Gov­ernor Okowa and his administration has hosted several activities of the NFF in the past one year, including four matches of the Super Eagles (Vs Uganda in November 2018; Vs Seychelles in March 2019; Vs Egypt in March 2019 and Vs Zimbabwe in June 2019); one match of the U23 National Team (Vs Libya in March 2019); the Annual General As­sembly of the NFF in October 2018 and a pre-Extraordinary General Assembly of the NFF in August 2018. The amiable Governor has also handsomely rewarded players and of­ficials of the Super Eagles on more than one occasion. His administration also sponsors several clubs in the various leagues in the country – a channel for youth empowerment. The award ceremony held, after the International Friendly between the Super Eagles of Nigeria and the Warriors of Zimbabwe. It was attended by Seyi Akinwunmi, First Vice President of the Nigeria Football Federation, Ahmed Fresh, NFF Board member, Coach Gernot Rhor, technical crew and members of the Super Eagles. Shina Philips, President of the Nigeria Pitch Awards, expressed appreciation of the organ­isers to the Federation and the Delta State Government. He said the organisers remained committed to giving Nigerians transparent and credible awards. “We will continue to do what is right, because we believe our leaders need to be motivated by a transparent and credible award system, which will see them earn the respect of everyone in the football community”, Philips said. Delta State Government also bagged a Special Award for Promoting Track and Field Athletics in the African continent. Then Nigerian Minister of Sports, Solomon Dalung, who presented the award on Sunday, December 16, 2018, shortly before the finals of the 19th National Sports Festival, tagged Abuja 2018, to Gover­nor Ifeanyi Okowa of Delta State, observed that Delta State has blazed the trail in the promotion of continental cham­pionships. Dalung listed the achievements of Delta State in the area of sports development since the emergence of Governor Ifeanyi Okowa, to include the hosting of the Senior Africa Athletics Championship. He emphasised that Delta State has continued to dominate in sporting championships and has also, contributed immensely to the provision of man power for the Nigerian sports industry. Governor Okowa, on behalf of the award recipients, said, “we urge other states to compete favourably because, without competition, you are not able to excel the way you ought to; we don’t want to become a lazy state; because, we are winning, we want people to compete with us, so that we can do better and break new records; even in the near future, we encourage many more states to compete favourably.”

It was reasoned that sport is an engaging human activity; One of the greatest pleasures of mankind. It has a diverse appeal. Whether as fun-inducing, revenue earning, a unify­ing force or sheer safe net for relaxation, the advantages of sport are priceless. Governor Okowa is thus, a true pride of Delta. Frontline sports, from football, athletics to box­ing, among others, makes the world a better place. Such preoccupation boosts popular prestige, promotes peace and enhances enterprise. This explains why perceptive governments pay all attention to sports development. In Delta State, where there is a Governor so enamoured with sports, a positive change reigns. Constituting the Delta State Sports Commission, Okowa recalled that Delta retained its premier status in athletics, coming first in all National Youth Games and the National Sports Festival 2019. As the Gov­ernor stood happy highlighting the exploits of Delta before members of the Sports Commission- Chief Tonobok Okowa, Rev. Omatshola Williams, Chief Chinonye Daphey and Chief Ernest Juweto, his emotions were emphatic.

“It is gratifying to note that the state successfully hosted the 21st African Senior Athletics Championship, also known as Asaba 2018, at the Stephen Keshi Stadium and it is expected that this Board will strive to sustain this mo­mentum and break new grounds.” The outstanding example of Delta’s colourful outing in sports is best drawn from the Stadium, named after late Stephen Okechukwu Keshi, for­mer captain and coach of Nigeria’s national football team, a sports maestro, who died 7th June 2016 at the age of 54. The story of Stephen Keshi Stadium is not a very palatable narrative. It was a shocking tale of denial and decay. The stadium was conceived by the people of Asaba through self help in the 60s. But it would suffer still birth for 44 years! The government of Midwestern State took over the building of the stadium in 1974, under the unforgettable Samuel Ogbemudia as sports loving Governor. Colonel George Agbazika Innih, as Military Administrator, would inherit the stadium in 1975. He abandoned it in the hands of a successor, Commodore Husaini Abdullahi, under a new era called Bendel State in 1976. None of the seven other governors that ruled Bendel till its end in 1991, was able to complete the stadium. Abubarkar Waziri, Ambros Alli, Samuel Ogbmudia, Jeremiah Useni, John Inienger, Tunde ogbeha and John Yeri.

When Delta State came into existence in 1991, with Mili­tary Administrator Luke Ochulor, followed by the first Del­tan to govern the state, Felix Ibru, in 1992, both men exited, with no succour for the stadium. For Policeman, Abdulkadiri Shehu and other military administrators – Bassey Asuquo, Ibrahim Kefas, John Dungs and Walter Faghebor, the Asaba Stadium meant nothing but thick bush. Did they learn a piece of negative history from their military predecessors. In the 70s, Asaba stadium was used by the military authorities as a hideous forest, where condemned armed robbers were sent to hell by firing squad. A frightening memory of a particular criminal exterminated with hot bullets inside the stadium kept coming back over the years. An observer remembered in adolescence, in Asaba, flamboyant to the loudest vanity, how he rode around town, with glistening black Mercedes Benz and beautiful sights, enveloped in wild feasting. But his busy hooliganism ended one day in one bushy corner. James Ibori walked into Asaba in 1999 as Governor, moved perhaps by the excessive rape of the bleeding stadium, cleared overgrown weeds at the left flank and built an Indoor Sports Hall. Emmanuel Uduaghan inherited the stadium in 2007, making efforts in the maintenance of the indoor sports hall.

Enter the administration of Governor Okowa in 2015. History beckoned in 2018…….. The main bowl of Stephen Keshi Stadium, Asaba geared up, for first time in history to embrace the world, after a protracted lull, slipping through the hands of 19 military and civilian leaders, from Midwest, Bendel to Delta. 54 African countries came to the Stadium at Asaba for the Senior African athletics championship – the biggest sporting event in the continent in August 2018. Today, from the rot and ruins of a long forgotten treasure, has risen a monument, amazing in sight and glorious in standing. The sprawling presence of the Stephen Keshi Stadium, built by Governor Okowa, lives as one of the best landmarks on the skyline of Asaba. Now a favourite destination, it has hosted countless continental and global soccer events. Emboldened by the height of Stephen Keshi Stadium, Okowa is develop­ing youth sports in communities, elementary and secondary schools, with incentives and infrastructure across the state. A new generation of sportsmen and women that would take Nigeria to the global stage is evolving. Truly, Under Okowa, Delta is reinventing itself as an offshoot of the defunct Bendel, famous for matchless excellence in sports. The Governor is using sporting development as a living material, out of which Governor Okowa is building the future and a Stronger Delta State, now and ever after! Happy National Sports Festival 2022, right here in Asaba, Delta State!

 

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